Pennsylvania

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THE CONSTITUTION

 

History 

    The Constitution went into effect in 1791.

    It is the supreme law of the land.

    Written more than 220 years ago, still outlines our system of government.

    The Constitution allows the Federal government to bind states into a nation.

 

Federalism 

The Constitution establishes a government based on Federalism, where two or more entities share control over the same geographic region. 

 

Federal, State, County, and Local governments operate in overlapping territories, but each address different issues. It is a ladder of power, with the most wide-reaching power at the top with the Federal government. It is a set of sieves for issues - sift out large issues for the Federal, more regional issues for the State, and smaller issues that affect a small area for Local action.

 

If you need help with a local issue, go to your local offices. Similarly, if you need to address an issue that is state-wide, or national, go to your state or national representatives for help.

 

Division of Power in the Federal Government

    Three Branches: Legislative, Executive, Judicial

    Checks and Balances

        The Constitution gives certain powers to each branch, not to all branches

        Avoids too much power in one place

        Each branch checks the others

 

Amendment Process

    Allows for changes in Constitution making it a ‘living document’

        Requires 2/3 of each House of Congress & a majority of state legislators

        the current majority requires 38 state legislatures to adopt a change    

    First ten amendments are called the Bill of Rights (included immediately - 1791)

    Important for anti-federalists who wanted their rights written into the constitution

        3rd thru 15th: Civil rights (over about 70 years: 1791 - 1870)

        21st and 18th: Prohibition (14 years apart: 1919 to 1933)

        19th: Women’s right to vote (1920)

        25th: Presidential Succession - (1967 after the Kennedy assassination)

        26th: 18-yr-old vote (1971 because of Viet Nam - draft age was 18)

    What we need to do…

        Become familiar with the Constitution and its Amendments

        Understand Federalism

        Know what it takes to amend the Constitution