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History of Initiative & Referendum in Maryland

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Maryland does have citizen-initiated veto referenda, but does not have citizen initiatives.[1]

The Maryland General Assembly may propose amendments to the Maryland Constitution. All legislatively-referred constitutional amendments must appear on the ballot for approval by voters. In the legislature, each amendment must be passed by three-fifths of all the members elected to each of the two Houses, by yeas and nays, to be entered on the Journals with the proposed amendment.[2][1]


By 1900, reformers had organized a Maryland Direct Legislation League, with A. G. Eichelberger as its president. Ten years later the League claimed "more than 1,000 active, working members." In 1914, the League promoted an I&R bill sponsored by State Senator William J. Ogden of Baltimore, but the legislature amended it to remove the initiative provision. This "referendum only" amendment passed both houses in 1915 and was ratified by the voters. The following year the League pressed the legislature for an initiative amendment. Their bill passed the senate with only six dissenting votes, but was tabled (effectively killed) in the house by a 66 to 27 vote. Never again did an initiative amendment come close to approval. Charles J. Ogle, secretary of the League in 1916, attributed the failure to the committee chairmen, "a very active lobby against" the initiative amendment, and rural legislators' fear of the Baltimore masses.[3]

1915 until the Present

Since the veto referendum amendment was ratified in 1915, it has been used multiple times by citizens to force a statewide popular vote on unpopular laws passed by the legislature. Voters vetoed state aid to nonpublic schools in 1972 and 1974. Until 1988, all subsequent referendum petitions failed because of either insufficient signatures or court decisions barring ballot placement. In 1988, however, the legislature passed a bill banning cheap handguns, and gun control opponents responded with a petition drive that put the measure on the ballot. Despite the record-breaking expenditure by the National Rifle Association of more than $4 million for a "Vote No" campaign, voters approved the law by a 58-percent margin.[3]

In 2012, three veto referendums appeared on the ballot, all of which were approved. This means that in all three cases the legislation in question was upheld.

See also