The New Constitution: Ten Amendments for Restoration of Beholden, Democratic Government for the 21st Century

Draft – September 28, 2013

 

Whereas, the United States Constitution was written in excess of 224 years in the past and;

Whereas, the sum effect of adherence to the Document by government, along with the Amendments and judicial interpretations in the intervening time; has been insufficient to prevent the subordination of the political process to dogma, corruption, graft, and partisanship and; 

And Whereas, the people of the United States of America have among their collective recourse to the above grievances the Right to Amend the Constitution if a majority of them shall agree upon a proposed change;

Proposed, a Series of Amendments to the United States Constitution.

 

Article 1. Regulation of Financial Transactions as Speech

Section 1: Financial transactions shall be held as a distinct class of Speech, and shall be subject to limitation and regulation as the law shall direct.

Section 2: All information concerning any and all financial transactions made or agreed to be made between any person or entity and an elected representative, appointed official or legally-empowered public employee, willing candidate for elected office or appointed government position, or any representative or contractor or employee of the office or campaign of any such person; shall be public record. No information concerning such transactions shall ever be withheld from any U.S. citizen seeking access to it. Nor shall any such information under any circumstances be classified, redacted, abridged, or destroyed.

Section 3: Failure by any person subject to Section 2 of this article to honestly and unreservedly disclose to the public information concerning financial transactions subject to this article or to proactively cooperate with requests for information concerning such disclosures or the details of the transactions disclosed, shall be a misdemeanor if negligent and a felony if willful, and shall be punishable as the law shall direct.

Section 4: Congress shall adhere to this article and shall enforce it by appropriate legislation, as necessary.

 

Article 2. Regulation of Campaign Finance

Section 1: No person or entity shall donate or bequeath, either directly or by means of a living or non-living intermediary, to any Candidate running for office in a constituency in which he or she has no standing to vote.

Section 2: No Candidate or Incumbent running for election shall ever use his or her own personal funds, or the personal funds of a spouse, family member, or confederate; in excess of a combined, campaign-long total of  the equivalent of ten thousand U.S. dollars in the year 2013.

Section 3: Any candidate for any elected office who, as of 24 hours prior to the opening of the polls, shall have had more than one-tenth of one percent of his or her total accepted campaign funds donated by any one person or entity shall be stricken from the ballot.

Section 4: At no time shall any person induce another to donate funds to a Candidate or Incumbent by means of coercion, reprisal, withholding, or the infliction of any form of deprivation or duress. Such conduct shall be considered a felony and shall be punishable as the law shall direct. 

Section 5: Congress shall adhere to this article and shall enforce it by appropriate legislation, as necessary.

 

Article 3. Regulation of Official Speech

Section 1: The speech of elected representatives and of appointed officials shall be held as a distinct class of Speech, subject to limitation.

Section 2: Elected representatives and appointed officials shall ensure that any and all statements made by them which are directed toward or which may be communicated to the public or their constituents or to the press are accurate, factual, and as complete as possible while protecting properly classified information. 

Section 3: Official speech, out of respect for the rights of all religious practitioners and of abstainers, shall advocate no particular religion or particular solely religious doctrine.

Section 4: Congress shall adhere to this article and shall enforce it by appropriate legislation, as necessary.

 

Article 4. Separation of Church and State

Section 1: The government at all levels and all entities funded or overseen by the government at any level shall operate in a manner entirely irrespective of the personal or private religious convictions of those persons elected or appointed to them, and conduct themselves in a manner entirely unbiased either toward or against the practice of religion or of abstinence therefrom.

Section 2: No legislation, public policy, executive order, court decision, or Constitutional Amendment while this article remains in effect; shall be informed by religion, comprised in whole or in part of solely religious doctrine, or shall give protection to the practice of any religion without extending the same protection to all persons and philosophies, including religious abstainers and philosophies of religious abstention.

Section 3: Congress shall adhere to this article and shall enforce it by appropriate legislation, as necessary.

 

Article 5. Definition of Congressional Districts and Assignment of Representatives

Section 1: Voting district boundaries within the States at all levels and for all branches of government shall be determined by the Shortest Split-Line Algorithm, and shall not be subject to changes by legislation or official mandate. The boundaries shall be adjusted using the Algorithm upon ratification of this article and thereafter each Census year only. The Census Bureau shall have the responsibility for tabulating the results of redistricting, this process being completed within 180 days from the ratification of this article and thereafter within 180 days from the issuance of each Census. Altered districts shall become effective upon the intervention of an election.

