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April 7th, 2009

The Constitutional Convention Option

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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constitutional-amendmentFrom out of nowhere yesterday, Iowa Secretary of State Mike Mauro informed Iowans that there is another route to amend Iowa’s Constitution besides relying on the House and Senate to pass an amendment in two consecutive general assemblies. Iowans will have the opportunity to vote to hold a constitutional convention in the 2010 general election.

If a majority of voters agree that a constitutional convention should be held, the state legislature would then determine the bylaws for the convention and how delegates will be selected. Any amendments that the convention approved would then be on the ballot in 2012. Mauro warned that when a constitutional convention convenes, there is no limit to the issues that the convention could address.

While various political organizations are weighing their options regarding this alternative amendment process, I think there is a clear path Iowa Republicans must go down if they want to let Iowans vote on a marriage amendment to the Iowa Constitution.

1. Iowa Republicans and traditional marriage advocates must put pressure on Democrat leaders in the House and Senate yet this year to pass a marriage amendment.

2. Iowa Republicans and traditional marriage advocates should pass a law that requires Iowa residency in order to receive a marriage license.

3. Regardless of whether the House and Senate pass a marriage amendment or not, Iowa Republicans and traditional marriage advocates must begin laying the ground work for a campaign to convene a constitutional convention.

4. Iowa Republicans and traditional marriage advocates must encourage any Iowan who is disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to come to the State Capitol and ask any legislator or elected official that they can find to allow them to vote on a marriage amendment.

5. When the legislative session is over, Iowa Republicans and traditional marriage advocates need to continue to lobby all legislators about passing a marriage amendment.

6. If the legislature doesn’t pass a marriage amendment this year, Iowa Republicans and traditional marriage advocates must aggressively lobby legislators to pass it in 2011.

Already Senator Paul McKinley has moved the ball forward on the first part of the plan. McKinley took to the floor of the Senate yesterday to speak on the events of last week. He talked about the public forum on the repeal of federal deductibility and the Court’s ruling on gay marriage. See video below.

McKinley should be praised for getting Senate Majority Leader Gronstal on the record about his objection to let the people of Iowa vote on a constitutional amendment.

Even with Gronstal holding firm on his pledge not to allow a vote on a marriage amendment in the Senate, House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen still needs to push for a marriage amendment in the House. Paulsen has more options at his disposal than Senator McKinley does.

All Rep. Paulsen or any other legislator needs to do to force a debate on the marriage amendment is to find 51 representatives who support the legislation to invoke House Rule 60. House Rule 60 allows any bill to skip the committee process and go directly to a floor debate if a majority of representatives support doing so. If the House passes a marriage amendment yet this year, it would allow Iowa Republicans and traditional marriage advocates to focus on getting the amendment passed in the Senate.

While passing a marriage amendment needs to be the main focus, Iowa Republicans and traditional marriage advocates also should use the public outrage to strengthen Iowa’s marriage law by requiring Iowa residency to receive a marriage license.

I understand that some think this is a minor issue, but requiring Iowa residency will help stop the spread of the Court’s decision to other states. If Iowa allows out-of-state couples to spend a weekend here to get married and then return to their home, we will, in essence, be exporting gay marriage to other states. This will also create legal issues that could undermine other state’s marriage laws. Not dealing with this issue could be devastating.

The third main cog of the plan is launching a campaign that encourages voters to approve a constitutional convention. While Secretary of State Mauro is warning people that it could be a free-for-all convention, in reality, Iowa Republicans and traditional marriage advocates have nothing to lose. What are they going to do, legalize gay marriage again? We’ve already crossed that bridge.

A concerted effort to convene a constitutional convention would give Iowans assurance that the people will have the opportunity to voice their opinion on this issue. The marriage amendment would not be the only change we should advocate for either. We should also propose eliminating the Iowa income tax.

Legislative leaders and Governor Culver have come to an agreement on the repeal of federal deductibility, meaning that the people who create jobs in this state are going to get soaked. There is no need to keep tinkering around the edges when it comes to tax policy. A constitutional convention would also provide Iowa Republicans an opportunity to offer real tax reform and simplification to the people of Iowa. While we have the hood up, we might as well tune up or economic engine.

With our courts and legislature out of step with the people of Iowa, a constitutional convention allows the people to override a tyrant like Senator Gronstal who is simply afraid of the will of the people. This should be a no brainer for Iowa Republicans. Not only is it good public policy, but it’s also good politics.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson serves as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prior to founding Iowa's largest conservative news site, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. In that capacity, Robinson planned and organized the largest political event in 2007, the Iowa Straw Poll, in Ames, Iowa. Robinson also organized the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa, and was later dispatched to Nevada to help with the caucuses there. Robinson cut his teeth in Iowa politics during the 2000 caucus campaign of businessman Steve Forbes and has been involved with most major campaigns in the state since then. His extensive political background and rolodex give him a unique perspective from which to monitor the political pulse of Iowa.

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