The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

March 24, 2014

Our View: Amendment fever hits lawmakers

— Before elevating additional activity to a constitutional right, Missouri lawmakers may want to heed the advice of Robot B-9.

The robot, you may recall, was programmed to warn the stranded family of impending danger on the 1960s television program, “Lost in Space.”

Some lawmakers — in past sessions and, notably, during this session — perceive attacks on what they consider traditional behavior and activities.

A tendency has been to repel those attacks by enshrining specific activities and behaviors as constitutional rights.

A partial list of proposed constitutional amendments includes:

• A right to farm.

• A right to hunt and fish.

• A right to hold a rodeo.

• A right for parents to raise their children as they see fit.

Are these proposals a reasonable response to a real threat or an over-reaction fueled by paranoia?

Two factors aggravating this constitutional amendment fever, if we may call it that, are Proposition B and term limits.

Proposition B was an animal welfare law — not a constitutional amendment — approved by voters, but changed drastically by lawmakers before it became effective.

The action provided a compelling example of why a constitutional amendment is preferable; it is impervious to legislative tampering.

In addition, term limits fuel a tendency among lawmakers to pass measures with greater durability.

Perhaps it is political equivalent of the psychological longing to create something that continues after we’re gone.

The tendency to enshrine activity and behavior as a constitutional right, however, presents both short-term and long-term consequences.

The immediate concern is if a constitutional amendment permits abuse, the error cannot be rectified quickly.

The long-range consequence, as we wrote on Feb. 2, is: “If we continue on this inane path of continually amending the constitution, representative government eventually will become superfluous.”

A constitution is a framework for governing; it is not a law book or regulation manual.

To paraphrase Robot B-9: Danger, Missouri Legislature, danger!

— The Jefferson City News Tribune

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