Lessig Testifies in Support of Constitutional Convention in Rhode Island General Assembly

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee of the Rhode Island House of Representatives heard testimony on H-8186 a Joint Resolution introduced by Rep. David Segal and co-sponsored by Representatives Fierro, Ajello, Lima and Handy.

One of the foremost American public intellectuals on the Internet and Democracy – Harvard Law Professor Lawrence “Larry” Lessig – came to Rhode Island to testify in support of the Joint Resolution.  He is the founder of Creative Commons and author of “Code,” “The Future of Ideas,” and “Free Culture.”

I interviewed Lessig about his testimony and about his mission to remove the influence of money from politics through CallAConvention.org.  Watch the interview here.

The last state to sign onto the Bill of Rights, Rhode Island – if it passes H-8186, could become the first state to call for a Constitutional Convention in an effort to break Congress’ dependence on special interest money.

The text of the Joint Resolution is as follows:

WHEREAS, The Supreme Court of the United States has recently reinterpreted the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to grant corporations an unlimited right to spend corporate funds on independent political advertisement; and

WHEREAS, Such a change will only increase the already pathological dependence that members of Congress have upon private funds to secure their election to Congress and the election of their party; and

WHEREAS, This dependence has already weakened American democracy; and WHEREAS, Article V of the United States Constitution gives state legislatures the power, if two-thirds agree, to call for a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, That this General Assembly hereby respectfully directs Congress to direct such a convention to consider amendments to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision, and remedy the dependence that currently debilitates American democracy; and be it further

RESOLVED, That this General Assembly further respectfully directs Congress to direct such a convention to only consider amendments explicitly referenced by at least forty percent of the states calling for a convention, thereby limiting the potential scope of such a convention; and be it further

RESOLVED, That this General Assembly hereby expressly rejects any amendment proposed by such a convention that is not explicitly referenced by at least forty percent of the states calling for a convention; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State be and he hereby is authorized and directed to transmit duly certified copies of this resolution to the President of the United States, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the presiding officer of each house of each state legislature of the United States, and to each member of this state’s Congressional delegation.

Lessig’s call for a Constitutional Convention is certainly timely in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Citizens United case.  While getting 34 state legislatures to call for a federal constitutional convention might seem like a difficult task, getting Congress to limit campaign contributions is astronomically more difficult.

To join the movement to call for a Constitutional Convention, click here.

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