A Constitutional Overhaul: California

The following is an incomplete paper I am working on, which includes ways to overhaul and rectify many issues plaguing the California State government. It is not perfect, or even finished, but I figure getting it out there and subjecting it to criticism will not only help me polish it, but help to light a fire under me and drive me to resume work on it in my spare time:

(P.S. remember this is a work in progress)

As California deals with a gridlocked legislature, massive budget difficulties, and substantial issues, I am hereby offering a proposal to overhaul the system in an attempt to fix the problem. All this is based off of common knowledge and will require greater research, but the basic tenets can be easily explained.

Part I
Abolition of the California State Senate 

My first proposal is to cut and abolish the Upper House of the California State Legislature, the California State Senate. I know what you are likely thinking: that’s insane! It’s too radical!! However, before passing judgment, I ask that you hear me out. Cutting the State Senate, which would require a Constitutional Convention, would save tons of money because we would not be expending money on the following, and this is not a complete list:

  1. The State Senators themselves, who have salaries
  2. The staffs of the State Senators, including future pensions and benefits
  3. All associated committees with the State Senate, and additionally all associated personnel.
  4. Conference committees: since the California State Assembly would be the only remaining legislative body, there would be no need for a committee to mediate bills passed between the two houses
  5. Reduced election costs from not having to handle State Senate elections

This proposal would work because California recently, for all intensive purposes, has recently outlawed gerrymandering, thus ensuring that with fair districts, the Assembly would be composed of representatives the people would directly support. The sole legislative body would have a greater interest to work with the governor to get bills passed. As a result, of course, the State Assembly would be empowered with all the authority currently held by the State Senate. The Assembly would have to work in the new bylaws and protocols as well. Additionally, the record of all proceedings should be made more public (if that is possible) to ensure that re-election campaigns are based off of fair and good information.

Part II
Unification of the Executive Branch

Either total or partial, unifying the executive branch under one administration would expedite matters, and could potentially save money on election costs. It would also ensure that all executive officers would have the same agenda, and would not cause legal problems that have plagued recent administrations, because all the executive officers would be working together.

Those legal matters, notably the boundaries of where the governor’s authority ends and an executive officer’s begins, cost the state money, since it requires hearings to answer the issues at hand.

Part III
Restrictions of Direct Democracy

Again, I know you’re probably thinking this is a step too far, but we need to stop ballot box budgeting, which has gone too far. Granted, I don’t trust politicians too much either, but I would rather be able to fully blame the legislature for a bad budget than the fact they only control roughly twenty percent of the budget (if anyone knows the actual statistic, feel free to point it out to me).

My proposal would rework the system so that the citizenry cannot put things on the ballot, with one exception that is listed below, but the requirements for the legislature to put them on would be eased up. If the legislature wants to put a law on the ballot, it would require a majority of the Assembly to put it on. A constitutional amendment would require sixty to sixty-five percent of the body to approve it. Additionally, the referendum, meaning that citizens can challenge a law passed by the legislature and put on the ballot to a vote, but to do that would require a certain number of signatures from at least four different counties, with a required total count. In exchange for the increased requirements, the time frame would be extended to 165 days from the current 150.

Part IV
The Rest of It 

In order to accommodate such changes, of course, there would need to be adjustments made across the board, as well as rewriting numerous protocols and bylaws that would address the changes. There would need to be a way of preventing factions from throwing wrenches into the legislative process, hence the massive overhaul not result in an increase in efficiency. Additionally, there would need to be greater ways of preventing and dealing with possible corruption.

This proposal though is contingent on a Constitutional Convention, for the following reason: such an overhaul would require a convention, since removing an entire house from the state government would thus require a convention.

The convention, though, would allow the State of California to revitalize itself, by going through the five hundred pages of amendments and figuring out which things should remain in the State Constitution and which are archaic and thus no longer necessary. A list of items that would need to be addressed:

  • Redistricting
  • Voting amounts needed for budget and tax increases
  • General taxation rules
  • Marriage and DOMA rules
  • Roles of lobbyists
  • Part-time or full-time legislature
  • Possible limitations on committees, and staffs
  • Financial matters

About brettryanclu

I reside in California, and I am a graduate from California Lutheran University, where I received my Masters in Public Policy and Administration. I like to write, talk politics, and exchange comments and opinions.
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