A measure that would make it considerably harder to amend California’s constitution passed its first big hurdle this week.
ACA 10 by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, was approved by the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting on a 4-1 vote; it now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Ultimately, two-thirds of the Assembly and state Senate would have to approve putting this to voters as a ballot measure.
The legislation would require that the signatures needed to put constitutional amendments on the ballot come from at least 27 of the state’s 40 state Senate districts, reducing the chance that a few population centers can change the whole state’s guiding document. It also would require a 55 percent majority to approve a new constitutional amendment at the ballot box, rather than the simple 50-percent-plus-one majority now required; however, a simple majority would still be enough to repeal constitutional amendments already enacted.
In a news release, Gatto noted 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.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Of the 24 states that have an initiative process, half have geographic-distribution requirements; a few require that votes cast far surpass the simple majority mark; and six have actually forbidden amending their constitutions by initiative, Gatto said.
“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,” he said. “No right is permanent, and no reform has any teeth, if it can be repealed at the very next election.”