and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Thursday, April 10, 2003

Senate 362 – An attempt to kill the citizens initiative

As the Public Service Committee hears a bill in Room B-2 that will give more power to the Speaker of the House, a bill is being heard by the Election Laws Committee in Room A-1 that will take power away from the citizens of Massachusetts.

Senate 362 will dramatically increase the number of signatures required (from 65,825 registered voters to 99,316, for an initiative statute, and to 119,180 for an initiative constitutional amendment.) Since it is almost impossible already for ordinary citizen groups to get the required number of signatures, this will keep many worthwhile issues off the ballot. Those few that are very well-funded may have a chance, if they use paid petitioners, but grassroots citizen groups will be out of luck. Further, city and town clerks may not have time to certify the extra number of signatures in time to meet constitutional deadlines.

If this amendment had been in effect in 1980, there would be no Proposition 2½. CLT got barely enough signatures to get its tax limitation measure on the ballot. We failed by very few signatures in our first attempt to put a roll back of the "temporary" income tax on the 1998 ballot when our opponents challenged our signatures in court.

Other provisions fix something that isn’t broken. A commission would draft the ballot question title and summary that are now drafted by the Secretary of State and Attorney General. CLT activists have placed several questions on the ballot over twenty years, with no complaint about the title or summary with the professionals in either office. The provision that could give control of these vital pieces of information to pollsters is absurd.

The provision for a ballot question impact statement, drafted by legislators and the Massachusetts Municipal Association, is a provision for imaginative fabrication of numbers that cannot possibly be objectively determined at the time the ballots are printed.

Senate 362 is a proposed constitutional amendment, so the only way it can pass is if citizens vote to make themselves powerless. This is why its drafters have not filed a direct repeal of the citizens initiative. To trick voters, the amendment contains a provision that gives petitioners more time to get signatures. People who have never run a petition drive might think that letting volunteers collect signatures in July and August would be useful. It would not.

Filing the petition earlier in June also prevents citizens from addressing issues in the state budget, which will not yet have passed. For these and other reasons ...

CLT will fight to kill the amendment to kill the citizens initiative.

For more information on S-362 and S-363 visit our website.

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