The Insanity of the California Constitution

If you read through the California Constitution, you’d have to think California must be a state full of certified lunatics. (Of course, you’d also probably have to be a certified lunatic to read through the California Constitution. It’s about 35,000 word, it takes up five 500 page volumes of West’s California Codes.)

One of the reasons the Constitution is so large and ungainly is because it’s so easy to change it.  All it takes is to circulate an initiative petition and get 700,000 valid signatures on it, then win the statewide election with a bare majority of votes cast.  Granted, neither of these is the kind of thing you can do in a spare weekend with $50 and a few friends, but it’s no more than it takes to pass a simple statutory initiative.  There have been many, many constitutional amendments enacted through the initiative process. 

On the other hand, the California Constitution makes some actions very difficult to accomplish.  A budget may only be approved by a 2/3 vote of both houses of the legislature.  Likewise, under Proposition 13, a new state tax may only be adopted by a 2/3 vote of both houses.  Further, bonds and local taxes require a 2/3 vote of the electorate.

What this means is that rights established under the state constitutions, such as California’s right of privacy and California’s enhanced right of free speech, can be modified or abolished by initiative through a simple majority vote of the statewide electorate, while establishing a new tax or approving a bond requires a 2/3 majority vote.  Does this mean that Californians believe that money is more precious than human rights?  Apparently so.


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