Fixing Government without Changing the Constitution

Where does this Route Take California?

Reformers could bring consequential change to California government through a variety of routes – such as legislation, executive orders, and statutory initiatives – that leave our constitution untouched. Legislative leaders have proposed a set of internal reforms this session which would allow lawmakers to spend more time scrutinizing and holding public hearings on bills, conduct more oversight of the state bureaucracy, and hold agencies accountable for their performance when budgets are drafted. Gov. Schwarzenegger has pushed to increase the efficiency of the executive branch and sought to eliminate many state boards and commissions. Government reform and tax limitation groups alike have argued for changes in state statutes that could make California government more participatory and efficient.

How Has this Route Been Used in the Past?

Many major shifts in the structure and role of California government have occurred outside of the state constitution. The 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education in California, the development of a large professional staff to make the state legislature more professional and accessible, and the reorganization of and increased funding of state trial courts over the past decade all happened without changing the constitution. While many reform plans would require amending the constitution, real progress can be made through alternate means.

What are the Pros and Cons of this Route?

Pros:
  • This sort of change could come immediately, and could occur outside of the combative and expensive world of ballot proposition politics. A governor's executive order can go into effect immediately, and the legislature can pass bills that go into effect the next January 1 or - if they garner two-thirds support as "urgency" measures - when they are signed into law.
  • Reforms would not need to raise the many millions of dollars that it often takes to qualify a measure for the ballot and mount a successful campaign.
Cons:
  • Reform that happens outside of the constitution would fall short of bringing the comprehensive change that many say is needed.

What Can I do to Choose This Route?