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CaliforniaConstitution Versus Federal Constitution

The powers of direct democracy reserved to the people

By Chris Micheli, February 15, 2019 2:00 am

The purpose of this article is to briefly compare and contrast the California and U.S. Constitutions. There are obvious similarities between the two guiding documents, but there are also important differences.

Comparing and Contrasting

The U.S. Constitution vests in the federal government certain specified powers. And, the powers that not enumerated in the federal Constitution are reserved to the states pursuant to the Tenth Amendment. This is what we term our governmental system of federalism. The states play a critical role in our federal system of governance.

The U.S. Constitution provides many of our individual rights in the Bill of Rights, while they are provided in the first Article of the California Constitution. The state constitution includes additional protections that the federal constitution does not. Federal constitutional protections apply to the states by means of the Fourteenth Amendment. As such, California and its Constitution are prohibited from violating fundamental rights provided by the United States Constitution.

While the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land, the California Constitution sets forth the duties, powers, structure, and functions of the state government. The federal Constitution vests the federal government with specified powers, but the powers not enumerated in the federal Constitution are reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment.

Although they are two different governing documents, there are similarities and differences between the federal and state constitutions. Both establish a form of government and provide authority for those branches of government to operate. They also provide important rights and responsibilities for the citizens of the country and state.

Here is an overview of the contents of the two constitutions:

United States Constitution

The federal constitution has seven articles, which are followed by 27 Amendments. The Articles and their Sections are the following:

Article 1 – The Legislative Branch

Section 1 – The Legislature

Section 2 – The House

Section 3 – The Senate

Section 4 – Elections, Meetings

Section 5 – Membership, Rules, Journals, Adjournment

Section 6 – Compensation

Section 7 – Revenue Bills, Legislative Process, Presidential Veto

Section 8 – Powers of Congress

Section 9 – Limits on Congress

Section 10 – Powers Prohibited of States

Article 2 – The Executive Branch

Section 1 – The President

Section 2 – Civilian Power Over Military, Cabinet, Pardon Power, Appointments

Section 3 – State of the Union, Convening Congress

Section 4 – Disqualification

Article 3 – The Judicial Branch

Section 1 – Judicial Powers

Section 2 – Trial by Jury, Original Jurisdiction, Jury Trials

Section 3 – Treason

Article 4 – The States

Section 1 – Each State to Honor all Others

Section 2 – State Citizens, Extradition

Section 3 – New States

Section 4 – Republican Government

Article 5 – Amendment

Article 6 – Debts, Supremacy, Oaths

Article 7 – Ratification

The U.S. Constitution sets forth the three branches of government in the first three Articles. Both the federal and state constitutions provide the three branches of government in the same order: legislative, executive and judicial. The fourth Article deals with the states, followed by an article on amending the constitution, an article dealing with miscellaneous provisions, and then its ratification.

The following are the Amendments to the federal constitution (recall that the first ten Amendments are called the “Bill of Rights”):

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

Amendment 2 – Right to Bear Arms

Amendment 3 – Quartering of Soldiers

Amendment 4 – Search and Seizure

Amendment 5 – Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings

Amendment 6 – Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses

Amendment 7 – Trial by Jury in Civil Cases

Amendment 8 – Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Amendment 9 – Construction of Constitution

Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and People

Amendment 11 – Judicial Limits

Amendment 12 – Choosing the President, Vice President

Amendment 13 – Slavery Abolished

Amendment 14 – Citizenship Rights

Amendment 15 – Race No Bar to Vote

Amendment 16 – Status of Income Tax Clarified

Amendment 17 – Senators Elected by Popular Vote

Amendment 18 – Liquor Abolished

Amendment 19 – Women’s Suffrage

Amendment 20 – Presidential, Congressional Terms

Amendment 21 – Amendment 18 Repealed

Amendment 22 – Presidential Term Limits

Amendment 23 – Presidential Vote for District of Columbia

Amendment 24 – Poll Taxes Barred

Amendment 25 – Presidential Disability and Succession

Amendment 26 – Voting Age Set to 18 Years

Amendment 27 – Limiting Changes to Congressional Pay

California Constitution

The state constitution has thirty-three articles (do not be deceived by the numbering as some articles do not exist). The Articles are the following:

Article I – Declaration of Rights [Sections 1 – 32]

Article II – Voting, Initiative and Referendum, and Recall [Sections 1 – 20]

Article III – State of California [Sections 1 – 9]

Article IV – Legislative [Sections 1 – 28]

Article V – Executive [Sections 1 – 14]

Article VI – Judicial [Sections 1 – 22]

Article VII – Public Officers and Employees [Sections 1 – 11]

Article IX – Education [Sections 1 – 16]

Article X – Water [Sections 1 – 7]

Article X A – Water Resources Development [Sections 1 – 8]

Article X B – Marine Resources Protection Act of 1990 [Sections 1 – 16]

Article XI – Local Government [Sections 1 – 15]

Article XII – Public Utilities [Sections 1 – 9]

Article XIII – Taxation [Sections 1 – 36]

Article XIII A – Tax Limitation [Sections 1 – 7]

Article XIII B – Government Spending Limitation [Sections 1 – 15]

Article XIII C – Voter Approval for Local Tax Levies [Sections 1 – 3]

Article XIII D – Assessment and Property-Related Fee Reform [Sections 1 – 6]

Article XIV – Labor Relations [Sections 1 – 5]

Article XV – Usury [Section 1]

Article XVI – Public Finance [Sections 1 – 23]

Article XVIII – Amending and Revising the Constitution [Sections 1 – 4]

Article XIX – Motor Vehicles Revenues [Sections 1 – 10]

Article XIX A – Loans from the Public Transportation Account or Local Transportation Funds [Sections 1 – 2]

Article XIX B – Motor Vehicle Fuel Sales Tax Revenues and Transportation Improvement Funding [Sections 1 – 2]

Article XIX C – Enforcement of Certain Provisions [Sections 1 – 4]

Article XIX D – Vehicle License Fee Revenues for Transportation Purposes [Section 1]

Article XX – Miscellaneous Subjects [Sections 1 – 23]

Article XXI – Redistricting of Senate, Assembly, Congressional and Board of Equalization Districts [Sections 1 – 3]

Article XXII – Architectural and Engineering Services [Sections 1 – 2]

Article XXXIV – Public Housing Project Law [Sections 1 – 4]

Article XXXV – Medical Research [Sections 1 – 7]

The California Constitution begins with individual rights, then provides the powers of direct democracy reserved to the people, followed by establishment of the State, and then to the three branches of government. Like its federal counterpart, the state constitution provides the three branches of government in this order: legislative, executive and judicial.

The state constitution then proceeds to numerous Articles that have been added over the decades by the people, from transportation funding to redistricting to taxation to engineering services. Many of these Articles represent successful enactment of statewide ballot measures through the use of the initiative process.

Chris Micheli

Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc. He is also an Adjunct Professor at McGeorge School of Law in its Capital Lawyering Program.
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