Cleaning up the constitution...

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Gwyneth Llewelyn
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Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

While editing the Constitution for the purposes of clarifying what the RA has actually voted upon last Sunday, I found that we have so many patches in it, that some don't make any sense at all :) Jamie's proposed changes were just to make sure that candidates could run for elections for the RA without being faction members. While factions were not abolished — the right of peaceful assembly for political reasons is a fundamental universal right! — they now don't have automatic ties to the RA membership; that is, if the 7-day-votes don't vote against the change (which is unlikely) or the SC doesn't ratify these.

There are, however, a lot of things that are "leftovers" from the past that ought simply be stricken out. The most fundamental bit of "constitutional garbage" is the frequent reference to the Artisanal Collective (the former Guild) which doesn't exist any longer as a body of Government. There were good reasons for leaving some reference for it. The Executive effectively "took over" (in the good sense of the word!!) most of the constitutional responsibilities of the Artisanal Collective, and since some laws still made reference to it, it made sense to add a few words on the Constitution to remind that the change has retroactive effects on those laws mentioning powers of the AC — which would be neatly transferred to the Executive instead.

After such a long time in having an Executive (over two years now, gosh!), I think it's time that the references to the old Artisanal Collective should be deleted from the Constitution. I suggest that it is just briefly referred at Art II, Section 9 - AC Overlap.

It is usually felt — by the older citizens at least — that the so-called "New Guild" in a way "replaces" the old Artisanal Collective. But this is not strictly correct. The "New Guild" is a chartered NGO, independent of political struggles, and without Government status. The charter defines its role and relationship as an advisory body and a source for building/development contracts, as well as the limits to its membership (which the Constitution duplicates, but for the old, non-existing AC). Thus I think it's irrelevant and perhaps confusing to list the same things on the Constitution and I suggest that they be deleted.

In the past, a certain committee, allegedly led by a very lazy procrastinator (yours truly :) ), was supposed to review possible changes to the Constitution, as well as redefining citizenship. Since that committee has long been disbanded (they only exist for a term, unless re-instated), I guess that this would mean there is no clear group "endowed" with the burden of proposing suggestions to it.

Citizenship, indeed, was shortly brought up recently in connection to the zero-price land sales. It was argued by a few (namely, Jamie, who definitely convinced me with his arguments; but he was not the only one) that the land price is set relatively arbitrarily, and the mere buying of land is not a good measure of citizenship status (think about speculators, for instance!). On the other hand, regularly paying tier, which is the basis upon which our CDS budget is founded (because, at the very least, that's how we pay Linden Lab for our sims!), is a far better foundation for citizenship. I tend now to agree. Tier, for instance, is not subject to speculation: it is set by Government. Land sale prices can be originally set by Government, but it can vary due to speculation. Land sales can be seen as mostly a "commodity" that can be traded in a free market, and tying citizenship to the ownership of a commodity seems now to me to be a bit strange. It's like if we stipulated that to become a citizen you had to buy, say, a plywood cube for L$10.000! On the other hand, a citizen that continues to invest money every month by paying tier fees has a more "solid" claim on citizenship. It's by staying around and paying tier that a citizen shows that they value their original property and continue to give grounds for enforcement — their investment in time and money is more directly reflected in the tier payments than on the initial land sale.

Similarly, the status of "group-based" citizens is at least... confusing. We have laws allowing two citizens, each having their own plots and paying their own tier, to form a group that holds all plots, and remain citizens nevertheless, even if their original plots have vanished and are now group-owned plots. This has been seen as a potential for abuse: all it takes is for a bunch of citizens to buy microparcels (which are not available any more, but you get my point...), join a group, then sell all the parcels to a single citizen who will pay tier on their behalf, discard the original plots, but remain citizens of the CDS, with full voting rights. Now the law originally was created to allow citizens to partner together and, to a degree, enjoy a larger common parcel beyond the legal limits of the 4096 m2 per sim. Due to the restrictions on the way groups work, the law currently in force (NL 5-9) recognised citizens the right to create groups to represent their common land ownership, so long as each group member at least contributes L$100 to monthly tier fees. Again, you can see how even this law gives more emphasis on "tier" payments than on "paying to buy a land plot" as the criterium for continuing to be a citizen.

With all the above in mind, here go my proposed changes:

Preamble: change "SL" to "Second Life (SL)" and "ToS" to "Terms of Service (ToS)" to ensure a proper reading.

Art I
Section 1: Replace "city" by "regions administered by the CDS"
Section 2:

  • Number each paragraph with (a), (b), (c)

  • Eliminate the sentence "* Dates recently changed by RA, and these take effect after the next general election. The first RA elections where candidates are not required to be a member of any faction will be for the term starting June 1, 2010" (which is just a note really)

Section 3:

  • Replace "anuual" with "annual" :)

  • Put "pro tempore" in italics.

