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California Constitution. (Photo: www.sos.ca.gov)

Selected Highlights from California’s Constitution, Part ll

The California Constitution is one of the longest of all fifty states

By Chris Micheli, July 12, 2019 6:05 am

The California Constitution, one of the longest of the fifty states, has 32 articles (even though the last one is numbered 35), and three articles contain subparts (Articles 10, 13 and 19). There are approximately 365 sections contained in those articles. The following is an overview of the specific provisions of the state constitution.


Article 4, dealing with the legislative branch of government, was added to the California Constitution by Proposition 10a on the November 8, 1966 ballot. This article contains the following twenty-eight sections:

Section 1 vests the legislative powers in the Legislature, which is bicameral with an Assembly and a Senate. The powers of the initiative and referendum are reserved to the People of the State.

Section 1.5 is a findings and declarations section related to having a representative government based upon free and fair elections, but requires term limits, restricted retirement benefits, and limits on resources for legislative staff.

Section 2 provides for the Senate of 40 members elected to 4-year terms and the Assembly of 80 members elected to 2-year terms.  Legislators may serve a maximum of 12 years in either house or both.

Section 3 specifies the Legislature convenes at noon on the first Monday in December in the even-numbered year and adjourns on November 30 two years later. Extraordinary sessions are proclaimed by the Governor and legislators can only legislate on the subject of the proclamation.

Section 4 prohibits legislators from receiving any salary or earned income from lobbyists or lobbying firms, or anyone with a contract with the Legislature for the past 12 months.

Section 4.5 requires legislators elected after November 1990 to participate in federal social security and the state pays for that.

Section 5 provides that the Senate and Assembly judge the qualifications and elections of their members and may expel a member with a 2/3 majority vote. No legislators can accept any honorarium and the Legislature is required to enact strict limits on gifts.

Section 6 requires the state to be divided into 40 senatorial and 80 assembly districts with one of each elected to represent each district.

Section 7 grants authority to each house to choose its officers and rules. Each house keeps its own journal and all committees and proceedings are required to be open and public, but closed sessions are allowed for specified purposes, including employment, safety and security, and litigation.

Section 7.5 provides that total spending for the compensation of members of the Legislature may not exceed $950,000 per member and each year the amount if adjusted by an amount equal to the percentage increase in the state’s appropriations limit.

Section 8 provides that only the budget bill may be heard or acted upon sooner than 30 days after introduction, unless the house dispenses with this rule by ¾ majority vote. Statutes are made by bills.

Section 8.5 deals with acts amending initiative statutes, issuance of bonds, or constitutional amendments.

Section 9 requires statutes to embrace one subject which is expressed in its title.

Section 10 requires each bill passed to be presented to the Governor. It becomes a statute if it is signed. Governor may veto it by returning the bill with a list of objections. Each house by a 2/3 majority vote can make the bill become a statute over the Governor’s objections. If a bill is not returned within the specified period, then it becomes a statute without the Governor’s signature.

Section 11 provides that either house may adopt a resolution to select committees.

Section 12 requires the Governor to submit a budget within the first ten days of the calendar year with an explanatory message and itemized statements for expenditures and estimated state revenues.

Section 12.5 provides that, within 10 days following the submission of the budget, and following the enactment of the budget, the Director of Finance must submit to the Legislature estimates of General Fund revenues and expenditures.

Section 13 provides that a legislator may not hold any office or employment under the state other than an elective office during his or her term.

Section 14 states that a legislator is not subject to civil process during a session of the Legislature.

Section 15 prohibits a person seeking to influence action by a legislator by bribery, intimidation or other dishonest means.

Section 16 provides that all laws of a general nature have uniform operation.

Section 17 states that the Legislature has no power to grant or to authorize local agencies to grant extra compensation to a public officer or employee after service has been rendered or a contract has been performed.

Section 18 grants sole power of impeachment to the Assembly. Impeachments are tried in the Senate. A person can only be convicted by the Senate by a 2/3 majority vote.

Section 19 prohibits the Legislature from authorizing lotteries. The Legislature may regulate horse racing and wagering. Cities and counties may provide bingo games but only for charity. The Legislature must prohibit casinos such as those in Nevada and New Jersey.

Section 20 states the Legislature may divide the state into fish and game districts to protect fish and game. It creates a Fish and Game Commission with five gubernatorial appointees for 6-year terms.

