Democracy and Constitutionalism in the State

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Politics in States and Communities
(15 Ed.)
Thomas Dye and Susan MacManus
Edited by Bob Botsch for USC
Aiken
Chapter 2
Democracy and Constitutionalism
in the State
Learning Objectives
•
Trace the constitutional tradition in the states, and list the ways in which constitutions limit
governments and influence politics at the state level.
•
Describe the key features that state constitutions share and the limits that they place on state
governments.
•
Examine the various methods used to change state constitutions: legislative proposals, popular
initiatives, constitutional conventions, and constitutional commissions.
•
Trace the development of direct democracy in the states, assess the effectiveness of its variants,
and compare it to representative democracy.
•
Evaluate whether direct or representative democracy is a better approach for governing the states.
•
Discuss how state initiatives have been used to move public policies in both liberal and
conservative directions, and assess the current ideological trend of state initiatives.
•
Evaluate whether the proliferation of initiatives and initiative campaigns in some states is
problematic, and trace efforts to institute congressional term limits through the initiative process.
© 2014 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Constitutional Government in the States
All 50 states have constitutions. The state constitutions
– govern governments
– set government structure and organization
– distribute powers among branches of the government
– prescribe the rules by which decisions are made
– limit the powers of government and protect the rights of citizens
© 2014 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Background of Constitutions (1/2)
• Limited Government
– Basis for freedom: In our political heritage, the power of
government over the individual is clearly limited, with aspects of
life governments cannot regulate or interfere with.
• Legal Status
– State constitutions are the supreme law of the state and only
subordinate to the U.S. Constitution.
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Background of Constitutions (2/2)
• Origins of Written Constitutions
– The Magna Carta in 1215 and colonial charters in the new world
• Colonial History
– Rights from property to people: Royal action institutionalized
charters and constitutions by recognizing proprietary rights for
companies, for established governments, and finally for citizens
themselves.
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State Constitutions: General Information (1/2)
State Constitutions: General Information (2/2)
State Constitutions: An Overview
• Bill of Rights
• Separation of Powers
• Weak Governors
• Legislative Powers
• Local Governments
• Interest Group Regulation
• Taxation and Finance
• Debt Limitation
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State Gun Law Restrictiveness and Firearms Death Rate
How to Change a State Constitution
• Legislative Proposal–the most common method; an amendment is
passed by the legislature and put to the voters in a referendum
• Popular Initiative–citizens can bypass the legislature for a direct
vote if they obtain a requisite number of petition signatures
• Constitutional Convention–has lost favor as a method
• Constitutional Revision Commissions–rarely used but effective
when attempted
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Success of State Constitutional Amendments by
Method of Initiation
State Constitutional Amendments by Legislatures (1/2)
State Constitutional Amendments by Legislatures
(2/2)
Democracy in the States
• Democracy–refers to popular participation in government
• Direct democracy–means that the people themselves can
initiate and decide policy questions by popular vote
• Republicanism–involves decision making by
representatives of the people
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Direct Democracy (1/2)
• Developed in states and communities following a strong populist
movement
• The populist and progressive reform movement
– introduced a range of devices to bypass political institutions and
encourage direct participation, e.g. primaries, nonpartisan
elections
– supported women’s suffrage, civil service, and restrictive
immigration laws
– were responsible for adoption of the three forms of direct
democracy
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Direct Democracy (2/2)
The three forms of direct democracy are
• Initiative–a percentage of voters, using a petition, may have
a law or amendment placed on the ballot without legislative
involvement
• Referendum–electorate must approve legislative decisions
before they become law
• Recall–allows voters to remove an elected official before the
end of his or her term
© 2014 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Initiative and Recall in the States
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Direct Versus Representative Democracy
•
The U.S. Constitution does not provide for direct democracy
measures, but many state constitutions do allow direct voting in
popular initiatives and referenda voting.
•
Arguments for Direct Democracy
–
enhances government responsiveness and accountability
–
allows citizen groups to bring their concerns directly to public
–
stimulates debate about policy issues
–
stimulates voter interest and improves election-day turnout
–
increases trust in government and diminishes alienation
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Direct Versus Representative Democracy
•
Arguments against Representative Democracy
– Opponents of direct democracy believe representative democracy
better protects individual liberties and rights of minorities.
– Popular things are not always wise, e.g. cutting taxes without
considering lost services
•
The Decline of Representative Government
– With state legislatures and governments perceived as largely
unresponsive, unethical, and dominated by special interests, popular
participation in government is widely supported among the public.
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Keys Areas of State Initiative Efforts
• Tax Limitation
• Crime and Drugs
• Abortion and Physician-Assisted Suicide
• Same-Sex Marriage
• Education and School Vouchers
• Affirmative Action and Racial Preferences
• Immigration
• Redistricting
• Eminent Domain
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State Votes on Selected Propositions in the
2000s
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State Votes on Selected Propositions in the
2000s (Continued)
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Initiative Campaigns
• Initiative campaigns have become more sophisticated and costly.
• They are often sponsored by “special interests”–specific
businesses or industries; religious organizations; environmental
groups; and public interest groups.
• Opposition campaigns to initiatives may also be well funded by
organized interests.
© 2014 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Term-Limited State Legislators
© 2014 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
On the Web
• http://camlaw.rutgers.edu/statecon/frontpage.html
Center for State Constitutional Studies at Rutgers-Camden
• http://www.stateconstitutions.umd.edu/index.aspx
The NBER/Maryland State Constitutions Project
• www.iandrinstitute.org
Initiatives and Referendum Institute at the University of
Southern California
© 2014 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
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