Women’s caucus debates a ‘con-con’

Representative Mina Morita, D-District 14, spoke yesterday at the Kaua‘i Democratic Women’s Caucus meeting about whether a constitutional convention should be held in 2010.

The constitutional convention, or ‘con-con,’ is a process that allows revisions to be made to the state’s Constitution. Voters will decide this fall if a con-con is needed to review and possibly revise the state’s founding document. The Constitution calls for voters to be polled every 10 years on whether to call a con-con. The last one was held in 1978.

“It is my personal belief that a con-con is not warranted,” Morita said. “I don’t believe there are any pressing issues that can’t be resolved on the ballot.”

Morita wondered what was so flawed with the Constitution to need a review in 2010.

As an example, she pointed out that in the 221 years the U.S. Constitution has been around, not too many changes have been made to that document.

“I just haven’t heard too many compelling arguments as to what is wrong with our constitution,” Morita said.

“We have to ask, ‘What needs to be fixed that goes beyond putting a question on the ballot?’ If it isn’t broken, what is there that needs to be fixed?”

Equality of rights and the right to privacy are articles in the constitution that Morita sees as “take away.”

“If we open the constitution for review at this time, it’s not to enhance any rights, it’s to take away rights,” she said.

Other protections Morita is concerned may be taken away are term limits in the Legislature, education rights, Native Hawaiian rights, collective bargaining and water resources.

Morita said the state Constitution is a unique document and should be an enduring document of “what ought to be.”

“We should be proud of the document,” Morita said. “We need to look at the purpose of why there should be a con-con.”

Janice Bond, Kaua‘i Democratic Party District 15 chair, said it is important to understand what a constitutional convention is.

She said a statewide survey is being conducted by the University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly and the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association.

“(The survey) is to explore views held about how a con-con might advance or harm our state’s economic, education and cultural interests,” Bond said.

Morita said the bottom line is that people need to be educated in the political process and issues that affect the state.

“We need to put forth our effort to respond to issues as well,” Bond said.

In 1998, the last time the convention question was put on a ballot, voters turned it down. Two years earlier, residents voted “Yes” more than “No,” but the blank ballots were counted as no, which resulted in no convention.

The controversial vote was settled by the state Supreme Court, making the 1978 convention the most recent one.

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or rgehrlein@kauaipubco.com.


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