Section 21 provides the Legislature with power to fill offices of the Legislature and Governor if a certain number are killed or disabled due to war or enemy, as well as convene the Legislature and hold elections to fill offices under such circumstances.

Section 22 requires at the convening of each session as well as the close, a report from the four legislative leaders on their house’s goals and objectives for that session.

Section 28 prohibits any urgency statute that appropriates monies for altering or modifying the historically restored areas of the State Capitol, or for the purchase of furniture for these areas.

ARTICLE V EXECUTIVE [Sections 1 – 14]

Article 5, dealing with the executive branch of government, was added to the California Constitution by Proposition 10a on the November 8, 1966 ballot. This article contains the following fourteen sections:

Section 1 vests the executive power in the Governor who is required to faithfully execute the law.

Section 2 provides that the Governor is elected every four years at the same time that Assembly members are and that he or she holds office beginning the Monday after January 1. The Governor must be a United States citizen and a resident of California for the past five years and the term of office is capped at two.

Section 3 requires the Governor to report to the Legislature each year on the condition of the State.

Section 4 provides the Governor can require officers and agencies to furnish information related to their duties.

Section 5 allows the Governor to fill a vacancy in office by appointment. This applies to other constitutional officers and that individual is confirmed by a majority vote of both the Assembly and Senate.

Section 6 authorizes a statute to allow the Governor to reorganize functions among state agencies other than the remaining constitutional offices.

Section 7 provides that the Governor is the commander in chief of the militia and may call upon it to execute the laws of the state.

Section 8 provides the Governor authority to grant a reprieve, pardon and commutation, except for cases of impeachment.

Section 9 requires the Lieutenant Governor to have the same qualifications as the Governor. The Lieutenant Governor is the President of the Senate, but may only cast a vote on a tie.

Section 10 provides the Lieutenant Governor will become Governor when a vacancy occurs.

Section 11 provides that the Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Controller, Secretary of State, and Treasurer are elected at the same time as the Governor and are limited to 2 terms in office.

Section 13 provides that the Attorney General is the chief law officer of the state and it is his or her duty to uniformly and adequately enforce the laws of the state.

Section 14 provides that no state officer shall knowingly receive any salary, wages, commissions, or other earned income from a lobbyist or a lobbying firm.

ARTICLE VI JUDICIAL [Sections 1 – 22]

Article 6, dealing with the judicial branch of government, was added to the California Constitution by Proposition 10a on the November 8, 1966 ballot. This article contains the following twenty-two sections:

Section 1 provides that the judicial power of the state is vested in the Supreme Court, courts of appeal, and superior courts, all of which are courts of record.

Section 2 provides that the Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice and 6 associate justices and the agreement of four judges present at the argument is necessary for a judgment.

Section 3 provides that the Legislature must divide the state into districts with each containing a court of appeal with one or more divisions and that each division consists of a presiding justice and 2 or more associate justices.

Section 4 provides that, in each county of the state, there is a superior court of one or more judges and the Legislature prescribes the number of judges and provides for the officers and employees of each superior court.

Section 6 provides that the Judicial Council consists of the Chief Justice and one other judge of the Supreme Court, three judges of the courts of appeal, 10 judges of the superior courts, two nonvoting court administrators, and any other nonvoting members as determined by the voting membership of the council.

Section 7 provides that the Commission on Judicial Appointments consists of the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, and the presiding justice of the court of appeal of the affected district or, if there are 2 or more presiding justices, the one who has presided longest or, when a nomination or appointment to the Supreme Court is to be considered, the presiding justice who has presided longest on any court of appeal.

Section 8 provides that the Commission on Judicial Performance consists of one judge of a court of appeal and two judges of superior courts, each appointed by the Supreme Court; two members of the State Bar of California who have practiced law in this State for 10 years, each appointed by the Governor; and, six citizens who are not judges, retired judges, or members of the State Bar of California, two of whom to be appointed by the Governor, two by the Senate Committee on Rules, and two by the Speaker of the Assembly.

Section 9 provides that the State Bar of California is a public corporation and that every person admitted and licensed to practice law in California is a member of the State Bar, except while holding office as a judge of a court of record.

Section 10 provides that the Supreme Court, courts of appeal, superior courts, and their judges have original jurisdiction in habeas corpus proceedings. Those courts also have original jurisdiction in proceedings for extraordinary relief in the nature of mandamus, certiorari, and prohibition.

Section 11 provides that the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction when judgment of death has been pronounced.

