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What is the difference between the California Constitution and the United States Constitution?


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The U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution have some differences. California, like every other state in the Union, cannot sign treaties with foreign governments or regulate its interstate commerce—these powers are expressly given to Congress in Article I of the U.S. Constitution. The California Constitution expressly mentions God in the Preamble; the U.S. Constitution's Preamble, though longer, makes no mention of God.

The California Constitution also expressly mentions term limits and criticizes the idea of "career politicians." The U.S. Constitution makes no mention of term limits though there are some who would like to see this added.

There is also express mention of water rights and marine protections in the California Constitution. The U.S. Constitution does not expressly mention conservation or water rights.

The California Constitution has regulations for public utilities. These utilities did not exist during the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and there have been no amendments on this issue as it is considered a state issue protected by the Tenth Amendment.

There are also regulations for labor and loan rates in the California state Constitution. These do not exist in the U.S. Constitution.

There are three articles and twenty-seven amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The California Constitution contains thirty-five articles. Most of these articles are more detailed than the U.S. Constitution's guidelines and they largely pertain to local and state issues. The U.S. Constitution has more leeway to expand according to the needs of the moment whereas the California Constitution expressly mentions laws and instances where they are applicable.

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Since the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution allows states to ratify their own constitutions, defining powers not given to the federal government, the California Constitution is largely concerned with enumerating these matters. Even though the first article of the California Constitution enumerates many of the same rights protected in the Bill of Rights, it goes a little further. California specifically expands on rights such as freedom of speech and assembly by going into more detail than the First Amendment. For instance, it specifically mentions broadcast and print (Article 1, Sec 2b). It also specifically protects other freedoms that are not in the US Constitution, such as a school district's right to integrate (Article 1, Sec 7a). Overall, it is more specific as to how freedoms and rights are applied.

Both documents lay out the structure of their governments. In this, they are not all that different. Both call for three separate and co-equal branches of government and a bicameral legislature. A major difference is that California has term limits for its legislators while the federal government does not. Another difference is that California allows for the election of certain judges while all federal judges are appointed.

When it comes to making amendments or revisions, the two documents also differ. An amendment to the US Constitution goes through the Congress and the individual state legislatures. In California, however, amendments are passed by the electorate.

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To fully understand the difference between the Constitution of the State of California and the United States Constitution, you must first understand the concept of Federalism as well as the 10th Amendment. Federalism divides governmental power between a "central" government and smaller "local" governments—that is, the states. The drafters of the United States Constitution were divided on the issue of state sovereignty, and thus the tenth amendment was drafted.

The tenth amendment says, "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” and this has been interpreted by the Supreme Court as the constitutional provision from which the states derive their sovereignty.

While the tenth amendment allows for states to draft their own constitutions, their sovereignty has its limits under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.

The Supremacy Clause says:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

As a result of the Supremacy Clause, state constitutions must fit within the United States Constitution, and thus the Constitution of the State of California is far more similar than it is dissimilar. The main differences that exist between the United States Constitution and the State of California Constitution is that the State of California expanded upon certain vague provisions of the United States Constitution in order to provide citizens of the State of California a better understanding of their constitutional rights at the state level.

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Both the California Constitution, which was ratified in 1879, and the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1787, serve the role of structuring and defining governmental powers. The U.S. Constitution determines the structure and function of the federal government, while the California Constitution refers exclusively to the state government of California. As a result, the California Constitution is limited in scope to the responsibilities of state governments, including state taxes, education, and transportation laws. The U.S. Constitution is much broader in scope, as it serves as the document the Supreme Court uses to determine the legitimacy of laws passed by Congress. Additionally, California's Constitution can be amended by voter initiatives, and has been edited and added to hundreds of times as a result. In order to amend the U.S. Constitution, either two-thirds of both Congress and the Senate must approve the amendment, or three-fourths of states must vote to ratify it.

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