The happenings "inside" the Wisconsin State Treasury and across the street at the State Capitol

Amending Wisconsin’s Constitution


The process to amend the State constitution requires several steps so I thought that I should take the opportunity to walk you through each of those steps.

Amending the state constitution must follow a specific process as stated in Article 12.  The most common route of amending the constitution requires a 3 vote process. The amendment must be introduced in either the Assembly or the Senate where a majority of members must vote in favor.  If approved, the Secretary of State will publish the proposed amendment for three months in the official state newspaper.  The next session of the legislature must pass the same proposed amendment without changes.

Once the amendment has passed through 2 concurrent sessions of the legislature, the proposed amendment is placed on the ballot for the next general election. At that point, the people of Wisconsin get their chance to decide.  If the voters, by simple majority, approve the proposal, the Government Accountability Board certifies that the citizens of Wisconsin have approved and ratified the amendment, and it subsequently becomes part of the state’s constitution.

Since the ratification of the Wisconsin Constitution in 1848, the legislature has adopted 156 acts or joint resolutions to amend the constitution.  Some of those resolutions included multiple issues, which by necessity had to be split when they appeared on the ballot. Hence, when the final tally is examined, voters have voted 142 out of 192 times to amend 126 sections of the constitution.

Compared to the U.S. Constitution, that may seem like a lot, but according to a 2007 article by Joseph Ranney in the Marquette Law Review, Wisconsin has actually amended its constitution less often than most states.

Here are a few other facts about the Wisconsin constitution and the amendment process:

1.)    Wisconsin has the 7th oldest constitution in the country, the oldest outside of the New England area

2.)    Our current constitution, adopted in 1848, was actually the 2nd one proposed, the first having been proposed in 1846. http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/tp-015/

3.)    There are actually 2 ways to amend the state constitution; one is the process described above, while the other is by constitutional convention.  To call a constitutional convention, a simple majority of both houses of the legislature must vote to call a convention. If the call to convention passes, it is placed on the ballot for the next election, where a simple majority of the voters must vote in favor of the convention. The following session, the legislature would then call for the convention.

The Wisconsin State Constitution: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/rsb/unannotated_wisconst.pdf

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