John L. Gedid, Vice Dean and Director of the Law, Vincent DeLiberato, Senior Staff Attorney, Legislative Reference Bureau and the court reporter
John L. Gedid, Vice Dean and Director of the Law, Vincent DeLiberato, Senior Staff Attorney, Legislative Reference Bureau
On Monday May 5th, John L. Gedid, Vice Dean and Director of the Law and Government Institute at Widener Law’s Harrisburg campus spoke before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Majority & Minority Policy Committees about the history of Pennsylvania Constitutional Conventions. The presentation was part of a hearing on how to amend the State Constitution.
Vice Dean Gedid spoke for two hours, detailing the historical context of past Constitutional conventions and the alterations to the state’s Constitution resulting from them. He opened with a consideration of the three methods of constitutional change: revolution, constitutional convention, or amendment under Article XI, § 1. The presentation then moved to a consideration of what issues and circumstances had led to Constitutional conventions in the past. Gedid examined the Declaration of Rights Article I, § 2, which articulates that governmental power is inherent in the people and that they have an inalienable right to change or alter the Constitution.
After examining the factors that produced, and the outcomes of, the Pennsylvania Constitutions of 1776, 1790, 1839, 1874, and 1968, Vice Dean Gedid discussed several Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases interpreting Constitutional convention provisions. He concluded the talk by suggesting that the two clear methods for amending the constitution are to make amendments under the provisions of Article XI, § 1 or by convening a Constitutional convention as outlined in Article I, § 2. Further, he contended that conventions were only successful “when Legislature and Citizens have agreed” on the necessity of holding one. The presentation also touched on the need for government stability while acknowledging the importance of change when “major economic, political, or geographic changes occur.”