Any hopes for changing the state’s 233-year-old Constitution will have to wait until next year.
The Legislature formally dissolved on Wednesday the Constitutional Convention of the 187th General Court, a joint meeting of the House and Senate convened to consider petitions to change the state’s Constitution.
By calling it a wrap for the session, the Legislature opted not to discuss or vote on any of the 19 proposals on the agenda, including petitions to abolish or change the Governor’s Council, implement a graduated income tax, require a supermajority to spend from the state’s “rainy day” account, move toward a two-year budgeting cycle, repeal automatic pay raises for legislators, or limit the growth of the state budget to inflation plus population growth.
With Senate President Therese Murray presiding, the convention dissolved itself after gathering for 37 seconds, the fifth such joint session since members of the Legislature took the oath of office in January 2011.
In total, the convention met for roughly seven minutes since it first convened in May 2011, accounting for roughly the time it took for the Senate to gather in the House chamber on five occasions and gavel in and out without considering any of the proposals before the convention.
In order to change the state Constitution, proposals must be advanced by two consecutive Legislatures, which are seated every two years, before being put before voters on the ballot. Citizen-driven petitions need 50 votes to advance while legislatively sponsored petitions need majority support in the 200-seat Legislature.
Though the Constitutional Convention has generated no action in the past four years, it was not that long ago that the assembly had the attention of the state and the country as lawmakers considered whether to allow voters to weigh in on a citizen petition defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
On Jan. 2, 2007, as Mitt Romney was preparing to turn the keys of the governor’s office over to Deval Patrick, a Constitutional Convention under the leadership of former speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini voted 61-132 to advance the question to the next Legislature.
The vote followed a ruling of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court finding that the Legislature had a constitutional duty to vote on citizen petitions, though the court said it could not force the Legislature to act. Turnover among lawmakers led to a 45-151 vote on June 14, 2011, five votes short of the number needed to put the question on the ballot.