One of the key precepts of our system of government is the three branches, separate but equal, each providing checks and balances on the other two. It works to keep any one branch from assuming too much power, knowing that if they go too far, the other two branches can intervene and stop them. The Congress can pass laws, impeach and remove government officials, and controls the purse strings. The President can veto laws and gets to appoint Supreme Court justices. And the Court can declare laws and actions unconstitutional, and strike them down. Overall, it’s worked pretty well for well over two centuries, and served as a model for the states when they set up their own government.
Unfortunately, some states haven’t followed that model very well.
In Massachusetts, the Constitution spells it out: if enough citizens sign petitions for a Constitutional amendment, the legislature MUST convene in a Constitutional Convention and vote on it. If they want to defeat it, they have to muster a 3/4 vote to shoot it down. But if the number of lawmakers voting in favor of it exceeds 1/4, even by a single vote, then it goes on the next statewide ballot. (Well, actually it has to do this twice, but you get the idea.)
A little while ago, though, some legislator with more brains than scruples found a loophole: while the Constitution requires that they vote, there is absolutely no mechanism whatsoever to enforce that decree. All they have to do is simply “run out the clock” on their legislative session without voting, and what the Founders intended to require a 3/4 vote to achieve becomes a simple majority. Abra cadabra, they’ve rewritten the state’s Constitution without having to bother with the whole rigamarole of actually amending it!
This is where the “checks and balances” should come in. The executive or judicial branch (in this case, the governor and the Supreme Judicial Court) should be able to check in this flagrant, rampant abuse of power and process.
But they can’t.
The governor is furious. He can call the legislature into session, but he cannot compel them to vote on the matter. And his term expires at the same instant theirs do, so when they “run out the clock” on the amendment, they do the same to him. He’s threatening their pay raises, but that’s pretty much the extent of his ability to sway them.
He sought the assistance of the Supreme Judicial Court, but they were of no help. They issued an opinion saying that the legislators were clearly violating their Constitutional duties and oaths, but said there wasn’t a damned thing anyone could do about it.
In fact, here’s an excerpt of their opinion — and it’s an amazing admission to place in a court ruling:
Beyond resorting to aspirational language that relies on the presumptive good faith of elected representatives, there is no presently articulated judicial remedy for the Legislature’s indifference to, or defiance of, its constitutional duties
Let me sum it up briefly: the only group in the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts that can exert any influence over the Legislature and compel them to actually obey the state Constitution, in accordance with their oaths to do so, are the people themselves, through elections.
And these are the same sheeple who just turned their entire state government — lock, stock, and barrel — to the party that keeps spitting in their faces. I don’t believe a single incumbent of that party was defeated, and they actually picked up a few more seats. Not a single leader of the legislature, not one architect of this grotesque perversion of their state’s Constitution, even came close to losing their seat. “Thank you sir, may I have another?”
Careful readers will note that not once did I say which party is leading this rape of the laws of government, nor what the substance of the Constitutional amendment is. That was deliberate, because this matter is far bigger than either matter. I will simply restate a point I have made numerous times before: this is the sort of thing you can expect when a single party — ANY single party — so utterly dominates the political scene. In Massachusetts, one party now holds both Senate seats, all 10 House seats, the governorship, the Attorney General, over 85% of both houses of the state legislature, and a host of lesser offices.
If anyone is wondering why they keep committing these wholesale assaults on the rights of the citizens, it’s for the simplest and crassest of reasons: because they can. And the only people who can stop them are the victims of their offenses, and like a battered wife they keep rewarding their assailants.
I’m not amazed that over the last few years, the population of Massachusetts has been declining. What amazes me is that it isn’t happening faster.