Campaign for a constitutional convention picks up speed

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By Rebecca Bowe

“One way or the other, on May 20th Californians will have to begin discussing how to fix their broken state.” This line -- referring of course to the aftermath of the special election -- appeared in an article published by the Economist last Thursday titled “California: The Ungovernable State.” The piece spotlights Sacramento’s perpetual gridlock and explores the idea of calling a statewide constitutional convention as a means of addressing the legislature’s systemic problems.

The idea is gaining momentum. The Bay Area Council, the San Francisco-based business group that initially raised the idea, hit the ground running today with the launch of a Web site, RepairCalifornia.org, to promote a constitutional convention. It also announced plans to hold town-hall style meetings throughout the state to solicit voter input. The BAC submitted a request to the state legislature to place two measures on the November 2010 ballot calling for a constitutional convention, but it’s doubtful that they’ll receive the two-thirds majority vote needed for approval. Instead, they'll probably have to go out and collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot independently.

The BAC isn’t the alone in promoting the idea -- nor is it the only group to roll out a May 20 plan for fixing the state. As the Guardian has reported, a coalition of organizations is actively campaigning for a constitutional convention. Signing onto the effort for a constitutional convention are the Courage Campaign, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the William C. Velasquez Institute and others.

While Sen. Mark Leno told us in February he thought the idea should be approached with caution so as not to "open up an entire potential Pandora's box," the idea seems to be picking up steam in the wake of the governor's failed budget measures, and with state finances in such disarray.