February 24, 2009

California 2.0 - The California Constitutional Convention Summit

TODAY'S POST is coming to you from the Constitutional Convention Summit being held in Sacramento, California. Around 300 people have gathered for a day-long session whose purpose is to discuss the idea of a convention. The event was organized by the Bay Area Council and has many partner organizations.

On the website for today's meeting it says in part, "We believe California’s system of government is fundamentally broken. Our prisons overflow, our water system teeters on collapse, our once proud schools are
criminally poor, our financing system is bankrupt, our democracy produces ideologically-extreme legislators that can pass neither budget nor reforms, and we have no recourse in the system to right these wrongs."

"Drastic times call for drastic measures."

The results of a recent poll conducted for the Bay Area Council confirm this notion. 82% of the people in the poll said they thought California was on the wrong track. The main issues that voters brought up when asked included the budget deficit, jobs and the economy and the amount of state bureaucracy.

The voters polled strongly felt that change was in order.

The audience enjoyed morning remarks by Dan Walters, Columnist for the Sacramento Bee, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi and David Metz, Senior Vice President of Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin and Associates. The morning ended with a panel discussion on "Priorities for Reform in a Convention," with panelists Linda Craig, Advocacy Director of the League of Women Voters of California, Derek Cressman, Regional Director of State Operations, Common Cause, Mark Paul, Senior Scholar, New America Foundation and Bob Stern, President, Center for Governmental Studies.

Some common, high level themes from the morning presentations include:
  • getting rid of the requirements for 2/3s votes in favor of simple majorities;
  • reform the initiative process,
  • fix state government--reduce bureaucracy
  • have a constitutional convention question on the ballot every ten years,
  • extend the length of the time that could be served by legislators but keep term limits
  • abolish counties - move towards regional government
  • have a unicameral legislature with smaller districts
  • reduce barriers to registering to vote and voting
  • increase accountability, provide for effective representation and fiscal responsibility
  • campaign finance reform
This afternoon's sessions will include panels entitled, "How to Engage Californians in the Reform Process," "From the Inside Looking Out: A Legislative Perspective," and a talk on "Constitutional Convention Process: Presentation and Discussion." The meeting adjourns with a 15 minute conversation on "next steps."

See my photos of the Summit on Flickr >

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