- They set forth the structure and organization of government; they distribute powers among branches of government
- they prescribe the rules by which decisions will he made
- Most importantly, constitutions limit the powers of government and protect the rights of citizens.
- All fifty states have written constitutions
- The true meaning of constitutionalism is limited government
All fifty state constitutions limit the powers of state government and protect individual liberty
Most state constitutional guarantees merely reiterate rights guaranteed to all Americans in the U.S. Constitution, but some state documents extend rights beyond the federal guarantees
- Colonists looked to their charters for protection against British intervene in colonial affairs
- Political importance of charters is illustrated by the conflict over the Fundamental Orders in Connecticut....'Charter Oak' (read in the book if you would like to know more about this)
Constitutional decision making is deciding how to decide. It is deciding on the rules for policymaking; it is not policymaking itself. Policies are to be decided later.
- tax rates
- utility regulation
- labor-management relations
- insurance regulation
- debt limits
- educational funding
- gambling, and many other policy matters
- Citizens have frequently sought to bind officials by constitutional mandates.
- Over the years specific constitutional amendments seeking to tell legislatures and governors what they can and cannot do have been accumulated in lengthy documents.
- Reformers argue that governors and legislators should not be bound by constitutional details, that they need flexibility in confronting new challenges, and that state government should be strengthened, not weakened, in the modern era
- Met with some success
- Newer state constitutions tend to be shorter than older ones
- Have not been able to convince people and politicians that the state constitutions need a complete overhaul (because that's a bit dramatic)
- Lawyers and judges have also contributed to the growth of state constitutional law.
- In many court cases, state judges have interpreted their own constitutions independently of the U.S. Constitution regarding civil rights and other controversies
- An emerging body of state Constitutional law is a reminder of the legal importance of state constitution
- Most rights and references just duplicate the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution
- A state supreme court may place a different interpretation on a state constitutional right than the federal courts place on the same guarantee in the U.S. Constitution.
Only the Nebraska constitution has a unicameral legislature. All other state legislatures are bicameral
Bicameral: a legislative body that consists of two separate chambers or houses
- In many states the basis for apportioning these bodies is set forth in the state constitution
- All state constitutions have provisions regarding the organizations and powers of local government
- State constitutions generally describe the organization of counties, cities, towns, townships, boroughs, school districts, and special districts
- Home rule: removes some of the internal affairs of communities from the intervention of state legislatures
- Interest groups prefer to see special protections written into the state’s fundamental document
- Prevents legislatures from meddling in important business affairs each legislative session.
- Most state constitutions include long sections on regulation of insurance, utilities, corporations, alcoholic beverages, railroads, mining, medicine, real estate, the state bar association and so on and so forth
- All state constitutions have articles on taxation and finance
- Place severe restrictions on the taxing power of state and local governments
- Local governments may also be limited in state constitutions to specific tax sources and upper limits or ‘caps’ on local taxation
- Constitutions may ‘earmark’ certain tax revenues for specific purposes; for example, gasoline taxes may be earmarked for highway use only
- Most state constitutions limit debt that can be incurred by the state only or by local governments.
- Many states must have a balanced operating budget
- Local governments are frequently limited to a debt that cannot exceed a fixed percentage of the value of property in the community
There are now four methods of constitutional change
- Book definition: the state legislature places a constitutional amendment on the ballot for a voter approval
- It is the most common method of amending state constitutions
- See Table 2-3
The petition method allows citizens to get an amendment on the ballot without the approval of the state legislature
Example of this: tax limitation measures and term limits for legislators
- There have been over 230 state constitutional conventions
- Legislature usually decides whether the convention’s work is to be limited to specific proposals or topics, or unlimited and free to write an entire new constitution
- There is a current fear of conventions that may be associated with low levels of trust and confidence in the government especially on hot-button issues
- Legislatures generally prefer constitutional revision commissions to a constitutional convention
- A commission can relieve the state legislature of a great deal of work
- Typical commission is appointed by an act of the legislature and its membership usually includes legislators, executive officials, and prominent citizens
- Its recommendations are usually handled in the legislature like regular constitutional amendments
- Commissions have been declining in recent years
- Often, legislators have ignored commission recommendations or watered them down before submitting them to the voters
-Supreme Ct: inequalities in state apportionment denied voter equal protection of laws under 14th amendment
-one man one vote
younger, better-educated, more prestigiously employed people into state legislatures
brought "new" people into politics
- variations > 2% led to fed ct invalidation of state's redistricting; overall range
-congressional districts- strict standards of equality
-more lenient in state legislative districting plans; no specific math standards of equality
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