McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

California’s Constitution was first adopted in 1849, just prior to California becoming a state in 1850. The current constitution was then ratified on May 7, 1879 and is the governing document for the state of California, similar to the U.S. Constitution being the governing document for the entire country.

The California constitution has been amended or revised several hundred times and is one of the longest constitutions in the world. This is mainly attributed to it being adopted over the decades by the people through the use of ballot measures on statewide ballots. In fact, California is known well for placing measures on the ballot, mainly because it has one of the lowest thresholds of all the states for placing measures on the statewide ballot.

It’s interesting to note that California’s constitution authorizes a number of state agencies, such as the University of California (but not the CSU or community colleges) and Stanford University for some of its property, our State Compensation Insurance Fund, and even the State Bar of California for regulating licensing attorneys in the state. This is to protect these particular state institutions from some level of governmental interference.

The state constitution also provides for counties, cities, and charter cities – which are those that have local ordinances that are somewhat insulated from state laws. According to the constitution, cities are permitted to pay counties to perform governmental functions.

In order to appreciate the length and the complexity of our state’s constitution, let’s just take an overview of the articles of the California constitution.

The first article, of course, is a declaration of rights and it has 32 sections, including Article 1 Section 1: the right to privacy in the state. Article 2 deals with voting, the initiative and referendum, and the recall, and this article has 20 sections. Article 3 is a general article dealing with the State of California and has nine different sections. Article 4 is the first branch of government, the Legislative, which has 28 sections. Then we have Article 5, dealing with the executive branch which has 14 sections. Then Article 6 deals with our third branch of government, the judiciary, and has 22 different sections.

You can find a full transcript of today’s podcast here.