Let legislators make their own decisions

We have commented in the past on the folly of legislators using state constitutional amendments to turn their partisan agendas into state law when they lack the votes to get it done by regular means. Republicans in recent years tried to use amendments to make marriage between a man and a woman the only marriage the state recognizes, and to require voters to produce picture IDs when they lacked the votes to override vetoes.

The constitution was written to set up how government operates, not to establish the policies that should be set by legislators and the governor.

Nor should constitutional amendments be used to pass off to the people the decisions that legislators can’t make themselves. Legislators are working on a minimum wage increase, but are hung up on the idea of indexing the minimum wage for inflation. Democrats in the House want to index the minimum wage, so it will rise as the cost of living rises. Democrats in the Senate oppose that. So someone is offering a bill for a constitutional amendment to index the minimum wage, leaving the decision to the people.

The state does not need to be further muddying up the constitution with policy matters. We have already stuck in the Minnesota Legacy amendment, a sales tax that specifically supports wildlife, the environment and fine arts because legislators didn’t want to pass it themselves.

Minnesota does not have a process, like California’s, for petition and referendum, which allows the people to propose laws by petition and pass them in a popular referendum. That’s what legislators seem to want. The only way we have to put something to the vote of the people is by constitutional amendment.

Legislators should avoid the temptation to sidestep their own indecision by creating constitutional amendments every time they can’t reach a decision.