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Petitioning California State Legislature

California State Legislature: Vote for a Constitutional Convention to fix Congress -End the Special Interest Stranglehold

"Congress has approved some version of this fiscal cliff bill thing. Well, taxes are going up, and now, they're looking to make cuts just about everywhere. In fact, oil companies today had to lay off 15 senators." –Jay Leno

Let's fix Congress so it isn't a joke.

Summary

This petition asks the California legislature to vote for a special constitutional convention limited to proposing amendments to end the special interest stranglehold on Congress by doing the following:

 

1.  End Gerrymandering - Independent commission to set Congressional District boundaries. 

2.  End Filibuster & allow 45% of the House or Senate to force a vote without amendment.

3.  Public financing of Congressional campaigns. 

4.  Overturn Citizens United – Allow Congress to regulate political spending by organizations.

5.  All lobbying of Congress should be public, and members and staff of Congress should not be able to work as lobbyists for 5 years after leaving office. 

6.  Change House terms from 2 to 4 years so they aren’t constantly running for office. 

7.  Require balanced budget over business cycle (show balance over period of years)

 

Description

Before we can fix all the problems in this country, we need to fix Congress, which has become dysfunctional.  We know something is wrong with our political system when we

-          Can’t pass a bill to fund the government that a majority of the House would vote for

-          Can’t stop the mentally ill from buying automatic weapons because of the NRA lobby

-          Can’t pass effective financial reform after the worst meltdown since the Great Depression because of the financial lobby

-          Have a tax code that gives away over $1 trillion a year in tax breaks to special interests, which the rest of us pay for.

-          Can’t balance the budget because every special interest protects its part & have nearly $17 trillion in debt

Before we can change our laws, we need to change how laws are made.  Special interests now rule this country, not the voters.  They manipulate the vote and manipulate Congress.  Arcane rules allow a minority of extremists to hijack Congress.  Our system has gotten out of balance in the 200+ years since its founding.  We need to restore the original checks & balances envisioned by the founders.  The basic system of 3 branches of government in balance was designed to make change difficult.  It ceases to work if additional hurdles are added (filibuster, gerrymandering, etc.).  We need to allow the majority to govern, and vote them out if they do a bad job.

These additional hurdles provide more tools to special interests.  Special interests have the money and resources to already have an advantage in our society.  But with our current system, they can donate money and influence government to get subsidies and further advantages.  This is leading to an increased disparity in wealth, which is destroying the middle class, which is thus ruining our economic engine of our consumer economy. 

Congress won’t fix itself, so we need to, through the states.  The constitution allows the states to call a convention to amend the constitution.  The Constitution protects against a convention going beyond its special purpose – any amendment proposed must be approved by ¾ of the states.

For more information, see www.CalCentrist.org

Proposed Amendments to be drafted in Constitutional Convention:

1.  End Gerrymandering - Independent commission to set Congressional District boundaries.  The incumbent state legislatures now set boundaries in most states, using odd, gerrymandered shapes to insure their reelection.  As a result, in some states where only 40% of the voters vote for the incumbents, the incumbents still win 60% of the seats.  Essentially, politicians and special interests are choosing their voters.  As a result, we get safe districts for each party which leads to only the primary mattering.  This results in electing extremists from both parties since they don’t have to appeal to moderate voters, leading to stalemate in Congress.  For more info. see, e.g., www.endgerrymandering.com

2.  End Filibuster & allow 45% of the House or Senate to force a vote without amendment. The Senate filibuster rules have gotten ridiculous, allowing a minority to block all legislation.  They even allow a single senator (single special interest) to just threaten a filibuster to kill a bill.  A majority of the House would vote to avoid a government shutdown, but the rules allow a minority to prevent such a bill from being voted on.  Congress won't fix itself because senators love that they each have this power to override the wishes of the majority of the American people, and special interests love to get unrelated amendments tacked onto other bills.  For more info. see, e.g., http://fixthesenatenow.org/,      http://killfil.com

3.  Public financing of Congressional campaigns.  Candidates must raise more money each year to get elected.  They have to get this money from special interests, which then want favors and special access - their salary is minuscule compared to the amount of money needed to get elected.  This system for Congress is like paying police officers only a fraction of what they need, and telling them to make it up by shaking down businesses for protection money.  This amendment would also provide public funds to counter independent attack ads.  The tax money spent would be dwarfed by the savings from reducing the need to provide special interest subsidies.  By requiring only public funds for campaigns, contributions by lobbyists and government contractors (a soft bribe) can be shut down.  For more info. see, e.g., www.publicampaign.org

4.  Overturn Citizens United – Allow Congress to regulate political spending by organizations.  The Citizens United Supreme Court case tossed out campaign finance laws that attempted to regulate political spending by corporations, unions and other organizations.  This has made a bad problem worse, allowing special interests to essentially manipulate the public and destroy members of Congress who vote their conscience.  For more info. See, e.g.,

 http://legalnewsline.com/news/244278-new-legal-initiative-formed-to-help-fight-citizens-united-ruling

5.  All lobbying of Congress should be public, and members and staff of Congress should not be able to work as lobbyists for 5 years after leaving office.  While we should preserve free speech and the right to petition the government, we should be able to hear what is being said.  Special interests spend lots of time lobbying behind closed doors after getting access with campaign contributions, or the promise of a high paying job after Congress. Many in Congress use their position as a stepping stone to a much more lucrative lobbying job after they leave government.   For more info. See, e.g.,

http://www.psmag.com/politics/how-to-reform-lobbying-transparency-34112/ and

http://www.republicreport.org/2012/make-it-rain-revolving-door/

 

6.  Change House terms from 2 to 4 years.  Representatives are campaigning non-stop and thus constantly need to please special interests.  For more info., see, e.g., http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/01/house-representatives

7.  Require balanced budget over business cycle (show balance over period of years).  The US debt is currently nearly 17 trillion dollars.  The total US tax revenue for 2013 is projected to be a record $2.7 trillion, but that is dwarfed by the debt.   An annual balanced budget would be economic suicide, but the budget should be balanced over an extended period.  Deficits would be allowed during recessions, wars and other emergencies.  Surpluses would be required during good times.  Balancing the budget in recession years would prolong the recession - money needs to be spent on unemployment benefits, food stamps and stimulus.  But this spending should stop and be repaid during economic boom times.   Every deficit budget should include a plan for how it will be paid back in 5-10 years.   For more info. see, e.g.,

http://www.nationalreview.com/agenda/274257/structurally-balanced-budget-reihan-salam

Notes.  A couple notable changes are not proposed.  E.g., term limits have been counterproductive, and are not suggested [see, e.g.:

 http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/08/term-limits-encourage-legislative-myopia-and-jeopardize-fiscal-health-study/ ]

 

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