History of Initiative & Referendum in Maryland
The state does not have the statewide initiative process and so therefore the following provisions discuss the procedures used by the state legislature to place constitutional amendments on the ballot. However, the state does allow for the popular referendum process (the ability to refer bills passed by the legislature to the ballot via a petition process). The requirements for undertaking a popular referendum are also included.
- The General Assembly may propose amendments to this Constitution; provided that each amendment shall be embraced in a separate bill, embodying the Article or Section, as the same will stand when amended and 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. Full text of the provisions..
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.
1915 until the Present
Since the veto referendum amendment was ratified in 1915, it has been used 13 times by citizens to force a statewide popular vote on unpopular laws passed by the legislature. In 1970, voters vetoed the legislature's bill regarding a Department of Economic and Community Development, and in 1972 and 1974, they vetoed state aid to nonpublic schools. 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..
History of I&R
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Direct Legislation by the Citizenship Through the Initiative and Referendum • Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot Initiative Revolution • Direct Legislation: Voting on Ballot Propositions in the United States