Minnesota's state constitution has been around for more than 150 years. It has served us well over that time. We are a strong, progressive state that manages to rank high on many quality of life lists despite our winter weather and the size of our mosquitos.
Over the years, the state constitution has been amended from time to time, to address issues that weren't around in 1858, like highway bonds and motor fuel taxation, or to adapt it to the needs of the times.
Amending the state constitution is, and should be, a relatively arduous process. The legislature must approve the proposal of an amendment and present it for a vote of the people through referendum. A majority of all the voters is required to pass it, so a voter who leaves that question blank is in essence voting no.
In general, we believe constitutional amendments should be passed to fix problems in the way government runs that aren't addressed in the constitution. But in recent years there have been amendments passed for things like the creation of a wildlife and outdoors fund, funded with state lottery proceeds, and the most recent legacy amendment that created a special sales tax to support a dedicated fund for outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and culture.
This year there seem to be a lot of amendments designed to impose one party's political will on the state. The Republicans in the Legislature are proposing an amendment to require voters to present picture ID cards. Another amendment would require a supermajority of the Legislature to pass a tax increase.
We don't know what problem a voter ID amendment will solve. Minnesota already has a reputation for running clean elections. We know Republicans think they got shafted in the last Senate race, where Al Franken beat Norm Coleman in a recount, and in the very close governor's race where Mark Dayton edged Tom Emmer. Critics of the ID amendment claim it would make it harder for senior citizens and minorities, two groups that usually vote for Democrats, to vote. The voting system ain't broke, as the saying goes. Do we need to fix it?
The supermajority requirement would make it virtually impossible for the Legislature to raise taxes, which is the wish of Republicans everywhere. It is already almost impossible to raise taxes in Minnesota, resulting in chronic budget shortfalls.
Passage of this amendment would assure continued deficits, which would have to be balanced by slashing things like schools and Local Government Aid. If this is what Republicans want to do, let them do so through the regular legislative process, not the state constitution.