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SCV legislators split on push for constitutional convention

Local Democrats support move to overturn ‘Citizens United’ Supreme Court decision

Posted: June 26, 2014 4:27 p.m.
Updated: June 26, 2014 4:27 p.m.

The Santa Clarita Valley’s representatives in the state Legislature split along party lines in a recent effort to petition Congress to hold a constitutional convention regarding the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court case.

The effort, Assembly Joint Resolution 1, was introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, in December 2012 and calls for a constitutional convention “for the sole purpose of proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would limit corporate personhood for purposes of campaign finance and political speech and would further declare that money does not constitute speech and may be legislatively limited.”

Such a move would be in response to the Citizens United decision — a 2010 Supreme Court decision that ruled restricting independent political spending by labor unions or corporations constituted a violation of freedom of speech.

The joint resolution has been approved by both houses of the California Legislature, with Senate approval coming this week.

“Most Americans are fed up with the notion that money is speech and that moneyed interests can drown out the speech of average citizens,” Gatto said in a statement this week.

The Assemblyman said California is the second state, after Vermont, to pass a resolution requesting Congress hold such a constitutional convention. The Legislature in Illinois is considering a similar measure, he said.

Two-thirds of state legislatures would need to pass resolutions calling for a constitutional convention for one to take place.

“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 Gatto in the statement. “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.”

Santa Clarita Valley legislators split on the item. Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, voted against the resolution and Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, voted in favor of it when it passed the state Assembly in January.

“It’s already been ruled that campaign contributions are considered political speech, and political speech is free speech,” Wilk said Wednesday.

Wilk said he can understand people’s concerns about money in politics, but he thinks the focus should be on transparency.

“I think people have the right to participate in politics with their money, but I think everyone has the right to know who is participating,” he said.

The two senators who represent portions of the Santa Clarita Valley were also split on the matter.
Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, voted in favor of the resolution.

“Unlimited spending by corporations gives ordinary citizens less of a voice and undermines our system of self-government,” Pavley said of her vote.

Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, voted against it.

“I don’t know that I agree that corporations are people, but the Supreme Court made a decision and, just like the Supreme Court has made a whole lot of decisions I don’t agree with, it is their decision,” he said.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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