2011 Wis SJR10 – Continuity of state and local gov. operations
2011 − 2012 LEGISLATURE
2011 SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 10
- To amend section 34 of article IV of the constitution; relating to: continuity of
- government (second consideration).
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
EXPLANATION OF PROPOSAL
This proposed constitutional amendment, to be given second consideration by
the 2011 legislature for submittal to the voters in April 2011, was first considered by
the 2009 legislature in 2009 Assembly Joint Resolution 59, which became 2009
Enrolled Joint Resolution 14.
Article IV, section 34, of the Wisconsin Constitution provides that the
legislature, to ensure continuity of state and local government operations in periods
of emergency resulting from enemy attack, must provide for prompt and temporary
succession to the powers and duties of public offices, of whatever nature and whether
filled by election or appointment, the incumbents of which may be unavailable to
carry on the powers and duties of the offices. In addition, the legislature must adopt
any other measures that may be necessary to obtain the objectives of that section of
This constitutional amendment amends that provision in article IV, section 34,
to strike the phrase “enemy action in the form of an attack” and substitute “a severe
or prolonged, natural or human−caused, occurrence that threatens life, health, or the
security of the state,” thereby providing for legislative action to ensure continuity in
periods of emergency, whether resulting from enemy attack or from other causes.
PROCEDURE FOR SECOND CONSIDERATION
When a proposed constitutional amendment is before the legislature on second
consideration, any change in the text approved by the preceding legislature causes
the proposed constitutional amendment to revert to first consideration status so that
second consideration approval would have to be given by the next legislature before
the proposal may be submitted to the people for ratification [see joint rule 57 (2)].
If the legislature approves a proposed constitutional amendment on second
consideration, it must also set the date for submitting the proposed constitutional
amendment to the people for ratification and must determine the question or
questions to appear on the ballot.
- Whereas, the 2009 legislature in regular session considered a proposed
- amendment to the constitution in 2009 Assembly Joint Resolution 59, which became
- 2009 Enrolled Joint Resolution 14, and agreed to it by a majority of the members
- elected to each of the 2 houses, which proposed amendment reads as follows:
SECTION 1. Section 34 of article IV of the constitution is amended to
[Article IV] Section 34. The legislature, in order to ensure continuity
of state and local governmental operations in periods of emergency
enemy action in the form of an attacka severe or prolonged,
natural or human−caused, occurrence that threatens life, health, or the
security of the state, shall (1) forthwith provide for prompt and temporary
succession to the powers and duties of public offices, of whatever nature
and whether filled by election or appointment, the incumbents of which
may become unavailable for carrying on the powers and duties of such
offices, and (2) adopt such other measures as may be necessary and proper
for attaining the objectives of this section.
- Now, therefore, be it resolved by the senate, the assembly concurring,
- That the foregoing proposed amendment to the constitution is agreed to by the 2011
- legislature; and, be it further
- Resolved, That the foregoing proposed amendment to the constitution be
- submitted to a vote of the people at the election to be held on the first Tuesday in April
- 2011; and, be it further
- Resolved, That the question concerning ratification of the foregoing proposed
- amendment to the constitution be stated on the ballot as follows:
- QUESTION 1: “Continuity of government operations during an
- emergency. Shall section 34 of article IV of the constitution, which requires the
- legislature to ensure continuity of state and local government operations during an
- emergency, be amended to change the definition of emergency from ‘enemy attack’
- to ‘severe or prolonged, natural or human−caused, occurrence that threatens life,
- health, or the security of the state’?”
“periods of emergency resulting from enemy action in the form of an attack” is a pretty specific condition, one that strongly implies chaos to a degree that would physically impair the normal functioning of government. It was clearly meant for a moment when political agendas had to be set aside and emergency measures taken to address immediate problems. This section of the Wisconsin Constitution dates back to 1961, before 21st century communications like cell phones, satellite phones, and the Internet. It was a time when the possibility that key people could be unreachable for extended periods of time was a reasonable concern. A time when phones were relatively few and land wired, although there were more pay phones. A time before the resources of a staff could be squeezed into a portable device.
Today, the concern must be for the physical impairment of the key individual, and less for the breakdown of communications. In the current environment, it would be unrealistic to expect that the republicans would set aside ideology long enough to deal with an emergency.
“severe or prolonged, natural or human−caused, occurrence that threatens life, health, or the security of the state” is a very broad, ill-defined condition for authorizing the “temporary” alteration of an elected government.
“provide for prompt and temporary succession to the powers and duties of public offices, of whatever nature and whether filled by election or appointment, the incumbents of which may become unavailable for carrying on the powers and duties of such offices”
This was written to authorize extreme measures to avert the complete breakdown of government at a time when control of the territory itself would be brought under question. The threat of foreign invasion is less likely than ever. But is invasion what this amendment is about?
- severe or prolonged
- natural or man-made
- threatens life, health, or the security of the state
A hurricane is severe, natural caused, threatens life. It fits the requirements. But is it grounds for replacing government officials who “may become unavailable”?
The recession is severe and prolonged, man-made, and threatens the security of the state. Does it justify replacing government officials, including elected officials, who may just be on vacation or out of state on business, or maybe just a legislator when the legislature is out of session?
The budget crisis is severe and prolonged, man-made, and threatens the security of the state. This amendment could be used to replace one or more Democrat senators and eliminate what little balance of power there is in the state government.
Unanswered questions/undefined terms:
- How severe is “severe?
- How long is “prolonged?
- How many lives must be threatened to say a situation “threatens life”? What kind of threat?
- What kind of threat to health? How widespread? Bird flu? Salmonella? Poisoned ground water?
- What constitutes a “threat to the security of the state”? Illegal immigrants? Corporate lobbyists? The Koch Brotherhood?
This amendment goes very far beyond the scope and purpose of the original section of the state Constitution.
Unbelievably, this resolution does not offer the slightest reason or justification for such a drastic alteration of a section of their constitution that is largely obsolete and irrelevant.
This suggested amendment does not simply beg to be abused, it seems designed for the sole purpose of laying the foundation for an usurpation of power.
It paves the way for a coup d’état. I guess that is one way to “take back the government”, but it is not the democratic way – not the American way.
I rate this amendment a corruption of the Republican form of government and anti-American.
Update: I have noticed that they tried to do even worse in the last session:
In the previous attempt, all they did was strike “resulting from enemy action in the form of an attack“, leaving the authorization for ANY “emergency”. There was a requirement that it be posted 3 months before the election, which was dropped this time, but no wording for the ballot was specified.
- How Can A New Constitutional Convention Be Called? (seercat.wordpress.com)