Gatto’s Reform To Fix California’s Constitutional Amendment Process Clears Key Hurdle

By On July 6, 2012

Tuesday, Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Los Angeles) Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 10, an important reform measure to protect the sanctity of California’s constitution, passed the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting by a vote of 4-1.

The measure, part of Gatto’s package of constitutional reforms, seeks greater parity between the U.S. Constitution and California’s when it comes to the amendment process. The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times in 223 years, whereas California’s Constitution has been amended 521 times in roughly half the time, requiring only a simple majority of the electorate to amend.

“I would submit that one of the reasons our country has not been torn apart by strife is that, to amend our governing document, you need consensus.  California’s Constitution has been treated by special interests as just another statute, subject to the temporary whims of the majority of voters who show up and vote in any given year,” said Gatto.

ACA 10 seeks closer parity with the Federal Constitution in two ways. First, it would require a 55% majority to approve a new initiative constitutional amendment. Second, it would add a geographic-distribution requirement for signature gathering among the state’s far-flung and diverse Senate districts.

“These changes would ensure that amendments to our state’s constitution reflect the desires of the entire state.  It will also force those with the idea du jour to actually go discuss it with their fellow citizens across the state.”

Only 24 states even have an initiative process. Half of those states have similar geographic-distribution requirements, several require that votes cast far surpass the simple majority threshold, and six have gone as far as to forbid initiatives from amending their constitutions.

“A constitution should be a sacred, hallowed document that contains fundamental governing principles and rights.  I expect to have the support of my colleagues, who believe in the sanctity of the Federal Constitution and the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, to support taking these steps to ensure California’s Constitution is similarly protected,” said Gatto.  “No right is permanent, and no reform has any teeth, if it can be repealed at the very next election.”

ACA 10 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.

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