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HomeNewsArchives'Foolishness:' Constitutional Convention Delegates Do Nothing All Day

'Foolishness:' Constitutional Convention Delegates Do Nothing All Day

Jan. 27, 2009 — It took delegates to the Fifth Constitutional Convention more than 10 hours Tuesday to gather enough members to form a quorum — and about five minutes to lose it after a fight broke out over proposed changes to the convention's rules.
Convention officials said they had received confirmation that 25 delegates would attend Tuesday's plenary session, which was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Two hours later, the number of delegates gathered at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Resort had hit 18, just three delegates shy of the 21 needed to make up the quorum required by law.
After noon — when breakfast had been eaten and lunch was on the way — the arrival of delegates Richard Schrader, Craig W. Barshinger and Arturo Watlington Jr. would have pushed the figure up to 21 if several other delegates hadn't already exited the meeting room, leaving the group shorthanded once again. While they continued to wait, the remaining delegates had an informal discussion on the three items they had come prepared to vote on — draft language proposed by the Citizenship, Executive Branch and Legislative Branch committees.
A plan was made to go into formal session at 6 p.m. — after the arrival of Delegate Francis Jackson — and break again at 7:30 for dinner. But there was still no quorum at 6 p.m. Convention President Gerard Luz James II wasn't officially able to call the meeting to order until about 7:04 p.m., after the delegates had spent hours making phone calls to see who would be able to show up.
The pounding of the gavel to signify the official start of the meeting was met by applause. But then Delegate Stedmann Hodge Jr. made a motion for the meeting's agenda to be reordered to allow for some new business, including proposed changes to the convention's rules. The motion sparked another round of chaos that lasted until the group broke for dinner after 8 p.m.
For the past few months, the convention has violated some of its own rules, signaling the need for some of these changes, Hodge said. Most importantly, delegates said they wanted to put something in place that would allow them to work around the 21-member quorum requirement, which they said has hampered the convention's operations over the past few months.
"We're leaving the official quorum number at 21, with the understanding that when a quorum has been established, our business can still be conducted when someone steps out of the room, or something," James said.
The explanation struck a bad note with Watlington, who said the delegates couldn't, "on a whim," change the law. When the convention's legal counsel, Lloyd Jordan, said delegates could technically make the change as long as it didn't "go beyond" the rules set by the Legislature, a motion was made to vote on the proposed change.
Watlington and Delegate Adelbert Bryan — who also said the amendment would be "out of order" — left the room, once again leaving the convention shorthanded.
"We can't vote on this right now," said Delegate Michael Thurland. "We don't have a quorum."
The back and forth between Thurland, Watlington and eventually Hodge continued for the next half hour, erupting in shouting matches in and out of the room.
"This is a waste of government money and a waste of time," Hodge shouted, saying that he was "sorry" that he had made the motion to re-order the agenda. "I knew this was going to happen."
Hodge left a few moments later, spurring at least another 15 minutes of squabbling.
"This is not dissent — this is what you call foolishness," Thurland said, as delegates continued to walk in and out of the room.
Around 7:43 p.m., James called for a 15-minute break.
"I just hope that tomorrow will be a better day," he said, when the meeting resumed. "All of us here are important, all of us are valuable, and all of our time is valuable. And to have to travel to St. Thomas to waste the whole day is what I call the utmost height of ridiculousness."
James likened the meeting to a fighter's entrance into the boxing ring.
"He waits and he waits, and once he finally gets in, he changes his mind and goes home," James said. "That's what this reminds me of. A lot of people are scared to see this product come to fruition — because a lot of changes are going to be made, and they don't want that. We cannot continue this way — I'm sick of it, and it has to change. We've been given a mandate and we have a job to do, and I want to see it come to fruition."
Vetoes by the governor stopped efforts by the convention and the Senate to change the quorum requirement, Bryan said. Delegate Mary Moorehead said all that was needed to settle the argument was a simple amendment stating that a vote by two-thirds of the convention's members would be needed to approve a document.
"This didn't have to be such a big deal," she said.
After speaking on the phone with the Legislature's chief legal counsel, Barshinger added that the governor is not opposed to trimming down the convention's quorum requirement to 16 members, but vetoed the recent Senate amendment because it had typographical errors that needed to be fixed. One of the convention's attorneys suggested that delegates begin to draft a new piece of legislation in house and present it to the Senate before its next session — otherwise, it wouldn't be dealt with, she said.
Meanwhile, Delegate Wilma Marsh-Monsanto said the exclusion of certain delegates from the rule-making process had created tension within the convention's membership "from the beginning." Delegates continue to exclude God from the process by not starting out the meetings with a prayer, she added.
"Today was a manifestation of demonic activity at work because we left out the invocation," Marsh-Monsanto said.
