McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

Today we’ll take a look at some things that legislative drafters need to consider when drafting legislative constitutional amendments in California.

As you know, in the California Legislature there are constitutional amendments that can be introduced in either the Senate or the Assembly and those constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority vote in both houses in order to be placed on the statewide ballot. Once on the ballot, the amendment takes effect if a majority of qualified voters cast their ballots in favor of the measure.

Usually, constitutional amendments are submitted to the people at the general election. However, the Governor can call a special election for legislative constitutional amendments.

An initial question that the drafter needs to answer in considering these legislative constitutional amendments is whether the measure will amend, add, or repeal provisions of the California Constitution. Of course, if the proposal is to amend or repeal any existing provisions of the state constitution and its more than two dozen articles and several hundred sections then the bill drafter obviously knows where to start.

On the other hand, if the proposal is to add a provision or multiple provisions then the bill drafter needs to determine whether there’s an existing article of the state constitution in which to add those provisions. Or is an entirely new article needing to be added?

Just like with bills, legislative constitutional amendments have a title drafted for them, as well as a Legislative Counsel’s Digest that explains what the amendment would do. Also, like bills, the Digest is followed by Digest Keys, and it has the same keys as a bill does – vote, appropriation, fiscal committee, and local program. The keys are followed by a Resolving Clause, and then the text of the proposed constitutional amendment.

As for the drafting of the language of the amendment? It basically requires the drafter to follow the utilize the usual guidelines for bill drafting as well as following the drafting style for California measures.

You can find the transcript of the audio in this post here.