Question Two: Constitutional Advisory Committee

By: Tanvi Mittal(Correspondent)

Midterm elections are coming up and voters are scrambling to make decisions for the ballot questions. Question number two in the in Massachusetts is about an initiative to create an advisory committee that would make amendments to the U.S. Constitution regarding corporate personhood and political spending. If voted yes this would mean a 15 person committee would be created to advocate for certain amendments to the United States Constitution. A no vote would stop this initiative.

According to the Massachusetts Secretary of State website the committee “would be required to research and take testimony, and then issue a report regarding the impact of political spending in Massachusetts.” The report would include “limitations on the state’s ability to regulate corporations…recommendations for constitutional amendments” and an “analysis of constitutional amendments.”

Some believe that is only being used to placate people. Sean O’Reilly, a U.S. government teacher, says “the most common way politicians try to dodge a controversial issue is to recommend appointing a “blue ribbon commission” to study the issue.  This is often perceived as a way to avoid doing anything meaningful to address the issue.”

O’Reilly also added that the committee might not make any progress as “historically amending the Constitution is extremely rare, difficult, time-consuming and expensive. It has only happened 17 times in our 230-year history.”

One of the main amendments that the committee would look to add to the Constitution would be overturning the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United. On January 21st, 2010 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits government restrictions on spending by nonprofit corporations to help a party or candidate. They ruled in favor of the Citizens United and the committee would look to have that overruled.

A committee called People Govern, Not Money has been leading the campaign for question 2.  They have been doing quite well, as the question has very little opposition and they have not had to spend too much money getting the word out, unlike the committees for question 1 and 3.  It is predicted that it will pass with a large majority and has been getting support from many. For example, both Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito support it.

The opposition that the question has received has mostly been backed up by the ruling of the Supreme Court regarding Citizens United. The majority of the Supreme Court wrote, “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” It is believed that changing the view of the First Amendment could have serious repercussions and as this is one of the most important issues that the committee has been designed to amend, some are voting “no” on question 2.

While question 2 has not been receiving a lot of publicity, the impact of the decision made could be insurmountable.

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