Section 6: After "Constitutional amendments require a 2/3 vote" replace "an absolute supermajority vote of two-thirds" (this is what was always intended; while "simple majority" automatically assumes "of members present", "2/3 vote" is not clear that all members have to be counted, not only present ones.
Section 7:

  • Also number each paragraph/sentence with (a), (b), (c)

  • Replace "The RA can amend the constitution with a 2/3 vote." with "The RA can amend the constitution with "an absolute supermajority vote of two-thirds" (see above). This is technically redundant to list here, as Sec 6. already lists it. To be discussed.

Section 8:

  • Add (a), (b), etc.

  • Eiminate "Chancellor" and "Guildmaster" and replace with "Executive"

Article II - The Executive

Section 4: Eliminate "of Neufriestadt or any other" and replace simply by "of any" (it's time we stop giving importance to Neufreistadt :) )
Section 5:

  • Add (a), (b), (c) etc

  • Delete: "This provision shall come into force with the next RA election following passage and ratification of this amendment. (ed. note: the Seventh RA)" since it is already in force and we don't need the reminder any longer.

  • Remove "The Chancellor may hold a position in the Artisanal Collective but may not vote therein." since the Artisanal Collective doesn't exist any longer (note that the New Guild's charter already forbids the Chancellor to vote in it).

Section 6:

  • Replace "by at least a two-thirds majority" with "by an absolute supermajority of two-thirds".

  • Replace "web forums or wiki" by "any official web presence of the CDS" (the wiki is not being used any longer, and we might migrate to different technologies and leave the forums

Section 7: Again, replace "by at least a two thirds vote" with "by an absolute supermajority of two-thirds".
Section 9: Just requires a clarification. We haven't amended all past laws that still have "Artisanal Collective" in it, so this section has sadly to stay. So the clarification is just to replace "assigned to the Artisan's Collective" with "assigned to the extinct branch known as 'Artisan's Collective' which is still mentioned on the Code of Laws".

Article III
Section 2 - I think that each sentence should also be labelled (a), (b), (c) etc. and the phrase "can be voted out with a 2/3 majority" should be changed to "can be voted out with an absolute supermajority of two-thirds". Note that there is a subtle difference between "Professors" and "Chairs", which the SC really never cared much about: the idea is that Professors have all the rights as Chairs except the right to vote on ratifications or to hold trials. Since we never had a SC with more than 9 members, this separation of roles never existed.
Section 4 - likewise, "with the concurrence of two-thirds" to be replaced with: "with an absolute supermajority vote of two-thirds".
Section 8 - To be consistent, 1., 2., 3. ought to be (a), (b), (c).
Section 9 - replace "with a 2/3 majority" with "with an absolute supermajority vote of two-thirds"

Article V
Section 1 - There has been some confusion about who sets the dates. Recently, the SC has pushed the elections in the future because there were not enough candidates. Technically, it's the RA that sets the dates. However, the Constitution says: "[...]whose duration will be fixed by the RA by passing appropriate laws." Now if it's a law, it always needs ratification by the SC. One assumes that a law formerly passed to set a date, if not changed, will continue to be in effect, but this is arguable. Perhaps we need a clarification here: what happens if the RA hasn't set a date?

Section 3 needs a title, I suggest "Eligibility"

Article VI
Section 1 should be numbered (a), (b), (c) for consistency.

Now the more profound changes...
New (b) (insert after the existing 1.) The title to land is considered to be held for as long as a citizen duly pays his or her fees according to the size and location of the parcel of land held ("tier fees"). The amount and periodicity of due fees is to be determined by law and enforced by the Executive.
(c) Citizenship is personal, granted to a single individual, and not transferrable or negotiable. For the purposes of Second Life, one and only one avatar is considered to represent an individual's citizenship grant.

[Notes: The idea is that the "grant of title of land in the CDS" is an act that is not tied to a single moment (ie. buying a parcel), but is a process, defined in terms of SL as "paying tier". You might remember that a citizen is only allowed to vote 28 days after they have bought a parcel. This would be consistent with paying the first tier after the first month; only that would actually validate the continuing status of "being a citizen".

