Two lawmakers are looking to introduce legislation that would force Pennsylvania to re-evaluate its constitution.
The process is known as a constitutional convention.
Such initiatives crop up every few years in the Legislature — typically after some form of public outcry. This effort was largely prompted by the commonwealth’s stalled budget.
Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, and Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland, submitted proposals for the convention in their respective chambers.
The memos use similar language. Both say that “citizens are increasingly concerned about the size, cost and inefficiency of their government,” and both list “spending without an enacted budget” as a problem with a system that’s ripe for change.
To get the ball rolling, the Legislature would have to agree on the terms of the convention, then voters would have to approve them in a referendum. Delegates would then be elected to decide how to change the constitution; finally, another referendum would have to be held on the updates.
The process takes at least two years.
Commonwealth Foundation Director Nathan Benefield, who helped author a study on constitutional conventions, said they’re one of the surest ways to make fundamental changes to state government.
“Especially when you’re talking about legislative reform, like term limits, you aren’t requiring the Legislature to pass legislation itself first,” he said. “You’re relying on the constitutional committee to design those changes.”
Because the process is so complicated, though, conventions are rare. Benefield said efforts to initiate them usually peter out before the bills pass through legislative committees.
The last convention was called in 1967.