Voters to decide on Hawaii Constitutional Convention

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A question on the November ballot will ask voters if they want a Constitutional Convention. 

The last ConCon was in 1978, and there wer 102 delegates. Each delegate was chosen by voters. 

Former Governor John Waihee was one of them.

“Voters would have a second opportunity to ratify whatever the convention proposed,” Waihee said.  “So it wouldn’t be a part of the constitution unless it was ratified again by more positive votes than negative, provided the positive votes were equal to 50 percent of the number of people voting in that election. It’s a very difficult standard to get something passed,” he said. 

Amendments passed after the 1978 ConCon included; the creation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Water Commission, laying the groundwork for the return of federal land such as Kahoolawe, and term limits for the governor. 

Those in favor of ConCon say it gives voters a more democratic process, and could push big issues like housing to the forefront. 

“Right now we’re building a very expensive rail and there’s no consideration for the infrastructure that has to go in and the low income housing that we’re going to lose because of that redevelopment,” said Sen. Laura Thielen (D), District 25 Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawaii Kai, Portlock.

“As we go through this redevelopment, if we don’t have something in our constitution that says decision makers, when their voting on housing, has to consider these broader interests, we’re going to lose a lot of opportunity for our local residents and we’re going to see more moving off to the mainland,” she said. 

“With a ConCon, you can deal with a problem like housing for local residents in a very holistic manner that you can’t currently under legislator or city council because they’re dealing with a whole host of other issues,” Sen. Thielen said. 

Opponents say it costs too much. 

According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, a ConCon today would cost nearly $56 million.

They say it’s too dangerous with too many unknowns.  

“There are things that are in the constitution right now, such as the right to privacy, equal rights amendment—which has never been ratified to the US Constitution, even the right against being imprisoned for owing debt that is currently and explicitly in our state constitution. The problem is, you never know whats going to come out of a Constitutional Convention and too risky to put all of those rights at risk,” said Joshua Wisch, Executive Director at American Civil Liberties Union. 

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