Oodles of amendments

July 13, 2009
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I recently spent a few days in San Francisco and I heard a startling fact: the California Constitution has been amended something like 512 times. The information came via an editorial running on a local news station. I managed to catch it in bits and pieces over the course of my visit.

The editorial compared that state’s constitution with the U.S. Constitution in that it’s only been amended 27 times in its history. This got my legal and journalistic wheels turning, so I did a little research when I got home.

It’s much easier to amend the California Constitution than it is for Hoosiers to amend ours, or the U.S. Constitution. In California, two-thirds of the Assembly and State Senate have to vote on the amendment to add it to the ballot. Voters can also get an amendment on the ballot by procuring at a number of signatures equal to at least 8 percent of the votes cast for all the candidates in the last gubernatorial race.

The pro of this method: the general public can have a say in how their constitution is amended. The con of this method: so do interest groups with a lot of money who can gather enough signatures to forward their agenda.

Once on the ballot, an amendment needs 50 percent plus one of those voting to be enacted.

In Indiana, Article 16 says an amendment needs to be agreed to by a majority of the members in each of the houses and then referred to the next elected General Assembly. If the next one agrees to it by a majority vote, the amendment is submitted to the voters at the next general election. If a majority of voters agree to it, it becomes part of our constitution.

Indiana’s constitution hasn’t been amended nearly as much as California’s. I can’t exactly remember what the editorial said (and I haven’t been able to find it online to review), but the gist of it was questioning what Californians are doing by adding all these amendments and that this has got to stop. I’m going to assume this editorial was a result of Proposition 8, the latest amendment to their constitution. Tens of millions of dollars were spent by interest groups lobbying for or against the amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

While it seems appealing to have a more accessible way for the voting public to amend the constitution, it results in numerous amendments. Is it better or worse for voters, legislators, and judges to allow the general public a fairly easy way to amend their constitution? Imagine how different Indiana’s Constitution, or the U.S. Constitution, would be if the same process used in California were the law of the land.
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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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