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California's First Constitutional Convention
(1849 at Colton Hall in Monterey)

In 1849, as California prepared for statehood, a Convention was held at Monterey to write the Constitution for the new state. The Military Governor of California, General Bennett Riley, called an election for August 1st to elect 37 delegates to attend the convention. During the first meeting of the Convention, it was decided to increase the number of delegates in order to make the body more proportional for the recent flood of miners who had been arriving in Gold Country. For example, the number of delegates from Sacramento and San Joaquin each grew from 4 delegates to 15, while San Diego delegation was to have two members.

A major debate at the convention was whether it was appropriate for the Constitutional Convention to prohibit slavery, or whether that was a decision that would be better left to the first legislature. In the end, the Convention voted to settle the matter immediately, with Section 18 of Article I reading "Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crimes, shall ever be tolerated in this State."

The 1849 Constitution guaranteed the right to vote to "every white male citizen of the United States, and every white male citizen of Mexico, who shall have elected to become a citizen of the United States" and who was at least twenty-one years old. It also set San Jose as the first state capitol [Article XI, Section 1], and required Assemblymembers to be elected annually (State Senators were elected every two years). The Constitution established both English and Spanish as the official languages for the state, and allowed dueling to be punished by the loss of the right to vote and hold public office. The constitution also prohibited the legislature from allowing divorce or the establishment of a state lottery. Dueling is still illegal (although you can't lose your vote for doing it), although the state lottery was authorized by initiative in 1984.

[elected members who failed to attend the convention]

San Joaquin
San Francisco
San Jose
Los Angeles
Jacob R. Snyder
Winfield Sherwood
L. W. Hastings
John McDougal
William E. Shannon
John A. Sutter
Elisha O. Crosby
M. M. McCarver
John Bidwell
John S. Fowler
James Queen
William Blackburn
R. M. Jones
W. Lacy
Charles E. Pickett
Thomas Vermeule
O. M. Wozencraft
Benjamin F. Moore
John Hollingsworth
James M. Jones
Benjamin Lippincott
S. Haley
C. L. Peck
M. Fallon
B. Ogden
George A. Pendleton
Colonel Jackson
Jeremiah Ford
B. L. Morgan
Walter Chapman
Edward Gilbert
Myron Norton
William Gwin
Joseph Hobson
William Steuart
Francis Lippett
Alfred Ellis
Rodman Price
W. D. M. Howard
Joseph Aram
Kinball H. Dimmick
J. D. Hoppe
Antonio M. Pico
Elam Brown
Julian Hanks
Pedro Sansevaine
Stephen C. Foster
Jose A. Carrillo
Hugo Reid
Manuel Dominguez
Abel Stearns
Luis Rubideaux
Manuel Requerra
Joel P. Walker
Robert Semple
Mariano Vallejo
R. Maupin
J. Clyman
Lilburn W. Boggs
San Diego
Santa Barbara Monterey San Luis Obispo
Miguel de Pedrorena
Henry Hill
Pablo De La Guerra
Jacinto Rodriguez
Amitasio Carrillo
Manuel Imeno
Henry W. Halleck
Lewis Dent
Thomas O. Larkin
Charles T. Botts
Pacificus Ord
Henry A. Tefft
Jose M. Covarrubias


California's Second Constitutional Convention
(1879 at the Assembly Chambers in Sacramento)
After thirty years of statehood, and only a single amendment to the Constitution (an 1862 change that prohibited the legislature from passing 'special laws' or 'local laws'), a movement in support of a new constitution emerged. Let in large part by the Workingmen’s Party, a second constitutional convention was called in late 1878. The Convention was held in the Assembly Chambers at the new State Capitol in Sacramento (the building had been in use for just ten years at that point).

The new constitution was almost twice as long as the previous version, expanding from 13 pages long to 23 pages and from 12 Articles to 22 Articles. Article IV lengthened legislative terms from 1 year to 2 for the Assembly and from 2 years to 4 for the State Senate. The goal of Article XIX was to "prohibit the introduction into this State of Chinese", which it tried to accomplish by disallowing the employment of Chinese by the state or local governments "except in punishment from crime." The new Constitution also established Sacramento as the permanent capitol [Article XX, Section 1], and established the 8-hour work day [Article XX, Section 17].

As of 2008, the California Constitution has been amended 519 times since 1879. 