This also mirrors some national legislation, where members of associations are only considered to be "voting members" (or eligible members to the organisation's Board or other bodies) with full membership status so long as they pay their fees. You might be charged an "entry fee" to an organisation like that (which pays for administrative charges, e.g. entering your name on a database, giving you a membership card, etc.), but it's the recurring "membership fee" that actually determines your membership status. Delinquent members have no right; c.f. what happens if you don't pay your land tier fees to LL and what happens to your belongings in SL when you stop paying your fees :)

Furthermore, it doesn't preclude — or eliminate — NL 5-9. Under my proposed VI. 1. (b), laws would fix the amount of recurrent fees that a citizen has to pay to continue to be a citizen, so long as that fee is understood to grant entitlement to land. NL 5-9 does precisely that: group-owned land is land held by citizens; by owning land, fees are not exactly paid "by parcel" but by different rules, but fees are still paid. My proposed constitutional change does not violate NL 5-9 either. It just makes clear that you can't simply join a group and be a citizen; you have to have had citizen status before, join a group, and be enrolled to pay monthly tier fees (which would just be part of the total amount for that parcel of land]

Delete Article VII - The Judiciary (repealed); since it was repealed, there is no reason to keep a note of it :)

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Rose Springvale
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Re: Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Rose Springvale »

Gwyneth,
Thanks for looking through this work... it clearly needs clean up again. Three thoughts:

1. Cleaning up the language is fine, but are 2/3 majority and "an absolute super majority" really interchangeable? Does this mean that if the RA is down a member for whatever reason, that no constitutional amendments can be made until after a by election? Perhaps better would be "2/3 majority of RA members seated and eligible to vote?" I can envision situations where members might recuse themselves from the vote as well.

2. If our laws still have out of date language, i think that rather than retain the explanatory language in the Constitution, (Artisanal Guild) the better practice is to go ahead and review those laws now, too, and update everything.

3. I think the citizenship issue needs to have full exposure and consideration. I suggest we open the question of citizenship to a commission, and not try to guess what we meant then, but what suits our needs now,particularly in light of the different treatment that the two projects, CDS/AA have given to this definition, as well as the different methodologies used for the payment of tier. I don't think tying that question to a "clean up" bill makes much sense.

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Re: Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Hi Rose... yes, it definitely needs some cleaning up.

1. Your point is well made. I suppose that the idea is: the RA only has to meet monthly (amendment passed last weekend). Thus, if there is a vacancy, by-elections are called, and that means about a month for elections etc. So that member would be able to vote on the subsequent RA on a 2/3 vote. In practice, however, we have more than one meeting per month, so you're right, this would imply "lame duck" sessions until there are enough members in the RA again (imagining the worst case scenario, e.g. so many members leave vacancies that you don't manage to get 2/3 of the seats even if all remaining members present).

The idea of a supermajority was really to make sure that critical changes are very hard to make — and very hard to revoke :) — and that "more than a quorum" is needed. E.g. imagine the following scenario under your suggestion: 6 members out of 11 are present.They revoke the constitution with 4 votes. Thus, only 4 out of 11 members, or just 36.3% of all the representatives, are able to make crucial decisions — e.g. instead of a "2/3" vote, a bit more than one third could change everything. The current assumption was that in the case of a constitutional amendment, at least 8 of 11 members have to say "yay" to it (even if just via 7-day-votes). I personally still prefer that interpretation. But, of course, this is open to discussion :)

We could, for instance, add that in the case there are suddenly 1/3 of vacancies, we'd have to run a general election and not merely a by-election for all those seats...

2. You're RIGHT! :) Ok, I'd definitely prefer that suggestion. Since this will probably be a very friendly amendment, I imagine that all we need to do is enact a bill to update the language of all other laws. It just takes time to gather them all (there are several bugs on the links from the portal, but most links can be "guessed" at) and condense all changes in a single bill. I'm all for it :)

3. Yes... ultimately you're right... again, I just remembered that we had several commissions on citizenship... the earliest was in 2007... and we never came to a result. My suggestion was to allow a "quick fix" that would be consistent with the logic behind the "zero land sales" recently passed and add the notion of a personal tie to a vote (instead of the assumed tie with an avatar). That should be a start. But sure, I'd be fine in suggesting a new commission for the next term instead of discussing this right now.

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Re: Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Rose Springvale »

Quick clarification.. on 1. I said>.." seated and eligible" meaning if there are 11 members elected and serving, even though 13 may be the full constituency (having 2 resignations) (so 11 are "seated") or if there are 13 and one member has a conflict of interest and recuses (say it is a vote on citizenship disallowed by group membership, and this member only has citizenship through group. Or easier, say it is an amendment to merge outside cds land owned by an RA member(is that constitutional level? idk, you get the idea) it would be inappropriate for that RA member to vote, and recusal would be appropriate (therefore ineligible). Contrast this with 'present and voting" which would be used to compute the simple majority of a standard meeting.

I'd love to know the history of our constitution... was it drafted by committee?

Also, on 3. Remember the 0 L land sale law expires by its own terms at the end of this term. RA will have to act to reinstate it. In the meantime i'm happy to report that our land sales have been generating quite a bit of interest and we have added some great new citizens. Looking forward to giving a full report next term.

By the way, i think that the constitutional amendment from Sunday has now received the necessary 8th vote.