Section 2: The Seventeenth Amendment to this Constitution is hereby superseded. The U.S. Senators shall be nominated by the Governor of each State from among the members of that State’s Legislature, subject to the selectee’s acceptance and a simple majority confirmation vote by the other members of that State’s Legislature. The Governor of a State may recall one or both of that State’s Senators, subject to a simple majority confirmation-of-recall by the Legislature. Recalled Senators shall continue to serve  in all capacities until a replacement has been selected and confirmed, unless the U.S. Senate shall resolve by at least a three-quarters majority that the recalled Senator should be immediately disempowered due to demonstrable professional or legal misconduct. Senators shall be subject to reconfirmation by the Legislature of their State every two years. 

Section 3: No person shall serve as Senator for more than six consecutive years nor for more than twelve total years during his or her lifetime.

Section 4: Anyone confirmed as a U.S. Senator shall leave his or her seat in the State Legislature from which he or she was dispatched. State Legislature seats vacated in this way shall be filled as the laws  and Constitution of the State in question shall dictate.

Section 5: The number of seats in the House of Representatives shall be determined using the “Wyoming Rule”, which states that the representative-to-population ratio of all the States shall be that of the State with the smallest total population.

Section 6: No person shall serve as a Representative in the House of Representatives for more than eight consecutive years nor for more than sixteen total years during his or her lifetime.

Section 7: No person shall be eligible for service in either House of Congress if he or she shall have served in the other House of Congress within the last two years.

Section 8: No person shall serve more than a combined total of twenty years across both Houses of Congress during his or her lifetime.

Section 9: Congress shall adhere to this article and shall enforce it by appropriate legislation, as necessary.

 

Article 6. Compensation of Elected Representatives

Section 1:  The Twenty-Seventh Amendment to this Constitution is hereby repealed. 

Section 2: Elected Representatives’ yearly salaries shall at no time exceed one and a half times the average yearly income, after taxes, of their constituents, to include the unemployed. Salaries subject to this article shall be tabulated and set every January 1st.

Section 3: No elected representative shall be afforded any benefit or coverage if at least 70% of his or her constituents do not also receive that benefit or coverage. Elected Representatives may purchase, out-of-pocket, any legally-permissible benefit they cannot be afforded due to this article.

Section 4: No elected representative shall draw a pension related to that office. Outgoing elected representatives may be entitled to a severance payment equal to up to 180 days’ current wages, per term served, subject to a simple majority direct confirmation vote by his or her constituents at the time he or she leaves office. Additionally, outgoing elected representatives shall be eligible to draw unemployment benefits in accordance with the laws of their respective State. No special privileges shall be enacted for outgoing elected representatives pursuant to unemployment benefits.

Section 5: Any attempt by any incumbent elected representative or appointed official or legally-empowered public employee, or candidate for any such office or position, to leverage his or her position, authority, or powers of office to gain additional income either while in office or thereafter shall be a felony, and both the official and any other involved parties shall be punished as the law shall direct. 

Section 6: Congress shall adhere to this article and shall enforce it by appropriate legislation, as necessary.

 

Article 7. Selection, Mandatory Recusal, and Impeachment of Supreme Court Justices

Section 1: Selection

Subsection 1.1: When a vacancy shall occur on the U.S. Supreme Court, seven new potential Justices per vacant seat shall be nominated from among the current set of sitting Federal District Court Judges, Federal Appeals Court Judges including the Federal Circuit, and State Supreme Court Justices.

Subsection 1.2: Potential Justice nomination and confirmation shall be determined by a tiered process: 

1.2.1. First, a master ballot shall be compiled of all eligible judges. From this ballot, each eligible judge shall nominate seven eligible judges other than him or herself. The thirty-five judges with the most nominations shall be advanced to the second tier. 

1.2.2. The second tier shall consist of of an Instant Runoff Vote in which all judges named on the master ballot, with the exception of the thirty-five nominees, shall rank the nominees from one to thirty-five, with their top remaining choice receiving a single transferable vote. 

1.2.3. Once all rankings are submitted, the bottom-ranked individual shall be eliminated, with all votes cast for him or her transferred automatically to the next highest remaining choice on each affected ballot. 

1.2.4. This process shall repeat until the field shall have been narrowed to seven nominees. The seven nominees shall be placed on a final ballot. 

