Model Language for "Democracy Day" Ordinance

This is sample language that is meant to be adjusted according to local interest and ability to enact via council passage or ballot initiative.


AN ORDINANCE PROVIDING THAT THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF ________ SUPPORT THE MOVEMENT TO AMEND THE U.S. CONSTITUTION TO ESTABLISH THAT CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE AND MONEY IS NOT SPEECH AND ALSO PROVIDING FOR ANNUAL PUBLIC HEARINGS ON THESE TOPICS

WHEREAS, free and fair elections are essential to American democracy and effective self-governance; and

WHEREAS, in a 2010 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court overturned some provisions of the federal Campaign Reform Act enacted in 2002, and ruled that corporate entities, and labor unions, have the same rights as individuals to unrestricted spending on political speech; and

WHEREAS, in reaching its decision, a majority of the Supreme Court interpreted the First Amendment of the Constitution to afford corporations the same free speech protection as natural persons; and

WHEREAS, the Court's decision in effect allows unlimited corporate spending to influence campaigns, elections, lawmaking, and public policy decisions; and

WHEREAS, the Court's decision in Citizens United severely restricts the ability of federal, state, and local governments to enact reasonable campaign finance reforms and regulations regarding corporate political activity; and 

WHEREAS, the people of the United States have previously used the constitutional amendment process to correct decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that are widely deemed to be egregious or wrongly decided or significantly out-of-step with the prevailing values of the populace; and

WHEREAS, the preservation and protection of our democracy depend upon the informed participation of the citizens; and 

WHEREAS, local governments have an important role in protecting the integrity of our political processes,

THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED by Initiative by the People of the City of _______, [STATE] that the [CITY] Codified Ordinances be amended to enact a new Chapter, "Democracy Day," which shall read as follows:

Section 1. Beginning in the year _____, the Mayor and City Council shall designate one day in the [DAY/WEEK of MONTH] following the November federal elections as  "Democracy Day: A Call for a U.S. Constitutional Amendment."  On this day, the Mayor and City Council shall sponsor a Public Hearing in a public space within the City. The City shall publicize the Public Hearing on its website and through area media at least one (1) month in advance of the Hearing. The Public Hearing will examine the impact on the City and its residents of corporate rule and political contributions of corporations, unions, Political Action Committees, and Super-PACS. The Mayor and at least one (1) City Councilperson shall submit testimony at the public hearing. In addition, all citizens of [CITY] will be permitted to submit oral testimony for a period of at least five (5) minutes per citizen. The public hearing shall be held during an evening or weekend time. The City shall record the minutes of the hearing and make them available to the public no later than three months after the Hearing by posting them on the City’s website.

Section 2. Within one (1) week following the Public Hearing, the Mayor shall send a letter to the leaders of the [STATE] House and Senate, and [CITY]’s U.S. Congressional Representatives, and both [STATE] U.S. Senators stating that the citizens of [CITY] in [MONTH/YEAR] voted in support of a Citizen's Initiative calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring:

A) Only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with Constitutional rights;

B) Money is not equivalent to speech, and, therefore, regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

Section 3. The annual Public Hearings will continue until a constitutional amendment reflecting the principles set forth in Section 2 is ratified by three-quarters (3/4) of state legislatures.

Section 4. This initiative shall take effect and be included in the City Ordinances at the earliest date permitted.

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