Currently California's Constitution requires two thirds of the legistature to vote in favor of placing the question of a Constitutional Convention on the ballot, where it must win a majority of the voters to gain approval. The first part of this is unlikely in the extreme – it's hard to imagine two of the current legislators voting for this, much less two thirds.
However, the voters in California have the power to place propositions on the ballot that would amend the State's Constitution (as we did recently with Proposition 8, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman). So the folks at RepairCalifornia.org propose exactly such an amendment proposition, to amend the State's Constitution to allow the voters to directly call a Constitutional Convention.
This would be like a revolution without the guns and tanks. I want to think about this some more, but on a first pass I'm inclined to agree with Peter Robinson:
A clean slate. A system of government designed by ordinary citizens, not the political in-crowd. A beautiful idea, indeed...
Will California default, forcing states and municipalities throughout the nation to pay higher interest rates to bondholders? Will it persuade Washington to bail it out, rewarding the Golden State's political class while punishing the citizens of prudent, solvent states such as Indiana or Texas? Or will California cut its budget so sharply that basic state agencies--the California Highway Patrol, for instance, or the Department of Corrections--will be impaired?
None of the answers are pretty.
Yet this financial crisis has produced one beautiful idea.
Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, a business group, has begun calling for a constitutional convention. The current constitution, Wunderman argues, is so long, convoluted and encrusted with amendments that Californians ought to toss it out and start again from scratch.
To keep the political class from taking over the convention, Wunderman wants to choose delegates from the state jury pool. Does that sound like placing trust in chance? If so, you've got the idea. Ordinary Californians, redesigning the entire state government.
William F. Buckley Jr. once said, "I would rather be governed by the first 400 names in the Boston telephone book than by the faculty of Harvard University." Me? I'd rather be governed by a few hundred jurors from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Irvine, San Diego, Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto and Stockton than by all the lobbyists and union officials in Sacramento.
It is, as I said, a beautiful idea.