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Chapter Overview

Although state constitutions don't receive much attention from academic researchers and are accorded only scant public attention, their importance does indeed merit our attention. We decided to include an entire chapter on state constitutions given their direct connection to the question of the active pursuit of sustainability in state and local government. The mere mention of the topic usually tends to arouse fears of boredom born of painful attention to legalistic hair-splitting among students of state and local government. In fact, in reality state constitutions represent a topic of great importance, interesting historical developments, and clear contemporary relevance. State constitutions are also important to examine because they often mirror important political, economic, and social changes occurring over time. As states have moved from reflecting rural economies characterized principally by natural resource extraction in the 17th and 18th centuries (mining, timber, fisheries, and agriculture), to governing urbanizing industrial economies in the 19th and 20th centuries (manufacturing), to providing guidance to postindustrial and knowledge-based economies in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, citizens and their political representatives have made many revisions to their respective state constitutions—and even replaced them in their entirety when deemed necessary on rare occasion. Such adaptation to change is a key element in the promotion of sustainability. This chapter covers such topics as the purpose and content of state constitutions, how constitutions can be changed, and the role of constitutions in sustainability.



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