July 24, 2008
By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney
You asked for the history of and procedures for a Connecticut Constitutional Convention.
A constitutional convention is a meeting of a select group of people, called delegates, to review a state's constitution for possible modifications or revisions, including the adoption of an entirely new constitution. There are no restrictions on the issues that may be discussed at a constitutional convention.
In Connecticut, there are two ways to call a constitutional convention. The General Assembly may, by a two-thirds vote in each chamber, provide for the convening of a convention. Additionally, every 20 years after a convention or vote on whether to convene one Connecticut voters decide whether a convention should be convened at a regularly scheduled general election.
Connecticut's last constitutional convention was held on July 1, 1965 at the behest of then-Governor John Dempsey. Governor Dempsey called the 1963 General Assembly into special session in November 1964 to enact legislation calling for a constitutional convention. Delegates at the convention proposed constitutional amendments to redistrict the state Senate and to develop a reapportionment plan for the state House of Representatives. For more information on the 1965 constitutional convention see attached OLR Reports 86-R-0395 and 86-R-0972.
Twenty years after the 1965 constitutional convention, in 1986, voters were asked at the general election if they approved calling a constitutional convention. A majority of those voting voted “no” so the convention was not convened. Voters will be asked at this year's upcoming state election in November whether they approve calling a constitutional convention. Some voters have expressed an interest in amending the constitution to give citizens the right to directly petition their government through the initiative and referendum process.
CONVENING A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION IN CONNECTICUT
At least 10 years after the immediate past constitutional convention, the General Assembly may, upon an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the membership in each chamber, provide for the convening of a constitutional convention to amend or revise the state constitution.
Additionally, state electors must be asked to vote on whether they want a constitutional convention to amend or revise the state constitution at the regular general election in the even-numbered year immediately after the 20th anniversary of the last constitutional convention or the date electors were last asked the question, whichever occurs later.
If the General Assembly or state electors vote to convene a convention, the convention must be convened within one year of the affirmative vote calling for it. The General Assembly must, by a two-thirds vote in each chamber, prescribe by law the manner for selecting convention delegates and the date for convening and adjourning the convention.
If, at the conclusion of the convention, there are proposed constitutional amendments, the proposals must be presented to the voters in a referendum no later than two months after the convention adjourns. The proposals may be presented as a whole or in such parts and with such alternatives as the convention may determine. Any proposal approved by a majority of the electors voting on the question is valid and becomes a part of the state constitution 30 days after the referendum vote, unless otherwise provided in the proposal (Ct. Const., Art. 13th).