Government Reform Coalition Submits Measures to Call California Constitutional Convention

Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:15pm EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

Would Be the First Convention in More Than 130 Years
SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(Business Wire)--
Today, Repair California, a group of everyday Californians, reformers and
advocacy groups, turned in ballot language to call the first Constitutional
Convention in California in more than 130 years. Citing a broken system of
governance, the measures would call a limited Constitutional Convention to
reform four areas of the constitution: the budget process; the election and
initiative process; restoring the balance of power between the state and local
governments; and, creating new systems to improve government effectiveness. The
Convention is specifically prohibited from proposing tax increases or from
considering changes to social issues such as marriage, abortion, gambling,
affirmative action, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, immigration, or
the death penalty. Voters will decide on calling the Convention on the November
2010 ballot, the Convention would be held in 2011 and its proposed reforms would
require voter approval in one of the three scheduled statewide elections in
2012. 

"Californians deserve a better system of governance, and this one is a failure,"
said Jim Wunderman, the President and CEO of the Bay Area Council and a member
of Repair California. "California has become the laughing stock of the country,
but the damage our state government is causing to our education system, prisons,
water, budgeting, local governments and economy isn`t funny, it`s tragic. There
has to be a better way, and as we look at 49 other states we realize that there
can be a better way. Since the legislature is unable to act and our initiative
system has been hijacked, the only way to reform our state is through a
Constitutional Convention." 

The two measures would call a limited convention to consider changes only to the
state`s governance system. In a first-of-its-kind approach, the proposed
Convention would gather 240 everyday Californians - three per Assembly District
- four delegates from federally recognized Indian tribes, and approximately 221
delegates appointed by local government leaders from cities, counties and school
districts to consider reforms. 

"We don`t fear the people, we celebrate them with this Convention," said Antonio
Gonzalez, President of the William C. Velasquez Institute. "We believe the
people of California should be involved in any effort to improve the Golden
State, especially determining our foundational values and system of governance.
This Convention is set up to mix the values of everyday Californians with
experts appointed by local government leaders to produce reforms our state needs
and voters will approve." 

Bob Stern, President of the Center for Governmental Studies, noted, "Almost 100
years after Hiram Johnson, California`s `reform governor,` and the
`Progressives` made sweeping changes to our state`s Constitution, California now
has an opportunity to modernize it for the 21st Century. Although many important
reform measures may be on the ballot, the proposals for a Constitutional
Convention may be the most significant. If passed, they will make 2010 the `year
of reform.`" 

In a poll of 1000 registered California voters, conducted by EMC Research, with
a margin of error of 3.1 percent, Californians appear ready to approve the two
measures to call the Convention. After explaining basic details of the proposal,
such as who could serve as delegates and what issues would or would not be
considered, more than two-thirds of Californians (69 percent) would vote yes on
"Proposition 1," which would allow the voters of California to directly call a
Convention. A similar supermajority of 71 percent would vote yes on "Proposition
2," which would immediately call a limited Constitutional Convention to propose
reforms to the state`s governance structure. Both measures only require a simple
majority of 50 percent of voters to win on Election Day. 

The measures are supported by 70 percent of registered Republicans, 71 percent
of Democrats and 74 percent of decline to state voters. In age groups, support
is highest among young 18-34 year-old voters with 73 percent reporting they
would vote yes, but 71 percent of those 55 years-old or higher would also
approve the measures. Turnout is often considered a key political factor for
ballot measures, but the Constitutional Convention measures are strong with low
propensity voters (71 percent) and with high propensity voters (70 percent).
Support for the Constitutional Convention is particularly high with Latino
voters (80 percent). The poll was conducted September 8-13, 2009. 

"Our current California Constitution doesn`t just enshrine a broken governance
system, its foundation was constructed with some shameful building blocks," said
James Fang, President of Asian Week Newspaper and Vice President of BART. "It
included provisions that `No native of China` would ever have the right to vote,
and prohibited public bodies from employing Chinese. That past needs to be
firmly behind us and I am very pleased that this Convention is set up to
celebrate and embrace California`s diversity." 

To draft the ballot measures, and ensure they reflected the sentiments of the
state, Repair California held a series of Town Halls often attended by hundreds
of people at sites in Los Angeles, San Diego, Alameda, San Francisco, Irvine,
Santa Monica, Fresno, the Sierra Nevadas, Silicon Valley and Orange County. The
movement also heard from thousands of others through Web 2.0 technologies.
Finally, Repair California consulted with experts, historians and lawyers, and
other experienced leaders who often offered their assistance pro bono. 

"While perfect is not possible in any endeavor, we are very proud with what we
have come up with," said Wunderman. "Now it is time to let the people speak."

For Repair California
John Grubb, Spokesman, 415-946-8705
Cell: 415-847-6320 

Copyright Business Wire 2009