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Hawaii's State Constitution: What Should it Contain?
League's Con Con Position
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Hawaii's State Constitution: What Should it Contain?


An action program directed toward the Constitutional Convention was laid out this past spring by the State Board, culminating preparation and effort begun three years ago at State Convention 1975.

The Board met to decide which League positions would be appropriate constitutional issues and assigned position papers to be written, which were circulated to all delegates after the Con Con convened. Included are initiative and referendum, retention of the state equal rights amendment, and the structure of education. The State League will lobby the Con Con on these positions and when the Con Con submits its proposals to the electorate, we will speak out as our positions permit.

The Board also felt that the League should have a broader basis than these specific positions, in order to decide whether or not to recommend voter ratification of the revised constitution. Therefore, the Board is proposing, for member concurrence, a position dealing with the purpose and nature of the constitution, and what it should and should not include. Background information has been researched and provided for member understanding and accompanies this issue of Leo Hana.

Our present state constitution meets the requirements the League specifies in the proposed concurrence and is a brief, well-written document of government. The specifics we propose are guidelines for appraising amendments or provisions proposed by the 1978 Constitutional Convention for addition to our constitution. This concurrence will not permit us to address the merits of issues other than those on which we have a position; rather it will allow us to evaluate the product of the convention from an overall point of view to determine if it meets the criteria in our concurrence.

Local Leagues will be meeting in September to present this proposed position statement to their members for concurrence. Hilo League will meet on September 14 at 12 Noon; Kauai League on September 14 at 7:30 P.M.; and Honolulu League on September 26, time to be announced. Results are to be sent to the State Board by September 30, 1978.


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 changing social and economic conditions.

The state constitution should deal with realities and avoid projections of an impossible ideal. Its provisions should be considered to be of a permanent nature, stable and not subject to the need for frequent change 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 the fullest to govern and serve the needs of the people.

The constitution should be the framework which sets forth the structure of government, clearly states the major limitations placed upon governments, and preserves rights to the people. It should:

  1. state the principles regarding the nature and purposes of the state government

  2. state the rights preserved for individual citizens of the state

  3. provide for sufférage and elections

  4. outline the major branches of government

  5. grant each constitutional office the powers necessary to govern

  6. limit the powers of the government in those areas where the people wish to reserve the authority to themselves as the electorate

  7. provide for fiscal responsibility and budgeting procedures

  8. define the powers of local government

  9. provide for the establishment of standards of ethics for state employees and officers, including elected officials

  10. provide for amendment, review, and revision

  11. provide for fair and adequate representation and periodic reapportionment.

The language of the constitution should be understandable to the layman, and its organization should be clear and logical. Words should be carefully chosen to insure that the constitution does not contain ambiguities, vague or confusing terms. Excessive detail, repetition, and restrictive provisions should be avoided.


  1. What is the difference between the workings of a constitutional convention and the workings of a legislature?

  2. What are the advantages and the disadvantages of having a state constitution which contains detailed provisions on many subjects?

  3. What are the advantages and the disadvantages of having a state constitution which contains minimal detail on a limited number of subjects?

(The State Board wishes to thank Nancy Guille, Alice Scott, and Carol Whitesell, who were members of Honolulu's Task Force on the City Charter and who mobilized into action on very short notice to write the concurrence statement and accompanying background information. Thanks are also extended to the many Leaguers who expressed concern and support that we take this important aspect of our Con Con action to our members for their views.)

Hawaii's State Constitution... insert

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