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Creating a Modern Constitution for

the 51st State


by
Jabari Zakiya
jzakiya@gmail.com
Version: 2016/6/16
updated versions available at:
https://www.scribd.com/doc/315584015/Creating-a-Modern-Constitutionfor-the-51st-State

1.

Introduction
I have created this document as a resource guide to thinking about why, what, and how a modern
Constitution can be created to provide the most benefit, for the most people, for the residents of a new
51st State. I started to create this document after attending the Tuesday, June 7, 2016 Statehood
Commission Townhall meeting held at the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum (1925
Vermont Ave NW) and listening to comments about concerns and deficiencies not only in the specific
elements (or omissions) in the proposed draft Constitution, but also in the process itself in seeking,
promoting, and accepting as much public input as possible, from as many demographically diverse
groups as possible.
Though I had come just to listen and learn, after listening to others comments, and having a chance to
browse there through the draft Constitution given out, I requested to testify on a few of the obvious (to
me) things I thought were omitted that I wanted to at least address. Having subsequently reviewed the
whole draft, and other online comments and resources concerning the process and time-line to create
the Constitution, I have put together this document to help provide people a better, more holistic basis,
of things to think about in creating such a profound document as a State Constitution. You generally
only get one time to do it, so its better to take the time to get the general framework as good as
possible to lessen the need for fundamental structural changes and amendments in the future.
In order to do this, my desire would be for people to be as clear and transparent as possible in stating
what the ultimate outcomes they wish to see produced. Historically this has not been the case, as most
governing documents have been created by a set of elites to protect their economic and social interests,
and control and dis-empower those they see as against those interest.
However, we do have an opportunity to produce a Constitution that overcomes many/most of the old
institutionalized thinking and structures, and produce a modern living document whose purpose is to
enfranchise, protect and enable as many people as reasonably possible. We have centuries worth of
knowledge of what does not work (for most people), and thus what we shouldnt do, and now decades
of emerging knowledge and research of better/best practices for achieving better social, economic,
environmental, and loads of other outcomes, through the structure and operation of government.
I see the biggest obstacles to achieving these results (from the people who genuinely want them) is the
lack of faith in people to do it, impatience in putting in the amount of time needed to do it (correctly),
an unwillingness to do thorough research into all the necessary areas and fields of concern, and the
unwillingness, or lack of ability, to change (to not continue to just do what is familiar and comfortable).
Change is hard, but change is inevitable, and everything must change, to evolve and grow.
We have this historic opportunity to create a State Constitution that can include the best of what we
know we should do, to benefit the real lives of as many people as possible, using the best practices and
technology available, to create a lean and efficient government, of, for, and by the people. Its only up
to us to have the vision, will, commitment, and persistence to see that it gets done right.
Jabari Zakiya
June 12, 2016
2.

Why the Current Process is Flawed


The current process that is being used to create and ratify our state constitution is woefully flawed. It
has not included mass education of fundamental issues, and advertisement and promotion to the
citizenry of a clear and open process. It has not used modern technology to create online forums to
discuss specific issues and concepts of what could potentially be in an acceptable constitution for the
masses, or to communicate to as wide a population as possible updates and progress of the process. It
has not involved as many people as possible in all the wards, nor used public facilities, such as libraries
and schools, as public hubs of information creation and exchange, and engagement for the citizenry.
So the process should start over.

A Better Process
In the 21st Century we have more and better tools and resources available to us to use in the process to
create a state constitution than were available in the 1980s when the current draft was created.
Perform Basic Research and Citizenry Education
I think it would be logical, as a first step toward creating a new state constitution, to do research to
study the current 50 state constitutions, and create a comparison chart of how many things they have in
common, and where they differ. This should be done to create a reference baseline from which we can
begin discussions on, and then add to and deviate from in a structured manner.

This basic research should be made widely available (at libraries, etc), and distributed and advertised to
the citizenry, to educate the population on the basic ideas, issues, structures, terminology, etc involved
in making a constitution. A basic Primer on this research then needs to be produced and distributed to
the people. Then people can learn, and become focused and knowledgeable on, how to engage in the
process in an intelligent and informed manner, and know what the process should produce.
Luckily, since we live in the 21st Century, much of this work already exists and is available online.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_U.S._state_governments
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_constitution_(United_States)
Perform Mass Advertisement Campaign and Promotion
For such an important and life affecting activity of creating a state constitution people would have to
live under it has been an eerily silent, secret, non-inclusive and rushed process. There needs to be more
money, effort, and time put into getting the word out to every citizen that this process is taking place.
The people should be in control of the process to produce a document they understand and agree with.

This means there needs to be a massive, and multilingual, media and advertisement campaign to inform
citizens about all aspects of the process. This needs to include TV, radio, and newspaper ads, flyering
throughout the city, information hub drop offs at libraries, schools, rec centers, churches, etc, and social
media use. Every person needs to know this process is taking place and how they can become involved
in it in a real and effective manner.
3.

Draft Constitution Deficiencies


No provisions on taxation
No provision for citizens ability to initiate, propose, and ratify amendments to the Constitution.
A unicameral (one House) vs two bodies (House and Senate).
Only 13 delegates.
Use of disabling concepts, like AMI for economic planning.
Unnecessary maintaining of ANC structure.
No Term Limits
Judiciary how many levels number of judges at each level terms of office appointed/elected

Use of Technology
The appropriate use of technology can greatly streamline government operations and make interfacing
and communicating with citizens more effective and pleasing.
Open source software (OSS), open file standards and protocols, and open and public equipment should
be the primary basis for performing the operations of government. This can facilitate and promote the
practices of open and transparent government operations and data creation, handling, and storage. This
can also facilitate and allow for instances of Direct Democracy, where citizens can vote on appropriate
specific measure directly.
For example, appropriate technology can revamp the voting process into an efficient system which can
speedup the registration and voting process, in a secure and certifiable manner, and produce much
faster and accurate results than currently realizable.
An understanding of the potential benefits (and pratfalls) of technology usage in governmental
operations and delivery of services is essential before constructing the Constitution.

