At the November 2, 2010 general election, the voters of Michigan will decide whether to call a constitutional convention to revise the 1963 Michigan Constitution. The question appears on the ballot automatically every 16 years as required by the Constitution. The Constitution provides that a convention would convene in Lansing on October 4, 2011. If the question is rejected, it will automatically appear on the ballot again in the year 2026.
The Citizens Research Council of Michigan takes no position on the question of calling a constitutional convention. It is hoped that examination of the matters identified in this paper will promote discussion of vital constitutional issues and assist citizens in deliberations on the question of calling a constitutional convention.
State government powers are expansive and shared among three branches of government: legislative, executive, judicial. The lawmaking powers reside with the Michigan Legislature, which consists of a senate and a house of representatives. Should voters approve the calling of a constitutional convention, it is likely that delegates to the convention would examine a number of provisions contained in Article IV entitled, “Legislative Branch”, dealing with: obsolete provisions and institutional matters; the legislative structure; term limitations; setting elected officials’ compensation; and other issues. The legislature’s role in the state’s financial affairs as described outside of Article IV (e.g., “power of the purse” in Article IX and “balanced budget” in Article V) will be covered separately in forthcoming analyses.
Article IV, Section 1 succinctly states that legislative power “is vested in a senate and a house of representatives.” Absent further refinement of such powers, such authority would be sufficient to allow the legislature to carry out all acts that are embraced within the concept of the general powers of government. Unlike the executive and judicial branches of state government that exercise powers specifically enumerated to them, the Michigan Constitution, in theory, does not need to define the specific grants of legislative authority. Article IV, however, does contain provisions that define legislative powers, in addition to provisions that involve the legislative institution itself; its structure, organization, and procedures. This article also contains provisions governing the legislative redistricting process that have been deemed to be unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court that should be eliminated and replaced with valid language.
States have considerable discretion in drafting the fundamental law that govern their operations and that afford rights to their citizens. State constitutions, however, are bound by the parameters of the United States Constitution and may not violate the provisions contained in that document. State constitutional provisions that are obsolete because they violate the provisions of the federal constitution make the language of a state constitution confusing and misleading to the citizenry. These provisions should be removed or revised to reflect the current status of law.
Article IV contains provisions relating to legislative redistricting that are not consistent with the federal constitution. Given the importance of redistricting to the electoral process and to ensuring representative democracy, the existing language that details the process of redistricting and the body responsible for this process should be eliminated and replaced with wording that complies with the United States Constitution.