BY Christopher Lisotta
September 15 2009 11:30 AM ET
possibility may be a constitutional convention, which could provide for
a series of changes to the state constitution by a body of delegates.
It’s been over 130 years since the last one, but supporters of a
constitutional convention say it is crucial because California faces
such serious financial distress from a series of ballot measures critics say have left lawmakers fiscally hamstrung.
The Bay Area
Council, a business-driven public policy advocacy organization, has
been promoting its own ballot initiative for November 2010 that would
call a constitutional convention in 2011. Council spokesman
John Grubb says his group is “not a lone voice” on the issue, has
organized thousands of Californians to promote the idea, and is reaching
out to other business groups and public policy organizations.
But whether the Bay Area Council will have the money and signatures to get
the question of a constitutional convention on the ballot -- let alone the resources to attract a majority of yes votes -- is open to
debate. In the
meantime, Grubb is explaining that the Bay Area Council is interested in
looking only at issues of governance and limiting the convention’s
reach to four areas -- the budget, elections, state-local relations, and
bureaucracy management. Social issues would not be on the table, but if
the referendum process was changed, it could affect marriage-related ballot
“Clearly there is a systemic problem with the
initiative process in California,” says Rick Jacobs, founder and chair
of organizing network and marriage equality support group Courage
Campaign. “If it takes two thirds a to pass a budget in this state,
shouldn’t it take two thirds to take away rights from people?”
Jacobs admits a constitutional convention doesn’t come without risks. The Bay Area Council hasn’t yet explained how many delegates there
would be or how they would be selected, details that worry Jacobs.
while the council’s language seeks to keep the convention
focused on specific issues, there is the fear that delegates
unsupportive of equal marriage rights could use the opportunity to
strengthen the current marriage ban. “One of the reasons state
constitutional conventions are viewed with some suspicion and why we
don’t see them very often is because everything comes up for grabs,”
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