Groups campaign to change California's constitution

July 31, 2009 9:20:21 PM PDT
There is a growing political movement in California that feels the state's constitution is so broken it's beyond repair. Supporters contend the only real solution is to start over from scratch and a town hall meeting in Silicon Valley explored the idea of convening a constitutional convention.

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California's latest budget crisis and political failings are fueling a growing campaign calling for a state constitutional convention. About 300 people packed a town hall meeting in Sunnyvale.

"We are really seeing a budding citizens movement here because people are scared, they are frustrated and there's an opportunity here to take a real look at what's ailing California and fix it," said Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman.

Convention supporters say California's 1879 constitution no longer works. They say basic ideas need to be reexamined. One big issue, that two-thirds of lawmakers must agree on new taxes, which is a constant sticking point in getting the votes needed to pass a budget. There is also term limits and the initiative process.

"I'm very convinced that we need to do something in California and you have to start from scratch," said Maribel Andonian from Cupertino.

Some Silicon Valley groups say a convention would be the equivalent of hitting the restart button and launching California 2.0.

"We need to create new institutions and new systems that will work for a 21st century," Joint Venture President and CEO Russell Hancock.

One big question about a constitutional convention is how would the delegates shaping this new government be selected. Would they be appointed, elected or randomly picked from California's pool of voters.

In an effort to keep money and politics out of the process, the people involved in Friday's debate favor a random selection that would ultimately reflect California's diversity.

"The way you do that is bringing the people of California into the process. They're been shut out of the process for decades now," said Robert Cruickshank from Courage Campaign.

There are also calls for some kind of screening process and intense education for the delegates.

"I think the conversation needs to be continued. I think California is broken it is going down the tubes I think we need to do something radical but thoughtful," said Arlyne Diamond from Santa Clara.

The question of whether to hold a constitutional convention in California could be on the ballot as early as November of 2010.

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