1.2.5. Both Houses of Congress, in joint session and using a special session if necessary, shall select a new Justice from among the seven options submitted and shall not recess until their selection is confirmed. A simple majority standard shall be used to confirm a Justice. 

Subsection 1.3: The President may veto a confirmation up to twice per Supreme Court seat, subject to override by a two-thirds-majority vote of both Houses of Congress in joint session. 

Subsection 1.4: If Congress recesses following a confirmation and the President then vetoes the confirmation, there shall be triggered an automatic special session of Congress which shall not adjourn until the veto has been overridden or a new Justice confirmed from among the remaining options. 

Subsection 1.5: The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be that Justice with the longest length of service on the Supreme Court.

Section 2: Mandatory Recusal

Subsection 2.1: Being the final Court of Appeal in the United States, and having effectively no oversight, Supreme Court Justices shall recuse themselves from any and all cases in which their private dealings may result in a bias or a demonstrable conflict of interest. 

Subsection 2.2: Supreme Court Justices shall disclose all their personal doings and dealings. These disclosures shall be public records, and shall never be withheld from any U.S. citizen seeking access to them. Nor shall any such disclosure under any circumstances be classified, redacted, abridged, or destroyed.

Subsection 2.3: If any Supreme Court decision, ruled upon by the Supreme Court subsequent to the ratification of this article, can be empirically shown to be tainted by the participation of a Justice or Justices who should have been recused, that decision shall be held as void. The process for making this determination shall be as follows:

2.3.1. Any United States citizen may file a motion to void a Supreme Court decision which he or she can prove has affected him or her, and for which he or she can demonstrate plausible grounds for the mandatory recusal of a Justice who ruled in such decision. Such motions must be filed in federal district court. 

2.3.2. If the district judge agrees that the citizen has standing, and that there is sufficient cause to merit further inquiry, the case shall move to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. 

2.3.3. If the appellate judges confirm that there is cause for inquiry, then the case shall be sent for inquiry to all the Circuit Courts of Appeals, in concert with the Department of Justice. 

2.3.4. If at least three-fourths of all the Appeals Court judges feel that, in light of facts uncovered by the  inquiry and subject to a beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard of proof, that a Justice or Justices should have been recused, then the decision challenged shall be void.

2.3.5. If the Justice Department, having worked in concert with the Appellate Court inquiries, determines that there is cause to suspect criminal wrongdoing related to the conduct of the Justice or Justices whose participation in the questioned decision was determined to be improper; it may place a motion to impeach resolution before the House of Representatives, whereupon it shall proceed as described in Section 3 of this article.

Subsection 2.4: Voided decisions may be re-heard by the Supreme Court, with the Justice or Justices previously in question properly recused. 

Subsection 2.5: No Supreme Court decision shall be twice considered for voiding on the same grounds.

Section 3: Impeachment of Supreme Court Justices

Subsection 3.1: If it can be shown that a Supreme Court Justice has engaged in gross, unpardonable judicial misconduct or is, in the prevailing judicial opinion, immitigably compromised by ethical fault, conflict of interest, or willing corruption; that Justice may be impeached.

Subsection 3.2: The following procedure may be used to impeach a Justice meeting the above qualification:

3.2.1. A motion to impeach must be introduced as a resolution in the House of Representatives where it must receive approval by at least a simple majority majority in order to be sent to the Senate. 

3.2.2. Once the Senate receives a motion to impeach from the House, it shall pass or reject it using the same simple majority standard. 

3.2.3. The President shall be informed of motions approved by the House and Senate, and may veto such motions, subject to override by a two-thirds majority of each House of Congress, or by a unanimous vote of either House of Congress. 

3.2.4. Motions approved by the House and Senate and not effectively vetoed or by the President shall be advanced to the thirteen Federal Courts of Appeals. The Appellate Court Judges shall individually weigh the charges  and the evidence against the Justice in question, and shall each issue a concise opinion as to whether the Justice in question should be removed from the bench. 

3.2.5. If at least three-quarters of the Appellate Judges render opinions in favor of removal, the Justice in question shall be removed.

Subsection 3.3: Appellate Judges shall render opinions concerning motions to impeach within 90 days of their submission.

Subsection 3.4: Justices who are the subject of motions to impeach which are being considered by the Appellate Judges shall be recused from all decisions until either removed or retained.

