POSITION IN BRIEF
Action to support a constitution which sets forth the basic law; provides the framework of government; is of a lasting nature, yet flexible; and is dearly written and understandable.
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii believes that the constitution for the State of Hawaii is the basic law, a statement of the general rules within which sound laws can be adopted to meet the changing social and economic conditions.
The state constitution should be of a lasting nature and yet be flexible enough to meet future needs of the state. The enumerated powers and limitations should not unduly restrict, but should permit the state government to use its powers to govern and serve the needs of the people.
The constitution should be the framework that sets forth the structure of government, clearly states the major limitations placed upon government, and preserves rights to the people. It should include, but not be limited to, provisions that:
- State the principles regarding the nature and purpose of the state government
- State the rights preserved for all persons of the state
- Provide for suffrage and elections
- Outline the major branches of government
- Grant each constitutional office the powers necessary to govern
- Limit the powers of the government in those areas where the people wish to reserve the authority to themselves as the electorate
- Provide for fiscal responsibility in budgeting procedures
- Define the powers of local government
- Provide for the establishment of standards of ethics for state employees and officers, including elected officials
- Provide for amendment, review, and revision
- Provide for fair and adequate representation and periodic reapportionment
The language of the constitution should be understandable to the general public and its organization should be clear and logical. Words should be carefully chosen to insure that the constitution does not contain any ambiguities, or vague and confusing terms. Excessive detail, repetition, and restrictive provisions should be avoided.
(Concurrence, September 1978)
At its 1974 state convention, the League began looking ahead to the 1978 Constitutional Convention by adopting a program which would allow us to address issues such as unicameralism, initiative, and referendum. During 1977, as discussion of Con Con issues began, it became clear that there was a lack of public awareness and agreement about the nature of the state constitution and how much detail it should include. In Spring 1978 the state board decided that the League needed a broader basis than positions on specific issues, in order to decide whether or not to recommend voter ratification of the revised constitution. A committee was formed to prepare background information and a proposed position dealing with the purpose and nature of our constitution. It was presented to the membership and adopted by concurrence.
The position on Hawaii's constitution was reached too late to influence the Con Con's deliberations. However, we did oppose a proposed constitutional amendment requiring a study of Hawaiian history, based on the position that the constitution should not include this kind of detail. The position was also used to evaluate proposed constitutional amendments relating to the legislative process. (See History: Legislative Reform position.)
Hawaii's State Constitution: What Should It Contain? League of Women Voters of Hawaii, July 1978