A group advocating an overhaul of the state Constitution submitted ballot language in Sacramento today that would allow Californians to vote on a Constitutional convention next year.

The organization Repair California submitted two potential measures to the Attorney General’s Office for inclusion on the November 2010 ballot. One would authorize voters to request a convention, and a second would actually call for the event. Under existing state law, the only means to a convention is a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature.

Repair California spokesman John Grubb said a large legal team, including former California Supreme Court justices, drafted the language.

“There are lots of legal challenges we could potentially face and we’ll probably face them all,” he said. The legal team predicts a 90 percent chance of success, according to Grubb.
The ballot language calls for a convention would take place in 2011. Any proposals coming out of the gathering would be voted on by 2012. Delegates would include local government appointees, representatives from federally recognized Native American tribes, and three representatives from each Assembly district.

A Constitutional convention would address topics like the state budget process, elections and ballot initiatives and the balance of authority between state and local entities, Grubb said. As written, the ballot measure prohibits addressing topics like taxes or social issues like same-sex marriage or the death penalty.

The organization has done polling that suggests 70 percent of Californians would vote for a convention.

Repair California is an offshoot of the Bay Area Council, a coalition of local business and civic groups. Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of both organizations, said in a statement, “California has become the laughing stock of the country, but the damage our state government is causing to our education system, prisons, water, budgeting, local government and economy isn’t funny, it’s tragic.”

Discussion of a Constitutional convention is often connected to the state’s requirement that budgets be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature. However, Grubb said issues like term limit reform and the balance of state and local power come up more in voter polls.

“There’s lots of ways to get there without getting at the two-thirds requirement,” he said.
According to Repair California, the state Constitution contains 75,000 words, compared with only 4,500 in the U.S. Constitution.

California possesses the third-longest governing document in the world, after India and Alabama, Grubb said.

“We live in one of the most diverse states in the union, culturally, ideologically and geographically,” he said. “It makes little sense to run so much from a top-down approach.”
In addition to building support, the group’s next step is securing 1.2 million signatures by April to ensure the measures’ place on the November ballot.

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