4.

Creating a Modern Constitution


Historically Unique Opportunity
We have the opportunity to research, and take from governments around the world, the best ideas,
practices, policies, and implementations of governments. We are not bound by, or restricted to, the
past, especially when we know certain things dont work (for all) or could be done better (more
efficiently, fairly, less costly, etc).
The current U.S. Constitution is a very flawed document, devised by a small group of white males with
money and/or property, of Anglo Saxon heritage, to promote and maintain their specific economic and
social hegemony and status, independent from British rule and control. When one reads its language
today, and sees All men are created equal.. it was understood by its writers those words were
restricted to mean certain white men (not white women or non-white people of either gender). So the
embedded difference of what the words say, and what they were intended to mean (and for whom) still
causes confusion today on how people interpret their meaning, and thus their application.
We first need to create a process which proactively seeks and respects the ideas and concerns of all the
residents. It should catalog them into categories of constitutional concern and relevance (e.g. voting,
crime and punishment, elections, representation, taxation, education, etc) so they can be discussed and
hashed out in an open and structured manner. There then needs to be a process to reach consensus on
what ideas should be included in the constitution, then subsequently where, and how, they should be
manifested in its written language. This process should occur before even a draft Constitution is
written to ensure it truly reflects the philosophical and conceptual will of the People.
Unfortunately the current process that has created the current draft Constitution has apparently done
very little of this. It starts from drafts Constitutions created in the 1980s through a process that did not
include the voices, and conceptual ideas of government and governance, from a majority of the People.
And for some unexplained reason, there also has been created some artificial rush to ratify this draft
Constitution, even with all its widely recognized deficiencies of its current structure.
It seems part of the reason some of this is being pushed, in this fashion, is fear! Fear that if it isnt
done now we will lose current momentum, or there is only a short window of opportunity if the
Democrats retain the House and/or Senate, or whatever. But history teaches us over and over that
things undertaken and driven by fear generally result in calamity and failure.
What I am proposing ultimately will require a rebooting of the process, but it is essential to creating a
document that stands a chance of pleasing, and serving, the interests and benefits of a majority of the
People of a new state. If done with the right spirit of inclusiveness, appropriate use of modern
technology, and adequate outreach and communication, not only will it produce a true Constitution, of
and for the People, but it will certainly take less than the 30+ years it has now taken to produce the
current deficient draft Constitution placed before us.
Creating a good Constitution is hard, and takes lots of holistic thought, diverse input, and lots of time.
Creating a bad Constitution is much easier. Start with a narrow view of government, focus on process
and not outcomes, limit input from the People, and rush its ratification. So, which one do you want?
5.

Abiding Principles
There must be widely accepted general principles that guide and promote specific desired outcomes the
Constitution should produce. A process must be put in place, and used, to first identify these principles,
and the desired outcomes that should be produced as manifest from them, before the stage of writing
the language and provisions of the Constitution begins.
Language must clear and unambiguous, and required and prohibited outcomes stated.

Conceptual Frameworks
Below are some specific areas I believe all prospective citizens of the new State should have the
opportunity (responsibility) to think about and provide input on before the language drafting stage of
the Constitution creating process occurs. It is imperative that there be a clear philosophical and
conceptual framework of what people want the outcomes of government, and governance, to be.
Language and concepts should be clear, transparent, and consistent, so no hidden agendas, cultural (et
al) misunderstanding, and conflicting outcomes should exist.
Representation
Qualification/criteria of representatives (age, citizenship, etc)
Proportional representation? (gender, partisan percentage, etc)
Number of Houses
Size of each house
Length of terms
Term limits
Length/time of sessions (current is legacy from 18h Century)
Voting
Who will be allowed to vote? (age, criminal/immigrant status, etc)
Automatic voting registration?
Compulsory/Requred voting? (Australia)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_voting
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23810381

What form of voting system should be used?


IRV/RCV (Instant Runoff Voting /Ranked Choice Voting)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting
Elections
Incentivize best, and publicly minded, candidates
Public Financing
Campaign Period
Partisan/Non-partisan

6.

Crime and Punishment


Legalization of drug use (Portugal).
Incarceration and parole.
Classes of offenses
Purpose of punishment
Authority to punish (only government, no private/commercial entities allowed)
Reintegration into society

Taxation and Finance


No state income taxes
Property taxes
State Bank
Budgeting authority and process
Education
State Board of Education (elected, appointed)?
Public financing of public schools only (not private and charter)
Free post High School state institutions

Health & Environment


Single payer healthcare system (government controlled/provided)
Reproduction Rights
Right to a healthy living environment
Sustainable energy

7.

Proposed Alternative Constitution Elements


Preamble
Articles
Specific Elements
Acceptable name of the State
State Bank (as in North Dakota)
No State Income Taxes (as with 9 other states)
Term Limits
Budget creation authority and process (open budgeting process with citizen input)
Privacy (electronic)
Healthcare
Education (who controls, budgeting, curriculum, no public funding of Charters, free
post High School
Incarceration (government only)
Proportional Representation of bi-cameral house
Education as a Right with public control and financing
Rights only for natural persons not artificial entities (corporations, robots, pets, etc).
Supremacy of Rights of People over Corporation and other artificial created or non-human entities.
No outside employment for elected officials
Citizen initiated, controlled amendment process

8.