Subsection 3.5: In all cases, motions to impeach shall specify in detail the particular conduct of the Justice which it is argued merits impeachment.

Subsection 3.6: If the impeachment, recusal, or voluntary abstention, in any case, of any Justice or Justices shall cause the Supreme Court to be comprised of fewer than five total Justices; the Supreme Court shall refrain from ruling on any question put before it until a quorum of at least five total Justices shall have been reattained.

Subsection 3.7: All records and communications concerning motions to impeach a Justice shall be public record. No information concerning such proceedings shall ever be withheld from any U.S. citizen seeking access to it. Nor shall any such information under any circumstances be classified, redacted, abridged, or destroyed.

Subsection 3.8: No Justice shall twice face a motion for impeachment on the grounds of the same specific incident or conduct.

Section 4: Congress shall adhere to this article and shall enforce it by appropriate legislation, as necessary.

 

Article 8. Funding the Government and Payment of the National Debt

Section 1: Congress shall allocate funds to pay the nation’s debts, sufficient to avoid default on those debts. 

Section 2: Whenever the federal government shall have incurred debt in excess of 50% of it’s annual income from taxes, 5% of the principal of the debt shall be paid prior to federal funds being budgeted for any other purpose. Separately, the federal budget shall include funds set aside to pay down the principal of the national debt by at least 2.5% each year, regardless of amount.

Section 3: Failure by Congress to pass a new federal budget by midnight preceding the expiration date of the current one shall result in the previous budget being automatically renewed for a full year, and in all sitting members of Congress at the time of the failure being docked 50% of their pay and benefit amounts for that year. Funds re-allocated from Congressional salaries and benefits in this manner shall be paid toward the principal of the national debt. 

Section 4: Failure by Congress to avert default on any part of the nation’s debt by other means shall result in every line item in the current federal budget being reduced in funding in 5 percent increments evenly across the board until sufficient funds are set aside to avoid default. Any excess of funds set aside in this way shall be paid toward the principal of the national debt.

Section 5: Congress shall adhere to this article, and shall enforce it by appropriate legislation, as necessary.

 

Article 9. No Immunity from Prosecution for Government Officials

Section 1: No elected representative shall receive immunity from prosecution for any act which he or she shall have committed while he or she was in office.

Section 2: No elected representative shall be eligible for pardon or commutation of sentence for convictions related to conduct he or she engaged in while in office. 

Section 3: No public official accused of a crime shall receive immunity from investigation or from prosecution due to his or her position. 

Section 4: All allegations of misconduct by a public official or elected representative at any level shall be assessed and if corroborated or deemed credible, shall be fully investigated by qualified and impartial authorities.

Section 5: At no time shall any allegations of misconduct by elected representatives or public officials be assessed or investigated internally by any entity to which the accused individual belongs. Such assessments and investigations shall be carried out by an entity sufficiently removed from the accused individual and from any entities to which the accused individual belongs so as to remain objective and impartial.

Section 6: Any failure by any accused individual or entity to which that individual belongs to fully and unreservedly cooperate with any assessment or investigation; or any attempt by any individual or entity, without exception, to dishonestly influence the outcome of any assessment or investigation of any allegation of misconduct shall be a felony, punishable as the law shall direct.

Section 7: Congress shall adhere to this article and shall enforce it by appropriate legislation, as necessary.

 

Article 10. The Right to Privacy

Section 1: Every person who is on or within private property which he or she owns in whole or in part or in which he or she legally abides and who is situated on or in such property in such a way that he or she is out of the immediate view and hearing of the public; shall have a right to privacy. 

Section 2: All forms of person-to-person electronic, digital, or telephonic communication shall be considered private, and information contained therein shall be protected from search or seizure in accordance with the Fourth Amendment to this Constitution.

Section 3: Providers of social-media services shall proactively safeguard the information transmitted using their services and shall never use such information commercially without the express, specific consent of the originator of that information and shall provide such originators with reasonable compensation for the use of such information, to be defined as the law shall dictate.

Section 4: No elected or appointed official or legally-empowered public employee shall be entitled to any expectation of privacy at any time or under any circumstances, while invested with the powers or responsibilities of office or position. No law enforcement official not meeting the preceding criteria shall be entitled to any expectation of privacy at any time  or under any circumstances, while acting in his or her professional or empowered capacity. 

Section 5: Congress shall adhere to this article and shall enforce it by appropriate legislation, as necessary.

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