Enhance democracy with ConCon
HERE are three more reasons to get excited about next year's election: ethics, health and unions.
The people running for office next year appear to be mostly already elected, with little chance of wholesale change anywhere up or down the political landscape, but the watershed political event of the upcoming decade could be formed in the 2008 election.
Thanks to the genius of Hawaii's Constitution, next year is when the question of whether or not to hold a Constitutional Convention will be on the ballot.
If enough voters say "yes," Hawaii could be in position to finally address some of those hardy perennials that devoted supporters keep hauling before the Legislature.
The idea of publicly funded elections has been toyed with for eight years. Kory Payne, the community organizer for Voter Owned Hawaii, says his group will be back again for another push in the 2008 Legislature.
But if Payne and the groups that supported the idea of taking special interest money out of Hawaii's elections pushed for a ConCon and then ran members as delegates, there would be less of an argument that their view was being stiffed by special interests.
Our current campaign-spending laws came from the last Hawaii ConCon in 1978; before that, there was no Campaign Spending Commission and no campaign spending limits. It was winner take all (the money), and they did.
The same argument can be made for the public unions, which most of the time dislike the idea of any changes to the Constitution because of a fear that pay raises could wind up being subject to initiative or referendum or just be limited by something in a new Constitution.
What if the unions ran enough delegates to pass a new constitutional provision, forbidding public unions from striking and requiring binding arbitration for all unions, that might encourage some unions to go for another ConCon.
And finally, the issue of public health should be on the table at a ConCon. Instead of talking about universal health insurance every year and working up the Legislature's liberals for another quixotic crusade, what about having universal health care or insurance or some form of coverage as part of the state Constitution?
Then the doctors and the insurance agents could both grab campaign signs and get their own champion into ConCon.
The end result of such a ConCon could be a chance for the voters to decide three hot issues, and that's about all you can ask from any democracy.