03 November 2009

Some provisions I'd like to see in a New Constitution

I have offered a Modest Proposal (admittedly utopian), for a Constitutional Convention to rewrite our Constitution to make government actually work for the people. Here's a laundry list of provisions I'd like to see. 

  •  Preservation of the basic structure, with three branches of government, a President serving no more than 2 four-year terms, and two houses of Congress, House and Senate, elected for 2 years and for 6 years, respectively, as at present, and a court system consisting of a Supreme Court and subsidiary courts subject to regulation, establishment and organization by the Legislative Branch, as at present. The New Constitution will preserve everything in the old constituiton that isn't explicitly changed, the existing amendments to the old constitution will be incorporated into the main body of the document except where moot or superfluous due to new provisions
  •  Direct popular election of the President (ending the Electoral College system)
  •  Explicit and specific provisions to ensure fairness in vote-counting and election rules nationwide, both Federal and other jurisdictions
  •  Automatic runoff in all elections (national and local) where a candidate fails to garner 50%+1 (possibly incorporating or permitting "second choice" voting enabling the run-off and election to occur simultaneously)
  •  One senator per state, with the same number -- the other half -- of the Senate elected by proportional representation by population, except that all Senators to be elected at large within each State entitled to that number of Senators by population
  •  Limited Debate in both houses of Congress by explicit constitutional requirement; no filibuster
  •  An end to gerrymandering, affecting not only House Districts, but all state government districting as well, by imposing a rational mathematical scheme to ensure unbiased representation by population, to prevent incumbent bias and control of government by special interests; the executive charged to faithfully execute this requirement, including through use of the justice department to sue the states where necessary
  •  Term limits for Congress: 2 Senate Terms; 5 House Terms (this would also have the effect of removing most of the disadvantages and bias of the Seniority System); with or without, as the Congress may decide, the right to run again after sitting out a certain period (with loss of all seniority)
  •  Term limits for judges, including Supreme Court Justices: ten years, with one term only; no reappointment (this in recognition that judges are not elected, and have a great deal of arbitrary power; no one should hold this power indefinitely)
  •  A New Bill of Rights, in part modeled on that of the European Union, that guarantees voting rights, employment assistance, health care, non-discrimination on the basis of sex, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, immigrant status, or ethnicity; workplace safety, clean environment, compliance with the Geneva Conventions (including no torture or coercive interrogation): this spelled out, not incorporated by reference; rules of evidence, no surveillance of citizens or legal residents without court order (including electronic surveillance), habeas corpus. Freedom of Information and access to information. Modification to the 2d amendment to allow localities to ban assault weapons, handguns, etc. Non-citizens present in the United States or subject to US legal process shall have enumerated due process rights and may not be held without judicial process. Complete separation of Church and State explicitly enumerated, with public education prohibited from presenting religious viewpoints as fact; freedom to worship or not to worship as citizens see fit; no public prayer or religious ceremonies in public institutions, with a carefully crafted exception for cultural displays of religious art or symbols in public places without the intent to promote any particular religion; right to old age security; right to collective bargaining; and other fundamental rights, in addition to the rights currently enumerated (and clarified to account for changes in technology, etc)
  •  Congress or the States may tax property or income of non-profit organizations or religious institutions, at their discretion
  •  A statement of principle whereby the US will not engage in preemptive war, or attack or invade other nations except in self-defense, and shall not seek territorial expansion by force
  •  War powers clarified: the president may not commit US troops or war materiel to hostile action or presence on foreign soil for more than, say, 45 days for any reason without a Declaration of War or other specific authorization, which if passed by both houses of Congress, must be renewed at least every 180 days
  •  A statement of principle whereby the nation will support and promote self-determination and democracy by peaceful means, and not act to assist (financially or militarily) dictatorships, nor states which the Congress, or if the Congress makes no such finding, the President, shall find do not adhere to generally acceptable standards of human rights and self-determination and representation of all citizens
  •  A statement of principle whereby the United States must cooperate with other nations to preserve a habitable world, but must also conduct its trade policies to give priority to its own peoples' welfare
  •  Explicit rules of economic democracy, to prevent corporations or other organizations (including labor unions) from buying and selling influence, and subject them to ultimate control, as chartered entities of the several states, to serve the public interest (as was the case before laissez-faire court decisions in the 19th Century); Congress to have the power to revoke the charter, or prohibit the activities, of any interstate or multinational corporation for unlawful conduct or conduct found by the Congress to be "not in the public interest."
  •  Statement of Principle that the Congress shall set public policy in general substance, and not delegate "proper" powers of the Legislature to the executive branch or agencies
  •  Explicit changes to Article II drastically restricting the power of the President to ignore the law, or to act outside of it; explicitly stating that any statements appended to laws signed by the president shall be deemed surplus and void of effect
  • Presidential veto preserved, but no line item veto 
  •  A statement of principle that it is a legitimate purpose of the Federal Government to promote the welfare of the citizens of the nation, and to regulate finance and commerce to prevent injustice or unfair advantage
  •  Detailed Clarification of the powers now appropriated to the Federal Government under the Commerce Clause
  •  A new provision to make it easier for states with more than a certain percentage (say 6%) of the population of the country, as established by the Census, to split into two states, if that state's own electorate or representatives shall decide to do so, according to each such state's own laws, without requirement for approval by the other states or by Congress
  •  Explicit rejection of the notion that political money equates with political speech; enabling and requiring, but not specifying the details of, real public financing and spending limits on election campaigns
  •  Provision that the Congress may impeach the president or any official of the executive, including any military officer, or any Federal judge, for any reason or no reason, but with a fairly high hurdle to actually do it; essentially the system now in place apart from the grounds
  •  Explicit restrictions on legal requirements for supermajorities, to those few spelled out in the constitution • these to be specifically and explicitly applicable to the States as well as the Federal government, so that State governments are ensured functional representative government too
  •  Federal Referendum, but not Initiative or Recall
  •  Any bill that fails to pass both houses, but receives at least 45% of the vote of both houses, shall, on motion receiving that same margin, be submitted to the people as a Referendum; with certain exceptions, notably no declaration of war or authorization for military action by referendum
  •  Referenda, when passed, become law, and are not subject to presidential veto
  •  No law enacted by referendum may be repealed or amended within ten years, except by at least 55% vote of both houses, subject to presidential veto 
  •   Provision to make it slightly (not too much) easier to amend the constitution or to call another Constitutional Convention
  •  Ratification of the new constitution shall be by referendum to the people; if simple electoral majorities of 2/3 of the states adopt the constitution, it is ordained. 
  • The constitution would prohibit secession explicitly, but might make provision to permit any state that did not wish to join the revised union to withdraw rather than ratify. (This could create logistical nightmares, but would be worth considering at least). 

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