A Look at the Complicated Constitutional Convention Plan Likely Headed for the November 2010 Ballot — Part Two
Of competing proposals to call a constitutional convention, “The Call for a Citizen’s Limited Constitutional Convention” is the most likely to appear on next year’s November ballot.
It’s 16, largely single-space, pages detail a complicated and sometimes contradictory methodology for choosing some 465 delegates who would attend a convention with a budget of $95 million that must begin no later than June 3, 2011, exercise limited power to change the constitution and be paid a $95,000 salary until the convention ends, no later than July 1, 2012.
No delegate can have any involvement in the political process since 2005. Lobbyists who currently do would be disqualified. So would an “officer, employee or paid consultant of a candidate, political party or of a committee.” The initiative is silent on unpaid consultants.
Any sitting lawmakers or appointees to state, federal and local “office, agency or commission” are also excluded. As are paid staff of state elected officials, state commissions and state agencies.
There is no apparent prohibition against paid staff for federal elected officials and local elected officials.
Of the delegates, four represent the state’s federally recognized Indian tribes, one from each of California’s four federal judicial districts.
The initiative says neither why four is an appropriate number nor why the representatives of sovereign nations should participate in amending the constitution of a state.
Another 240 delegates are chosen largely at random from a statewide pool of 32,000 residents drawn in groups of 400 from each of the state’s 80 Assembly districts.
That number is winnowed down to 50 from each Assembly District who then meet and elect three of their number to be delegates and two to be alternates.
There is also another category of delegate – “County Delegates.” There is one of them for every 175,000 Californians. That’s 221, based on current population estimates.
These individuals are selected in two ways.
In the 55 counties which do not contain cities with a population over 1 million, an entity called a “County Delegate Selection Committee” is created. It is comprised of two county supervisors, elected by a majority vote of their colleagues, the mayors who serve as chair and vice-chair of the “City Selection Committee enabled in each county pursuant to Section 50270” and a person picked by the governing boards of the county’s school districts and the county board of education.
Section 50270 of the Government Code reads: “In any county in which two or more cities are incorporated there is hereby created a city selection committee the purpose of which shall be to appoint city representatives to boards, commissions, and agencies as required by law. The membership of each such city selection committee shall consist of the mayor or each city within the county.”
The school boards and county educators need to pick their representative at a meeting to be held not later than January 15, 2011. “The location of the meeting shall comply with Section 54961.”
Government Code Section 54961, which the initiative references says, in part:
“No legislative body of a local agency shall conduct any meeting in any facility that prohibits the admittance of any person, or persons, on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex, or which is inaccessible to disabled persons, or where members of the public may not be present without making a payment or purchase.”
Beginning no later than April 1, 2011 and concluding no later than May 13, 2011, the county selection committees hold public hearings to select, by majority vote, convention delegates.
The committee “may determine in its discretion the criteria to be used in selecting delegates,” as long as its not discriminatory. Only persons who have submitted an application and are present at the public hearing can be considered.
Once a delegate is initially selected by the committee the name is posted for “five calendar days” before a second public hearing is scheduled for final delegate approval.
“Findings” must be issued by the selection committee demonstrating the chosen delegates meet the selection criteria the committee created.
The county committee can select between one and 50 alternate delegates but can’t pick more alternates than delegates, the initiative says.
In the three counties with cities over 1 million people – Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Clara – the selection process becomes more complicated. County selected delegates are reduced and the city councils of those three cities pick a portion of the area’s delegation.
As explained by the initiative in a lengthy paragraph using Los Angeles County as the example but without naming it:
“The number of delegates selected by the city council shall be in proportion to the total population of the county in which the city lies, and the total number of delegates selected from the county, rounded to the nearest whole number percentage and whole number of delegates. For example, if a county has a population of 10,393,185 and a city within that county has a population of 4,065,585, the delegates from that county shall be selected as follows: (1) The total number of delegates allotted to the county shall be calculated by dividing the total population by 175,000, and rounding to the nearest whole number – in the example given, 10,393,185 divided by 175,000 is 59.38, meaning that the county will send a total of 59 delegates to the convention; (2) The proportionate percentage of the city population shall be calculated by dividing it by the total population of the county and rounded to the nearest whole number percentage – in the example given, 4,065,585 divided by 10,393,135, rounded to the nearest whole number percentage, is 39 percent, meaning that the city council will select 39 percent of the 59 delegates from the county; (3) The applicable number of delegates is calculated, rounded to the nearest whole number — in the example given, 39 percent of 59 delegates, rounded to the nearest whole number is 23. Therefore, in the example given, the city council will select 23 of the county’s 59 delegates, and the County Delegate Selection Committee will select 36 of the county’s 59 delegates.”
When the delegates begin their convention no later than June 3, 2011, the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, or his designee, opens the proceedings, calls the roll and administers an oath of office to the delegates.
Another reason the initiative uses the word “limited” in its title is because delegates are limited in the constitutional changes they can make.
On the second page of the initiative conventioneers are forbidden from proposing tax increases.
On Page 11, they can propose no revision, amendment or statutory change “directly affecting marriage or abortion rights, gambling or casinos of any type, affirmative action, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, immigration rights or the death penalty.”
They can only offer changes in the areas of “Government Effectiveness,” Elections and Reduction of Special Interest Influence,” “Spending and Budgeting” and “Governance.”
Among the sub-topics of those broad headings: election of state officeholders, term limits, budget voting thresholds, increased fiscal accountability, better government efficiency, the relationship between state and local governments and the initiative process.
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