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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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