California state Senate votes yes on amendment to overturn Citizens United

State Senator: “Voters are clearly fed up . . . with the notion that money is speech and big money can drown out the speech of average Americans.”
By JC Sevcik  |  June 24, 2014 at 7:15 PM
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SACRAMENTO , June 24 (UPI) -- California lawmakers voted for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United Monday.

The state Senate voted 23-11 in favor of Assembly Joint Resolution 1 (AJR 1), a resolution calling for a constitutional convention with the express purpose of overturning Citizens United and amending the U.S. Constitution to "limit corporate personhood for purposes of campaign finance and political speech" and "further declare that money does not constitute speech and may be legislatively limited."

Citizens United is the Supreme Court ruling that establishes corporate personhood and interprets the first amendment to mean that corporations can exercise their right to free speech with money, effectively allowing unlimited campaign contributions and, some say, undermining democracy by giving those with money to spend more political efficacy, i.e., if money equals speech, those with bigger budgets have louder voices in the political process.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said, "Voters are clearly fed up, and polling shows this, with the notion that money is speech and big money can drown out the speech of average Americans."

"I doubt our Founding Fathers had the free-speech rights of multi-national and foreign corporations in mind when they drafted the First Amendment," said state Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, author of AJR 1. "But the Founding Fathers did anticipate that every once in a while, the states would need to prod Congress to act to amend the Constitution. That's what we are doing."

An Article V convention, or Amendments Convention, is the as-of-yet-unused procedure for proposing amendments to the constitution as laid out by the original constitutional convention in article five. This method of ratification requires 2/3 of state legislatures, or 34 states, to submit applications calling on Congress to convene for the purpose of amending the Constitution, and 3/4 or 38 states to ratify the amendment before it is added to the Constitution.

In January, the California state Assembly voted 51-20 in favor of the resolution, and having passed the Senate, AJR 1 makes California the second state to call for a constitutional convention to "limit the corrupting influence of money in our electoral process" as Vermont's similar Joint Senate Resolution reads.

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