Finally, The Constitutional Convention will begin. The Senate rightfully wrote and the Lt Governor promptly signed legislation that would start the Convention on Monday, October 29. The Convention delegates will have about a year to write a new Constitution for the Virgin Islands.
I read with interest, the article by former Senator Craig Barshinger, about the political pre-shuffling going on already. It appears that the Convention is attempting to create voting 'blocs' or alliances or caucuses based upon the St Croix and the St Thomas/St John districts. This is similar to what the Senate does as one of its first acts as a legislature. The Senate creates a majority/minority system whereby alliances are formed based upon ideology. I was always amazed and quite honestly appalled at this practice. To me it immediately meant that the Senate started with derision and division within its ranks. The practice of ideological politics can take place but it should be done during debate rather than as a legislative norm. This 'caucusing' is divisive and reeks of political maneuvering.
The Conventioneers are attempting to do the same thing if Mr. Barshinger's assessment is correct. This is not a good start for the Convention. If the Convention uses this tactic, it shows us that the old-time practice of creating politics rather than unity is the way we do government business. In other words, we are used to using certain political methods to get things done that are counter-productive from the very start. The fact that party affiliation could not be a factor when the delegates ran for office, is very telling. The Senate, in creating the law, wanted to ensure that it would be a completely non-partisan election and I suspect a non-partisan Convention. The Convention is about compromise not politics. I would suggest to the members to not form political alliances especially ones that separate islands into voting powers. This Convention is not about separation, it is about coming together. What the delegates write will affect every Virgin Islander and should never be written with any particular group or segment of society in mind. Voting blocs just might be the beginning of the end of the whole process.
The delegates have about a year to complete the document. Once completed, it will be forwarded to the Governor who will forward it to the President of the United States for comment and then onto the Congress for passage. This confirmation process, in a perfect world could, take as little as a month or as much as 3 months before it would be returned to the people of the Virgin Islands for a vote in a plebiscite. Assuming the Convention takes the entire year, it would mean the Virgin Islands-wide vote would take place in either November 2008 or January 2009. This is too late in either case to be placed on a general election ballot and would require a special election just to ratify the Constitution. It would be far better to place the Constitution at a general election as a binding ballot question where we know the majority of Virgin islanders will vote. To accomplish this, I would suggest that the Convention attempt to use the first 8 months to produce the document and the remaining 4 months to let it go through the Presidential/Congressional process. During those 4 months, the Convention should concentrate on publicizing what they have created so that the citizens will know what to vote on once it is returned from Congress. The Fourth Constitutional process failed largely because there was a lack of public information. Of course, media publications and educational forums via the press and other concerned groups during the actual writing process would be the ideal way to keep the public informed.
Please! Delegates do NOT separate your body into political alliances. In fact, I would suggest that you attempt to create Constitutional language that would prevent the Senate form creating permanent political caucuses. We need unity in our governmental process, not division.
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