[elected members who failed to attend the convention]

SD-01 SD-02 SD-03 SD-04 SD-05
Randolph S. Swing Edward Evey Eugene Fawcett Joseph C. Brown L. F. Jones
Eli T. Blackmer Volney E. Howard Charles G. Finney Samuel A. Holmes G. M. Hardwick
Horace C. Rolfe John P. West George Steele V. A. Gregg William J. Howard
      Patrick Reddy J. M. Strong
        Tyler D. Heiskell
SD-06 SD-07 SD-08 to SD-13 SD-08 to SD-13 SD-08 to SD-13
N. G. Wyatt Dennis W. Herrington Clitus Barbour Jacob Richard Freud Charles R. Kleine
Daniel Tuttle Thomas H. Laine Charles J. Beerstecher Joseph C. Gorman  Raymond Lavigne
William F. White Rush McComas Peter Bell William P. Grace John F. Lindow
Edmund Nason E. O. Smith John D. Condon Thomas Harrison John J. Kenny
  Joseph R. Weller Patrick T. Dowling Conrad Herold Bernard F. Kenny
    Luke D. Doyle William P. Hughey  
    Simon J. Farrell Peter J. Joyce  
SD-08 to SD-13 SD-08 to SD-13 SD-08 to SD-13 SD-14 SD-15
Thomas C. Morris James S. Reynolds S. B. Thompson A. Campbell Jr. Hiram Mills
Thorward K. Nelson Charles S. Ringgold Alphonse P. Vacquerel Daniel Inman Thomas H. Estey
Henry Neunaber Henry W. Smith Patrick M. Wellin John G. McCallum Hugh Walker
Charles C. O'Donnell John C. Stedman Lucius D. Morse William Van Voorhies  
James O'Sullivan Charles Swenson William S. Moffatt Jonathan V. Webster  
SD-16 SD-17 SD-18 SD-19 SD-20
John A. Eagon J. B. Garvey James Caples Jonathan M. Dudley Alonzo E. Noel
William H. Prouty John Walker Presley Dunlap Joel A. Harvey H. C. Boggs
John R. W. Hitchcock Royal M. Lampson Henry Edgerton Samuel G. Hilborn Robert Crouch
David Lewis   Abraham Clark Freeman Charles F. Reed  
Justus Schomp   Hugh M. La Rue John M. Rhodes  
David S. Terry   Thomas McConnell     
W. L. Dudley   Thomas B. McFarland    
SD-21 SD-22 SD-23 SD-24 SD-25
J. M. Charles Samuel B. Burt  Henry Larkin Charles W. Cross George Ohleyer
George A. Johnson Joseph A. Filcher James E. Dean Hamlet Davis D. H. Cowden
W. W. Moreland   George W. Hunter John McCoy John Fleming McNutt
Charles V. Stuart     John T. Wickes James H. Keyes
      Edward Barry  
      Henry K. Turner  
SD-26 SD-27 SD-28 SD-29  
Josiah Boucher James E. Murphy Jehu Berry Benjamin B. Glascock
Mark R. C. Pulliam W. J. Sweasey D. C. Stevenson Henry C. Wilson
Ezra P. Soule F. O. Townsend Alexander R. Andrews  
Augustus H. Chapman James N. Barton    
CD-01 CD-02 CD-03 CD-04  
William H. L. Barnes Henry H. Haight Isaac S. Belcher James J. Ayers
Eugene Casserly James E. Hale Marion Biggs William J. Graves
Morris M. Estee John B. Hall W. F. Huestis John L. Mansfield
John S. Hager J. West Martin John M. Kelley Edward Martin
Joseph P. Hoge James Martin Porter A. P. Overton George W. Schell
Samuel M. Wilson Rufus Shoemaker James McMillan Shafter George Venable Smith
Joseph W. Winans Walter Van Dyke Benjamin Shurtleff Pleasant B. Tully
    Wiley J. Tinnin Byron Waters

NOTE: Former Governor Henry H. Haight died at the beginning of the Convention and J. West Martin was elected to fill the vacancy.
NOTE: Bernard F. Kenny died shortly before the Convention began and his brother John J. Kenny was elected to fill the vacancy.
NOTE: G. M. Hardwick died and J.M. Strong was elected to fill the vacancy. Strong died quickly after joining the Convention and William J. Howard was elected to fill the vacancy.
NOTE: Thomas C. Morris resigned on the first day of the Convention and S. B. Thompson was elected to fill his vacancy.



California Constitutional Revision Commission (1964 to 1971)

As state government grew following World War II, the State Constitution grew as well. By 1960, the Constitution had grown from its 1879 length of 23 pages to a massive 132 pages long. The Commission held meetings from 1964 to 1970, and produced a final report in March 1971. The proposals generated by the Commission were put to the voters as initiatives ever two years between 1966 and 1976.

In addition to updating the Constitution to better reflect the needs of the state, a major goal of the revision was to shorten what had become the longest of all the state constitutions. One example of a successfull abbreviation by the Commission can be seen in Article XX, Section 1, which was trimmed from: "The city of Sacramento is hereby declared to be the seat of government of this State, and shall so remain until changed by law; but no law changing the seat of government shall be valid or binding, unless the same be approved and ratified by a majority of the qualified electors of the State voting therefor at a general State election, under such regulations and provisions as the Legislature, by a two-thirds vote of each House, may provide, submitting the question of change to the people." [Article XX, Section 1, of 1960] to "Sacramento is the capital of California." [Article XX, Section 1, of 1972].

