Statement of Principles

Coalition Statement of Principles Against a Constitutional Convention

Background

We are a coalition of individuals and organizations united to oppose the calling of a Rhode Island Constitutional Convention. Article XIV of the Rhode Island Constitution requires that at least every ten years, Rhode Island voters determine whether or not they desire to hold a constitutional convention. The last time the issue was considered, in 2004, voters rejected the convening of a constitutional convention

Principles

Our member organizations and individuals hold a variety of beliefs in opposition to the calling of a constitutional convention. We are united by these shared beliefs:

• We Must Protect Our Civil Rights – Approval of a constitutional convention is a significant potential threat to our civil rights. Across the country some of the most controversial, complex and divisive social issues – like affirmative action, gay rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, and the rights of immigrants – often become fodder for expensive statewide voter campaigns.

• Our Constitution is Not For Sale – The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there can be no government limits on how much money corporations spend on referenda campaigns, including any proposed constitutional amendments that come out of a convention. We now live in a world of unfettered special interest spending out-of-state money that distorts campaigns.

• We Already Have Effective Means of Changing Governance – Rhode Island does not need a constitutional convention to change our governance. Constitutional changes may be done, and have been done in the past, by questions placed on the ballot by the General Assembly.

• Our Money Is Better Spent Elsewhere – Constitutional Conventions are expensive. The 2004 bi-partisan preparatory commission estimated the cost to be about $2 million. That estimate will surely rise when new estimates are prepared for a convention ten years later. Funding programs and services is a better use of money.

Objectives

This coalition was convened to oppose efforts to approve a constitutional convention when the issue appears on the November 4, 2014 ballot. We have come together to:

• Raise awareness about the impending public vote on the Constitutional Convention in 2014.

• Voice objection to the Constitutional Convention by sharing our concerns.

• Ensure that the public is informed that the Constitutional Convention process is a significant threat to our rights and liberties.

• Insist that the preparatory commission report reflects realistic estimates on the cost associated with the convening of a Constitutional Convention.

• Educate the public that adequate means of amending our constitution currently exist and that General Assembly approval of ballot questions, such as the 2004 separation of powers amendment, has made significant change in our state’s governance.