The session is expected to pick up around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
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Jan. 27, 2009 -- It took delegates to the Fifth Constitutional Convention more than 10 hours Tuesday to gather enough members to form a quorum -- and about five minutes to lose it after a fight broke out over proposed changes to the convention's rules.
Convention officials said they had received confirmation that 25 delegates would attend Tuesday's plenary session, which was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Two hours later, the number of delegates gathered at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Resort had hit 18, just three delegates shy of the 21 needed to make up the quorum required by law.
After noon -- when breakfast had been eaten and lunch was on the way -- the arrival of delegates Richard Schrader, Craig W. Barshinger and Arturo Watlington Jr. would have pushed the figure up to 21 if several other delegates hadn't already exited the meeting room, leaving the group shorthanded once again. While they continued to wait, the remaining delegates had an informal discussion on the three items they had come prepared to vote on -- draft language proposed by the Citizenship, Executive Branch and Legislative Branch committees.
A plan was made to go into formal session at 6 p.m. -- after the arrival of Delegate Francis Jackson -- and break again at 7:30 for dinner. But there was still no quorum at 6 p.m. Convention President Gerard Luz James II wasn't officially able to call the meeting to order until about 7:04 p.m., after the delegates had spent hours making phone calls to see who would be able to show up.
The pounding of the gavel to signify the official start of the meeting was met by applause. But then Delegate Stedmann Hodge Jr. made a motion for the meeting's agenda to be reordered to allow for some new business, including proposed changes to the convention's rules. The motion sparked another round of chaos that lasted until the group broke for dinner after 8 p.m.
For the past few months, the convention has violated some of its own rules, signaling the need for some of these changes, Hodge said. Most importantly, delegates said they wanted to put something in place that would allow them to work around the 21-member quorum requirement, which they said has hampered the convention's operations over the past few months.
"We're leaving the official quorum number at 21, with the understanding that when a quorum has been established, our business can still be conducted when someone steps out of the room, or something," James said.
The explanation struck a bad note with Watlington, who said the delegates couldn't, "on a whim," change the law. When the convention's legal counsel, Lloyd Jordan, said delegates could technically make the change as long as it didn't "go beyond" the rules set by the Legislature, a motion was made to vote on the proposed change.
Watlington and Delegate Adelbert Bryan -- who also said the amendment would be "out of order" -- left the room, once again leaving the convention shorthanded.
"We can't vote on this right now," said Delegate Michael Thurland. "We don't have a quorum."
The back and forth between Thurland, Watlington and eventually Hodge continued for the next half hour, erupting in shouting matches in and out of the room.
"This is a waste of government money and a waste of time," Hodge shouted, saying that he was "sorry" that he had made the motion to re-order the agenda. "I knew this was going to happen."
Hodge left a few moments later, spurring at least another 15 minutes of squabbling.
"This is not dissent -- this is what you call foolishness," Thurland said, as delegates continued to walk in and out of the room.
Around 7:43 p.m., James called for a 15-minute break.
"I just hope that tomorrow will be a better day," he said, when the meeting resumed. "All of us here are important, all of us are valuable, and all of our time is valuable. And to have to travel to St. Thomas to waste the whole day is what I call the utmost height of ridiculousness."
James likened the meeting to a fighter's entrance into the boxing ring.
"He waits and he waits, and once he finally gets in, he changes his mind and goes home," James said. "That's what this reminds me of. A lot of people are scared to see this product come to fruition -- because a lot of changes are going to be made, and they don't want that. We cannot continue this way -- I'm sick of it, and it has to change. We've been given a mandate and we have a job to do, and I want to see it come to fruition."
Vetoes by the governor stopped efforts by the convention and the Senate to change the quorum requirement, Bryan said. Delegate Mary Moorehead said all that was needed to settle the argument was a simple amendment stating that a vote by two-thirds of the convention's members would be needed to approve a document.
"This didn't have to be such a big deal," she said.
After speaking on the phone with the Legislature's chief legal counsel, Barshinger added that the governor is not opposed to trimming down the convention's quorum requirement to 16 members, but vetoed the recent Senate amendment because it had typographical errors that needed to be fixed. One of the convention's attorneys suggested that delegates begin to draft a new piece of legislation in house and present it to the Senate before its next session -- otherwise, it wouldn't be dealt with, she said.
Meanwhile, Delegate Wilma Marsh-Monsanto said the exclusion of certain delegates from the rule-making process had created tension within the convention's membership "from the beginning." Delegates continue to exclude God from the process by not starting out the meetings with a prayer, she added.
"Today was a manifestation of demonic activity at work because we left out the invocation," Marsh-Monsanto said.
The session is expected to pick up around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.