Over the seven years that the commission met, meetings took place at a wide variety of locations around the state in Bakersfield, Claremont, Coronado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey, Newport Beach, Oakland, Palm Springs, Pasadena, Redding, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Barbara.

Ernest J. Loebbecke 1964   George W. Rochester 1964-1971   Judge Phil Gibson 1965-1971
James C. Sheppard   Grandvel A. Jackson   Mrs. Earl Shoesmith
Mrs. Paul Holmer   Jack A. Beaver   Mrs. William Irvine
Maurice H. Stans   John A. Vieg   Robert S. Ash
James L. Beebe 1964-1965   John D. Babbage   James L. Holmes 1966-1969
Mrs. Frederic Spencer   Joseph A. Ball   Robert C. Brown 1966-1970
Mrs. Harry A. Williams   Judge Bruce Sumner   Bryant Essick 1966-1971
Joseph Harris 1964-1966   Milton M. Teague   Harry Bardt
Willard W. Keith 1964-1966   Mrs. Ernest Lilienthal   Mrs. Walter Oliver
Arthur J. Dolan 1964-1967   Mrs. Joel Y. Nemschoff   Norman Woodbury
Franklin D. Murphy 1964-1968   Mrs. Lauffer T. Hayes   Otis L. Frost
Thomas L. Pitts   Mrs. Lawrence E. Spear   William McKenna
Dr. Norman Topping 1964-1969   Mrs. Robert Zurbach   Gale Brandon 1967-1971
John A. Sproul, Esq.   P. N. Hyndman   Harlan J. Nissen
Einar O. Mohn 1964-1970   Paul Mason   Lloyd Graybiel
Richard Carpenter   Ralph N. Kleps   Richard L. Patsey
William R. MacDougall   Richard L. Taw   Rodney W. Rood
Adrian McCalman 1964-1971   Ruth Church Gupta   Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. 1968-1971
Albin J. Gruhn   Sol Silverman   Donald McClure
Arthur F. Corey   Totton J. Anderson   Sigmund Arywitz
Bernard L. Hyink   James F. Crafts 1965-1970   Carl W. Robertson 1969-1971
Burnham Enersen   Dr. Cornelius H. Siemens 1965-1971   Frank Nakamura
Donald H. Pflueger   James S. Cantlen   Harold McClelland
Dr. Robert Gordon Sproul   John A. Busterud   Herman Selvin
Frank C. Newman   Judge Joseph G. Babich   Robert Osbourne

NOTE: Commission Co-Chair Sheppard died while serving as Co-Chair in December 1964. Dr. Robert G. Sproul, the other original Co-Chairman resigned on November 18, 1965 due to ill health. Following his resignation, the two Co-Chair positions were consolidated into a single Chairmanship.
NOTE: Commissioner Spencer died on March 2, 1965.
NOTE: Murphy resigned and was replaced by Aldrich.
NOTE: James L. Holmes died while attending a Commission meeting in Sacramento. Holmes died February 13, 1969 in Sacramento, CA.
NOTE: Paul Mason, author of numerous books about the California Constitution and legislative procedure (including his "Manual of Legislative Procedure") had a heart attack and missed the last meetings in late 1970.



California Constitutional Revision Commission (1994 to 1996)
In 1993, State Senator Lucy Killea authored a law that established a second Constitutional Revision Commission to serve from 1994 to 1996. The proposals developed by the Commission included amending term limits so both houses would be eligible to serve three four-year terms in each house. Another proposal was to restrict the Legislature to a six month session each year, and changing the state budget to a biennial budget that could be approved on a majority vote.

Revision Commission Members (1994-1996)
William Hauck, Chair   Donald Benninghoven, Vice-Chair
George Babikian   Lewis Coleman 
Anne Bakar   Russell Gould
Andrew Baron   Alan Heslop 
Patricia Castillo   Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill
Betty Chu    Jane Pisano
Senator Lucy Killea   Leon Williams 
Senator Bill Leonard    

During the service of the second Revision Commission, control of the Assembly changed from Democratic to Republican, resulting in the replacement of the five Commissioners appointed by that body.

Democrat-majority Assembly
Served until 1/31/1996
Republican-majority Assembly
Served starting 1/31/1996
Judge Roger Warren   Judge Ronald Robie (3/25)
Elizabeth Cabraser   Larry Arnn
Kamala Harris   Edward Erler
Assemblyman Phil Isenberg   Steve Frates
Chui Tsang   Richard Rider
    Craig Brown (3/4)
 Three members added later =>   Joel Fox (3/25)
    Gary Hunt (3/25)

NOTE: Judge Ronald Robie was selected to fill the vacancy caused when Judge Roger Warren resigned from the Commission. Warren resigned in order to become the President of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) where he served 1996-2004.