Presentation debates Prop. 1

Robyn Goodman

The question of whether to hold a constitutional convention has many pros and cons, said Craig Ruff lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Ruff spoke to a filled Mead Auditorium on Tuesday, Oct. 26 about Proposition 1 and whether or not to hold a constitutional convention.

Ruff is a senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, which is one of Michigan’s best think tanks. Ruff spent 11 years in Michigan’s executive office, first as special assistant for human services to Gov. William Milliken and then as chief of staff to Lt. Gov. James Brickley.

Proposition 1 will be on the Nov. 2 ballot and will call for a constitutional convention. The convention would allow delegates to rewrite part or all of the Michigan Constitution. If voted into effect, the next step would be to vote delegates from all the districts in Michigan.

“Proposition 1 is dramatic but has not been given a great deal of public scrutiny,” said Ruff.

Ruff’s debate began with his reasons for a constitutional convention. He stressed that the current constitution doesn’t have a fatal flaw, but there are some amendments in the constitution that no longer affect the people. The last convention was held in 1963, said Ruff.

“We want to give life to the 21st century,” Ruff said.

Anything that is recommended by the delegates must be voted on by the people. It is the voter’s obligation to re-open the constitution, Ruff said.

“We have a pathway toward looking at a new Michigan in a new way,” Ruff said.

Ruff stated that we, as the voters, fear the status quo, and the only way to change that is to change the constitution.

“I’m terrified of a constitutional convention,” Ruff said to open the debate against Proposition 1. “This is a scary time to create policy and even scarier to re-write the constitution.”

While times are different today, the delegates include people who are only interested in special interests that don’t affect the rest of the state, Ruff said.

Another very important point, said Ruff, is that he is concerned that everything is going to be put on hold. The Michigan legislature will see the constitutional convention as an excuse not to do their job because the delegates will be doing it for them.

The constitutional convention will cost approximately $13 million, but with all of the elections involved with the convention, the cost could go up to $45 million, said Ruff. The economy can not afford to pay for something that doesn’t need to be fixed, said Ruff.

If Proposition 1 was voted for, the delegates would have to meet by Oct. 4, 2011. They would have no deadline to finish the convention but would probably take between 4-6 months, said Ruff.

While Ruff debated both sides, for and against a constitutional convention, he stressed that it is important to just get out there and vote.

“You’re in charge of whether we have a constitutional convention,” Ruff said.