CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Monday, September 12, 2005

It's petition season again


Attorney General Tom Reilly yesterday approved 12 initiative petitions proposed for the 2006 ballot, including ones allowing food stores to sell wine, prohibiting dog racing and recalling Massachusetts National Guard troops from Iraq....

Three additional petitions propose a 2008 vote on constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, creating an independent body to draw legislative districts and authorizing the people of Massachusetts to delegate some of their powers to a global union of democratic nations....

Several of them offered multiple versions of the same question in an effort to assure they passed constitutional muster. Their proponents will now likely focus on one version of the question to better its chances of enactment.

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 8, 2005
15 ballot questions approved


This November, California voters have a chance to do what the "purple fingers" of Iraq did last January strike a telling blow for democracy. Their challenge: Pass Proposition 77, which would take the job of drawing legislative districts away from partisan politicians and give it to a panel of retired judges.

At a time when President Bush is proudly preaching the virtues of democratic rule around the globe, representative government here at home is in miserable shape. So the citizens of Burbank and Bakersfield have to muster the same courage the world saw from the people of Basra and Baghdad.

In the last election, 153 state and federal legislative seats were at stake in California. The number that changed party hands: zero.

Over the last two cycles, incumbent House members ran 101 times. All of them won. Easily.

"What kind of democracy is that?" asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the prime mover behind Prop. 77. The answer is painfully obvious: a rigged democracy. No real democracy at all.

Changing the system will be very tough. The people who do the rigging are the entrenched leaders of both parties, and they will fight ferociously to protect their cozy conspiracy.

Scripps Howard
Tuesday, August 31, 2005
Redistricting fight comes to California
By Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

It's petition season again. There have been few initiative petitions over the past few years, since the Legislature began its wholesale disregard for the voters' mandates, cavalierly dismissing results it didn't like. Last year there wasn't a single statewide question on the ballot.

But this year some groups are again willing to jump through the necessary hoops to bring issues to the voters. Whether we agree or disagree with their petitions, we're happy to see petitioners reaching out to voters. Perhaps with Birmingham and Finneran gone, new legislative leaders will respect the process and we can try another one ourselves (after we finally see our income tax rollback!)

In the meantime, CLT members might want to help collect signatures for some of the available issues. You can find the complete list in the Associated Press report below. Two groups have asked us to give you contact information about their petition.

CLT is a member of the Legislative Reform Coalition which includes Common Cause, and we have endorsed the petition to change the redistricting process.

The gay marriage issue is outside our purview, and we do not have a position on it. However, the groups attempting to change the Massachusetts Constitution on this issue meet monthly with Chip Faulkner's Friday Morning Group as part of the center-right coalition. Their first petition was ignored by the Legislature, an event which always disturbs us on behalf of the process, so we support their getting signatures on the new petition. Let the voters decide!

Below you'll find these groups' contact information. Please reach them if you'd like to get involved in the signature gathering. In the difficult petitioning climate of the past few years, they'll need all the help they can muster.


 

TWO OF THE PETITION DRIVE CAMPAIGNS

   

Fair Districts Initiative Campaign
www.massfairdistricts.org


Common Cause Massachusetts
59 Temple Place, Suite 600
Boston, MA 02111
Phone: 617-426-9600
Fax: 617-426-6855
E-mail: ccma@commoncause.org
www.commoncause.org/ma

Vote On Marriage Campaign
VoteOnMarriage.org

381 Elliot Street
Suite 185L
Newton Upper Falls, MA 02464
Phone number: 617-795-2667
Fax number: 617-928-1515
email: info@voteonmarriage.org
website: www.voteonmarriage.org

   

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 8, 2005

15 ballot questions approved
By Glen Johnson


Attorney General Tom Reilly yesterday approved 12 initiative petitions proposed for the 2006 ballot, including ones allowing food stores to sell wine, prohibiting dog racing and recalling Massachusetts National Guard troops from Iraq.

A thirteenth petition proposing to eliminate the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors was withdrawn by its proponents.

Three additional petitions propose a 2008 vote on constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, creating an independent body to draw legislative districts and authorizing the people of Massachusetts to delegate some of their powers to a global union of democratic nations.

Reilly approved them despite declaring he personally opposed the gay marriage petition and some of the other proposed questions.

"I don't agree with half of them, personally, but I have a job to do and people are counting on me to do my job and they're counting on me to uphold my oath to uphold the laws of the commonwealth," Reilly said during a news conference at which he waved a copy of the state constitution.

The attorney general has said he plans to be a Democratic candidate for governor next year.

Under Massachusetts law, petition proponents will have until Dec. 7 to collect the signatures of 65,825 registered voters, although those signers do not necessarily have to support the petition. If the proponents are successful, the Legislature will then have until May 3 to approve the measure, reject it, offer a substitute or take no action.

