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
Article 2 – The Executive Branch
Article 3 – The Judicial Branch
Article 4 – The States
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”):
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:
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.
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