Section 12 provides that the Supreme Court may, before decision, transfer to itself a cause in a court of appeal.

Section 13 provides that no judgment may be set aside, or new trial granted, in any cause on the ground of misdirection of the jury or of the improper admission or rejection of evidence, or for any error as to any matter of pleading, or for any error as to any matter of procedure, unless, after an examination of the entire cause, the court is of the opinion that the error complained of has resulted in a miscarriage of justice.

Section 14 provides that the Legislature must provide for the prompt publication of the opinions of the Supreme Court and courts of appeal as the Supreme Court deems appropriate and those opinions must be available for publication by any person.

Section 15 provides that a person is ineligible to be a judge of a court of record unless for 10 years immediately preceding selection that person has been a member of the State Bar or served as a judge of a court of record in this State.

Section 16 provides that judges of the Supreme Court are to be elected at large and judges of courts of appeal must be elected in their districts at general elections at the same time and places as the Governor.

Section 17 provides that a judge of a court of record may not practice law and during the term for which the judge was selected is ineligible for public employment or public office other than judicial employment or judicial office, except a judge of a court of record may accept a part-time teaching position that is outside the normal hours of his or her judicial position and that does not interfere with the regular performance of his or her judicial duties while holding office.

Section 18 provides that a judge is disqualified from acting as a judge, without loss of salary, while there is pending (1) an indictment or an information charging the judge in the United States with a crime punishable as a felony under California or federal law, or (2) a petition to the Supreme Court to review a determination by the Commission on Judicial Performance to remove or retire a judge.

Section 18.1 provides that the Commission on Judicial Performance must exercise discretionary jurisdiction with regard to the oversight and discipline of subordinate judicial officers, according to the same standards, and subject to review upon petition to the Supreme Court.

Section 18.5 provides that, upon request, the Commission on Judicial

Performance must provide to the Governor of any State of the Union the text of any private admonishment, advisory letter, or other disciplinary action together with any information that the Commission on Judicial Performance deems necessary to a full understanding of the commission’s action with respect to any applicant whom the Governor of any State of the Union indicates is under consideration for any judicial appointment.

Section 19 provides that the Legislature must prescribe compensation for judges of courts of record.

Section 20 provides that the Legislature must provide for retirement of judges of courts of record for age or disability.

Section 21 provides that, upon stipulation of the parties, the court may order a cause to be tried by a temporary judge who is a member of the State Bar, sworn and empowered to act until final determination of the cause.

Section 22 provides that the Legislature may provide for the appointment by trial courts of record of officers such as commissioners to perform subordinate judicial duties.


Article 7, dealing with public officers and employees, was added to the California Constitution by Proposition 14 on the June 8, 1976 ballot. This article contains the following eleven sections:

Section 1 states that the civil service includes every officer and employee of the State except as otherwise provided in this Constitution.

Section 2 establishes a Personnel Board of 5 members appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate, a majority of the membership concurring, for 10-year terms and until their successors are appointed and qualified.

Section 3 provides that the board must enforce the civil service statutes and, by majority vote of all its members, prescribe probationary periods and classifications, adopt other rules authorized by statute, and review disciplinary actions.

Section 4 specifies that certain individuals are exempt from civil service. 

Section 5 provides that a temporary appointment may be made to a position for which there is no employment list.

Section 6 specifies that the Legislature may provide preferences for veterans and their surviving spouses.

Section 7 prohibits a person holding a lucrative office under the United States or other power from holding a civil office of profit. 

Section 8 specifies that every person must be disqualified from holding any office of profit in this State who has been convicted of having given or offered a bribe to procure personal election or appointment. 

Section 9 provides that no person or organization which advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or the State by force or violence or other unlawful means or who advocates the support of a foreign government against the United States in the event of hostilities hold any office or employment or receive any exemption from any tax imposed.  

Section 10 specifies that no person who is found liable in a civil action for making libelous or slanderous statements against an opposing candidate during the course of an election campaign for any federal, statewide, Board of Equalization, or legislative office or for any county, city and county, city, district, or any other local elective office can retain the seat to which he or she is elected, where it is established that the libel or slander was a major contributing cause in the defeat of an opposing candidate. 

Section 11 prohibits the Legislators’ Retirement System from paying any unmodified retirement allowance or its actuarial equivalent to any person who on or after January 1, 1987, entered for the first time any state office for which membership in the Legislators’ Retirement System was elective or to any beneficiary or survivor of such a person.

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