Unless the Legislature enacts the proposed measure, the proponents will then have to gather an additional 10,971 signatures by early July 2006, even if the Legislature rejects their proposal. If they succeed, the measure and any legislative substitute will be put on the November 2006 ballot.

The proposed constitutional amendments will have to go through a similar signature process, but they also must be approved by two successive sessions of the Legislature -- with the approval of at least 25 percent of lawmakers each time -- before being put to the public for a vote in November 2008.

Several of them offered multiple versions of the same question in an effort to assure they passed constitutional muster. Their proponents will now likely focus on one version of the question to better its chances of enactment.

The questions, in order and as named by the proponents, are:

l  A constitutional amendment proposing a global federal union.

l  A constitutional amendment to define marriage.

l  An act to bring our troops home (two versions).

l  An act to protect dogs.

l  An act to increase consumer convenience and choice by permitting food stores to sell wine.

l  Massachusetts Quality Affordable Health Care Act (four versions).

l  An act to provide voters with more ballot choices (two versions).

l  Amendment to the constitution establishing an independent commission and criteria for redistricting.

l  A law relative to the establishment of a Personal Care Attendant Quality Home Care Work force Council.

l  A law relative to family child care providers.

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Scripps Howard
Tuesday, August 31, 2005

Redistricting fight comes to California
By Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts


SAN FRANCISCO This November, California voters have a chance to do what the "purple fingers" of Iraq did last January strike a telling blow for democracy. Their challenge: Pass Proposition 77, which would take the job of drawing legislative districts away from partisan politicians and give it to a panel of retired judges.

At a time when President Bush is proudly preaching the virtues of democratic rule around the globe, representative government here at home is in miserable shape. So the citizens of Burbank and Bakersfield have to muster the same courage the world saw from the people of Basra and Baghdad.

In the last election, 153 state and federal legislative seats were at stake in California. The number that changed party hands: zero.

Over the last two cycles, incumbent House members ran 101 times. All of them won. Easily.

"What kind of democracy is that?" asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the prime mover behind Prop. 77. The answer is painfully obvious: a rigged democracy. No real democracy at all.

Changing the system will be very tough. The people who do the rigging are the entrenched leaders of both parties, and they will fight ferociously to protect their cozy conspiracy.

Normally, we applaud lawmakers who work together across partisan lines. But you know something's fishy when two of the most politically astute congressmen in the state Republican John Doolittle and Democrat Howard Berman file a joint appeal to the Federal Election Commission.

That request, recently approved by the panel, would allow the two lawmakers and their powerful friends to raise unlimited amounts of cash to trash Prop. 77. That's why the rest of the country has to give moral and financial support to the state's governor.

California has long been a trend-setter, from the anti-war protests of the '60s to the anti-tax revolts of the '70s. The whole idea of ballot initiatives and recall elections started here almost a century ago under Gov. Hiram Johnson, the current governor's role model. Now this state has the opportunity, once again, to reform and revitalize the nation's political culture.

Manipulating congressional districts has long been part of the American tradition. The phrase "gerrymander" dates all the way back to 1812, after all. But highly precise computers, in the hands of highly partisan cartographers, have now turned district map-making into a "corruptly exact science," in the words of The Washington Post.

Across the country, notes the Center for Voting and Democracy, the last two elections "were the least competitive in American history by most standards." In 2004, the average margin of victory in the nation's 435 House districts was 40 percent. In four out of five races, the winner's cushion was at least 20 percent. The elections were remotely competitive in only 23 districts, or about 5 percent of the country. Only seven incumbents lost.

The damage goes far beyond fair play. The essence of democracy is accountability. Elected leaders must operate with the knowledge that voters can ultimately decide their fate. But if the system is stacked, if virtually every district is safe, that accountability is lost. Lawmakers have no incentive to listen to minorities or dissenters or supporters of the other party.

This means that candidates are more worried about primaries than about general elections, so they play to their activist base, not the centrists who make up most of the electorate. Each party in the House is driven to the extremes Democrats to the left, Republicans to the right.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, told us that today voters don't choose their politicians, politicians choose their voters. And he described the impact on today's House: "Without the pressure of competitive races, there is less incentive to cooperate. Instead, both parties are increasingly ideological. Meanwhile, the independent-minded candidates and moderate legislators who represent the vast middle of the American political spectrum become extinct."

Fortunately, some Americans are raising their voices in protest. More than 500,000 voters in Ohio have signed petitions, backing a constitutional amendment that would assign redistricting to an independent commission, and a vote this fall seems likely. Reformers in Florida have raised over $400,000 to put a similar measure on the ballot there next year.

In Congress, Rep. John Tanner, a Tennessee Democrat, has about 50 co-sponsors for a bill that would mandate similar commissions in every state. "Politics has hijacked democracy," he told the newspaper Roll Call.

Tanner's right. Now the voters of California can overpower the hijackers and take back the system. Let their purple fingers wave.

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