Explain California's constitutional amendment procedures

To get on the ballot a constitutional amendment needs at least 10% of voters to sign a petition, right? Can the legislature also propose amendments to the people? If so does it need to be by a supermajority? What’s the difference between a “constitutional amendment” and a “constitutional revision”? How is this relevant to Prop 8? Does a suit to strick down Prop 8 need to work it’s way up from the local Superior Court or can it go directly to the Supreme Court? How soon could a movement to repeal Prop 8 get on the ballot and when would it be voted on? Does in need to be in a general state election?

Here is the California Secretary of State web page on the initiative process. To address your specific questions:

Constitutional amendments require petitions to be signed by a number equal to 8% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Currently that number is 694,354.
The steps are[ol]
[li]Write the law[/li][li]Pay $200 fee to have the state give you an official title and summary. Money refunded if measure qualifies for the ballot[/li][li]Get the required number of signatures within 150 days.[/li][/ol]
If the necessary number of legitimate signatures is there, you’re on the next statewide election occuring at least 131 days after you qualify. There are already 4 propositions qualified for the June 2010 election.

Yes. All modifications to California’s Constitution must be submitted to the voters. Not sure about the supermajority

A movement could start today. The soonest it would be put to the voters is June 2010 unless a special statewide election is called before then. If a special statewide election is called (similar to the 2003 recall or Arnold’s 2005 “reform” election) then all pending qualified measures get put on the ballot.

I don’t know the answers to the Prop 8 specific questions, and since this is GQ I won’t speculate or opine.

Amending the Constitution is laid out in Article 18 of the Cal. Constitution. Basically, it can be done in several ways:

  1. 2/3 of each house of the legislature votes to propose an amendment or revision, which then goes to the voters for ratification.

  2. 2/3 of each house vote to propose a Constitutional convention to revise the constitution, which is then voted on in a general election. If it’s approved, it must be held within 6 months, and made up of delegates elected from districts as equal in population as possible.

  3. An initiative proposes an amendment which then goes to the voters for ratification.
    Any proposed amendment or revision becomes part of the constitution the day after the election in which it’s approved.

In order to get an amendment on the ballot by initiative, the proposal needs to be signed by at least 8% of the turnout of the last governor’s election.

The difference between an amendment and a revision was defined in the 1894 case Livermore v. Waite, and reiterated in the 1978 Amador Valley Joint Union High School vs State Board of Ed. which said that a “revision” was “substantial alteration of the entire constitution, rather than to a less extensive change in one or more of its provisions” The last revision was voted on in 1976.

Amendments are passed by simple majority.