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Re: Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Aliasi Stonebender »

Rose Springvale wrote:

I'd love to know the history of our constitution... was it drafted by committee?

Since the RA does constitute a sort of committee by default, quite so.

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Re: Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Sudane Erato »

Rose Springvale wrote:

I'd love to know the history of our constitution... was it drafted by committee?

Ulrika wrote the constitution sometime in Oct/Nov 2004. She then published it to the existing Neualtenburg community and invited suggestions. A few revisions were made, followed by elections, if I recall correctly, in Dec, and the convening of the first RA in Jan 2005.

Gwyn may recall more of the original revision process, but it was not extensive. The document is in essence Ulrika's work.

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Re: Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Welllllllllll...... saying that "Ulrika wrote it" is perhaps stretching the point too far :) It was a 6-week-forum-discussion participated by 40-50 people, not all of them at the same level of "intensity", of course, but nevertheless participating. It's true that some things were Ulrika's contribution: the notion of three branches (she described them and someone made a nice graph of the idea) and its many checks and balances, a representative democracy, and the overall structure (ie. the order by which the articles appear). The notion that the UDHR should be our Bill of Rights was mostly defended by me, but Ulrika was the strongest supporter of that too. Ulrika also suggested three branches that were appointed differently (i.e. not all elected democratically): the Scientific Council was practically her idea and, of the three branches, the one that changed less over the years. Kendra did most of the suggestions around the former Artisanal Collective. Factions were in the RA early in the process, as opposed to direct democracy or isolated candidates, but the discussion around them and how they ought to be created — was not trivial and had lots of contributions. Same with the notion of citizenship.

So even it's fair to say that most of the writing of the final document came mostly from Ulrika, it was a process that emerged only after a few weeks of wild discussion. It's also true that ideas were too vague at the beginning to say that there was an "idea of constitution" before Ulrika pinpointed it down in a written document; but that's quite different from claiming that Ulrika just pushed the constitution upon the community and invited discussion :)

I would say that it was *quite extensively* revised :) There were hundreds of posts over those six weeks — sometimes even on the same day! Remember that we didn't have nothing else to discuss before LL actually delivered Anzere... so the whole "participation" was focused on the constitution :) The actual theme, buildings, and events were discussed before, since LL required a project to be approved, so, while we waited for that approval, we had nothing else to do but discuss the constitution...

Torley once volunteered to extract those forum posts from LL's archives, but we never got them.

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Re: Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

... oh, and there was not formally a "committee", but everybody who wanted to participate was willing to do so. There was no formal organisation, no "committee chair", nor even a specific agenda to follow... it was a free-for-all, from-chaos-order-shall-emerge process :)

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Re: Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Sudane Erato »

Oh, Gwyn, we *do* have all those posts and discussions!

All of the original Neualtenburg Forum, one of the SL Special interest forms, are contained in zip files that many of us are storing for safe keeping. (One section of them... Part Two... Aug 16 05 to Feb 13 06 appears to have some corruption in my copy, so some of that period may be lost) I'm just now studying the original thread which Ulrika started: Neualtenburg Constitution, with this post:

Sept 17, 2004. Neualtenburg Constitution
Before we can transition our social democracy to a democratically elected representative body, we need a constitution. Let's start the discussion here and once things start to coverge we'll move the documentation to a wiki.

~Ulrika~

and which ended 15 VERY LONG pages later with your post:

Nov 28, 2004. Gwyneth Llewelyn.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulrika Zugzwang
That's interesting that you mention majority interests above. I was discussing the difficulty of creating a constitution with friends over dinner a few nights ago. Someone made the insightful comment that individuals, when charged with creating a novel system of governance, will always assume that they are part of a majority and will seek to consolidate power in that assumed majority. She recommended instead that everyone should assume that they will be in the minority and work on the structure assuming they have to protect themselves against the majority.



That's a very, very interesting insight...

I fully agree with your friend!...

After that post Ulrika locked the thread and moved the discussion to another involved with implementing practicalities.

It's really a bit frustrating holding this info and not being able to share it... if you can figure out some way that we can post these original forums on line for everyone to study, it would be an invaluable service.

The zip file itself is 12 MB... so even that must be ftp-ed around. It's all quite unwieldy, and would be a great project for someone interested in CDS history, not to mention helping inform the issues under discussion in the RA today.

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Re: Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Rose Springvale »

Yes, i agree. It would be enlightening to be able to see what was discussed! Maybe it could be a Google doc?

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Re: Cleaning up the constitution...

Post by Rose Springvale »

Joaquin Gustav tried to log his 7 day vote on last weeks RA motion, but was not able to post anyplace but the SEED faction thread. So this is a link to that vote. And illustrates again how hard it is to get things where they belong here!

http://forums.slcds.info/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=2657

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