TRENTON – Lawmakers who want to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision with a constitutional convention passed ACR149 out of committee this afternoon.
The resolution passed 4-2 along party lines.
Democratic Assemblyman Troy Singleton, Assemblyman Dan Benson and Assemblyman Tim Eustace sponsored the bill, and Benson appeared before the committee to advocate for the resolution.
“A constitutional convention is clearly needed to correct the disastrous impact of recent Court decisions on the integrity of elections in New Jersey and throughout the nation,” said Benson. “Citizens United opened the door to unlimited spending by shadowy, well-funded groups with no transparency or accountability – spending that drowns out the voice of the American voter and threatens the fundamental fairness of our democracy.”
In the Citizens United case, the court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation.
“This concurrent resolution makes application to the Congress of the United States of America for a convention to be called under Article V of the Constitution of the United States for the sole, specific and exclusive purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that would limit the corrupting influence of money in our political system including by overturning the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission and related cases,” the summary of the bill reads.
“The resolution provides that copies of the resolution are to be transmitted by the Clerk of the General Assembly to the President and Vice President of the United States, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate, each Senator and Representative from New Jersey in the Congress of the United States, the Archivist of the United States and the respective clerks of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate requesting that they record this application in the published tally of state petitions for a convention of the states under Article V of the United States Constitution, the Governor of each state, and the presiding officer of each house of each state legislature in the United States.”
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39) and Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) voted no.
Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35, Assemblyman Joe Lagana, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Assemblyman John McKeon voted yes.
“I reserve my right on the floor [to change his vote],” Lagana said.
Johnson liked the resolution. “The Constitution is a living document that requires change,” the Bergen Democrat said.
“Amending the First Amendment to curtail our most cherished freedom – the right to speak freely about politics – represents perhaps the worst idea this Legislature has ever considered,” said the veteran GOP assemblyman. “Endowing government with the power to ban books, movies, pamphlets, editorials, etc., and to censor speech, contravenes more than 200 years of American law and constitutes a fundamental assault on liberty.
“The people enjoy the right to cast an informed ballot; a surfeit of information about candidates for political office is not high on the list of problems from which the electorate suffers,” he added. “While some on the left may believe that the people are too stupid to understand politics or to vote intelligently despite an onslaught of political media, our Framers understood that there is simply no such thing as too much speech, let alone on matters of policy and that the electorate is intelligent enough to make informed political decisions after considering all perspectives.”