California Constitution

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California Constitution
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The California Constitution is the basic governing document of California. The state's first constitution was adopted in November 1849 in advance of California attaining U.S. statehood in 1850. That constitution was replaced by the current constitution, which was ratified on May 7, 1879.[1][2]


See also: Preambles to state constitutions
"We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution."[1]

Article I

Article I is labeled the "Declaration of Rights." It contains 32 sections. The first section declares: "All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy."[1]

Article II

Article II is labeled, "Voting, Initiative and Referendum, and Recall." It has 20 sections, many of which are short and even one-sentence declarations, such as Section 7 which says "Voting shall be secret."[1]

Section 8, Section 10, Section 11 and Section 12 govern ballot initiatives, including defining the signature requirements for initiatives, the single-subject rule, a provision (added in 1998) that says approved initiatives must apply equally to all subdivisions once they take effect, what to do in the case of conflicting initiatives and the California Attorney General's ballot title authorities.[1]

Article III

Cartoon depicting concern over the 1879 constitution.

Article III is labeled, "State of California." It has nine sections that lay out some basic, definitional characteristics of how the government of California is organized. It includes provisions on how to sue the state of California. It has been amended over the years to include some very specific provisions such as Section 6, which defines English as the official language of California, and Section 8, which establishes a compensation commission.

Article IV

Article IV is labeled "Legislative." It has 23 sections.

Article IV lays out the powers, privileges and responsibilities of the California State Legislature, the California State Assembly and the California State Senate.

Section 1.5 makes a strong statement in favor of term limits, saying, "The ability of legislators to serve unlimited number of terms, to establish their own retirement system, and to pay for staff and support services at state expense contribute heavily to the extremely high number of incumbents who are re-elected. These unfair incumbent advantages discourage qualified candidates from seeking public office and create a class of career politicians, instead of the citizen representatives envisioned by the Founding Fathers. These career politicians become representatives of the bureaucracy, rather than of the people whom they are elected to represent."[1]

Section 2 defines the exact nature of those term limits.[1]

Section 9 says that statutes passed by the legislature can concern themselves with only one subject.[1]

Article V

Article V is labeled "Executive." It has 13 sections, which go from Section 1-Section 14, with no section 12.

Article V lays out the duties and authorities of the executive branch of the California government, including those of the governor.[1]

Article VI

Article VI is the article of the constitution that lays out the scope, responsibilities, powers and authorities of the judicial branch of the California government. It has 22 sections.[1]

Article VII

Article VII is labeled "Public Officers and Employees." It has eleven sections.

Article VIII

There is no Article VIII.

Article IX

Article IX is labeled "Education." It is numbered in Sections 1 through Sections 16. Over the years, six sections have been interpolated in the article (2.1, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 6.5 and 7.5), while Sections 4, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 15 have been deleted.

Article X

Article X is labeled "Water." It has seven sections.

  • Section 1 asserts that the right of eminent domain exists with respect to all frontages on navigable waters in California.
  • Section 2 says that the right of access to water in the state is limited to "such water as shall be reasonably required for the beneficial use to be served."[1]

Article XA

Article XA is labeled "Water Resources Development." It includes eight sections.

Article XB

Article XB is labeled "Marine Resources Protection Act of 1990." It became part of the state's constitution as the result of California Proposition 132 (1990).

Article XI

Article XI is labeled "Local Government." It has 15 sections, which define the powers and constraints of local governments.

Article XII

Article XII is labeled "Public Utilities." It has nine sections. These sections define the scope of the state's Public Utilities Commission.

One section (Section 7) notes that transportation companies are not allowed to "grant free passes or discounts" to any public officeholders in the state, other than the members of the Public Utilities Commission.[1]


Article XIII is labeled "Taxation." It is numbered in Sections 1-35, but it consists of 38 sections since three half-sections (3.5, 8.5 and 25.5) have been added over time. Taken together, the 38 sections of Article XIII lay out a number of detailed provisions about what kind of property in California is taxable, along with some property that the Article holds to be exempt from taxation.[1]

Process of amendment

Main article: Amending state constitutions

The California Constitution can be amended in these ways:

  • Two-thirds of the membership of each chamber of the California State Legislature must propose an amendment, which then goes on a statewide ballot to be ratified or rejected by the state's voters.
  • The state legislature is allowed to propose revisions (not just amendments) to the constitution.
  • If measures conflict, and they both get more than 50 percent of the vote, the one with the highest number of votes prevails.
  • Ratified amendments take effect the day after the election.

Constitutional convention advocated

See also: California constitutional convention

A constitutional convention was under consideration in 2009-2010 by some California political organizations as a way to fix a system they believed to be broken.[3][4]

The hope of those who supported a constitutional convention was that it would "take on the manifold structural problems in California's budget process at a single stroke."[5]

The Bay Area Council was a leading voice in favor of a constitutional convention. The group sponsored several summits and meetings to develop support for a convention. Comments from the summits included: "Drastic times call for drastic measures" and "We believe it is our duty to declare that our California government is not only broken, it has become destructive to our future."[6]

Letters requesting ballot titles for two potential 2010 ballot propositions were filed with the California Attorney General in June 2009. However, in February 2010, supporters announced that a lack of funds had led them to decide to abandon the effort.

See also

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External links

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