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- See also: Preambles to state constitutions
The preamble to the Connecticut Constitution says:
- "The People of Connecticut acknowledging with gratitude, the good providence of God, in having permitted them to enjoy a free government; do, in order more effectually to define, secure, and perpetuate the liberties, rights and privileges which they have derived from their ancestors; hereby, after a careful consideration and revision, ordain and establish the following constitution and form of civil government."
The constitution consists of fourteen articles:
- Declaration of Rights - Analogous to the United States Bill of Rights, providing rights to speech, assembly, speedy trial, bearing of arms, and religion, among others.
- Of the Distribution of Powers - Establishes three branches of government in the state: legislative, executive, and judicial.
- Of the Legislative Department - Creates a two-house legislature, sets standards for districting, elections, and ethics.
- Of the Executive Department - Sets terms, requirements, and powers of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of the state, treasurer and comptroller.
- Of the Judicial Department - Establishes supreme, superior, and lesser courts, and the rules that govern how judges are chosen.
- Of the Qualifications of Electors - Lists age and residency requirements for voters.
- Of Religion - Reiterates the right to free practice of religion.
- Of Education - Charters a free elementary school school system, the University of Connecticut, and Yale College.
- Of Impeachments - Sets rules for impeachment and treason trials.
- Of Home Rule - Gives the general assembly the right to delegate authority to cities and towns.
- General Provisions - The oath of office, restrictions on salary raises, and other miscellaneous rules.
- Of Amendments to the Constitution - Establishes the method of amending the state constitution.
- Of Constitutional Conventions - Creates the method of calling for a special convention to amend or revise the constitution.
- Of the Effective Date of This Constitution - The constitution became effective after approval by a popular vote and proclamation by the governor.
Amending the constitution
- See also: Amending state constitutions
The Connecticut Constitution can be amended in these ways:
- If an amendment is approved by a majority (but less than 75%) of the total membership of each chamber, it is then continued to the next session of the legislature. If the amendment is again approved by a majority, it is then put to a statewide vote of the people. If they approve it by a simple majority vote, it becomes part of the state's constitution.
- However, if the proposed amendment is approved by a 75% or more vote of both chambers of the legislature, it doesn't have to be considered in two consecutive legislative sessions and can instead be put to a vote of the people at the next November general election.
- Elections on proposed amendments are to take place in Novembers of even-numbered years.
- Two-thirds of each legislative chamber must vote for a convention.
- The legislature is not allowed to do this less than ten years after a prior convention.
- Any proposed amendments that arise out of a convention are to be put to a statewide vote where, if they are approved by a simple majority of those voting, become part of the state's constitution.
- Article XIII provides for an automatic ballot referral to the state's electors of whether to hold a constitutional convention; these questions are to be put before the people at intervals not exceeding every twenty years.
List of amendments
The state constitution has been amended 30 times:
- 25 November 1970 - Created the position of Attorney General.
- 25 November 1970 - Changed the minimum age of state senators and representatives to 21.
- 25 November 1970 - Created a requirement for annual – not biennial – general sessions of the legislature.
- 22 December 1972 - Established a six-person jury for criminal trials (twelve for capital offenses), and the right of peremptory challenge.
- 27 November 1974 - Prohibition on sexual discrimination.
- 27 November 1974 - Minor changes to the wording of the article defining the Amendment process.
- 27 November 1974 - Revised electorship to be a "right", not a "privilege".
- 27 November 1974 - Removed the position of Justice of the Peace.
- 24 November 1976 - Reduced the age requirement for an elector from 21 to 18, and relaxed the residency and reading requirements.
- 24 November 1976 - Allowed 17-year olds to become electors if their eighteenth birthday will be before the election.
- 24 November 1976 - Gave the supreme court the right to remove or suspect a court, and provides a legislative judicial review council.
- 24 November 1976 - Established procedures for redistricting.
- 26 November 1980 - Removed a paperwork requirement for general assembly elections.
- 26 November 1980 - Made the elector application details a matter of law.
- 26 November 1980 - Changed the minimum age of state senators and representatives to 18.
- 26 November 1980 - Revised procedures for redistricting (gave the state legislature 3 more months to submit a plan before the governor was required to appoint a commission).
- 24 November 1982 - "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have a right to be heard by himself and by counsel; to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted by the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process to obtain witnesses in his behalf; to be released on bail upon sufficient security, except in capital offenses, where the proof is evident or the presumption great; and in all prosecutions by information, to a speedy, public trial by an impartial jury. No person shall be compelled to give evidence against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall excessive bail be required nor excessive fines imposed. No person shall be held to answer for any crime, punishable by death or life imprisonment, unless upon probable cause shown at a hearing in accordance with procedures prescribed by law, except in the armed forces, or in the militia when in actual service in time of war or public danger."
- 24 November 1982 - Amends Article second of the constitution to divide the powers of the government into three distinct departments, and each of them confided to a separate magistracy: the legislative, the executive and the judicial. The legislative department may delegate regulatory authority to the executive department; except that any administrative regulation of any agency of the executive department may be disapproved by the general assembly or a committee thereof in such manner as shall by law be prescribed.
- 24 November 1982 - Prevents elected officials from giving themselves pay raises without legislative approval.
- 24 November 1982 - Created an appeals court.
- 28 November 1984 - Prevents discrimination based on disabilities.
- 28 November 1984 - Supreme Court to have original jurisdiction for review of decennial reapportionment.
- 28 November 1984 - Appointment of state’s attorneys by a criminal justice commission.
- 19 November 1986 - Prohibits the use of the party lever in any state or local election.
- 19 November 1986 - Deals with selection, nomination, appointment and removal of judges.
- 28 November 1990 - Increases the amount of people who can cast absentee ballots.
- 25 November 1992 - Spending cap established.
- 25 November 1992 - Provides for the rights of crime victims.
- 29 November 2000 - Repeals Section 25 of Article 4 of the Constitution, eliminating the county sheriffs.
Earlier Connecticut constitutions
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1638) is considered by many to be the state's first constitution, although it was adopted while the state was still an English colony. The document recognized no allegiance to England but instead an independent government. The Charter of the Colony of Connecticut (1662) officially superseded the Fundamental Orders, but the local government continued operating under the previous rules. Even after the American Revolutionary War, the state retained its same constitution for another 40 years.
It wasn't until the passage of the first state constitution in 1818 that the colonial charter was abolished, and political ties to England were officially broken. The constitution is also notable for having reversed the earlier Orders and provided the freedom of religion.
On 1 October 1901 Connecticut residents voted nearly 2-to-1 in favor of calling of a constitutional convention to revise the constitution. A convention was held, and a revised constitution was proposed. On 16 June 1902, residents rejected the revised constitution more than 2-to-1.
- Text of the current Connecticut Constitution
- Roland, Jon. The Fundamental Orders. The Constitution Society. Retrieved on 2007-01-14.
- Fundamental Orders. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press (2005). Retrieved on 2006-09-13.