Difference between revisions of "Laws governing the initiative process in Massachusetts"

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===2010===
 
===2010===
  
:: ''See also: [[Changes in 2010 to laws governing the initiative process]]
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:: ''See also: [[Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures]]
  
 
'''The following proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the [[Massachusetts State Legislature]]:'''
 
'''The following proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the [[Massachusetts State Legislature]]:'''

Revision as of 16:21, 31 October 2011

[edit]

Ballot law
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State laws
Initiative law
Recall law
Statutory changes
Court cases
Lawsuit news
Ballot access rulings
Recent court cases
Petitioner access
Ballot title challenges
Superseding initiatives
Signature challenges
Laws governing
local ballot measures
Contents
1 Laws and procedures
1.1 Crafting an initiative
1.1.1 Single-subject rule
1.1.2 Subject restrictions
1.1.3 Competing initiatives
1.2 Starting a petition
1.2.1 Applying to petition
1.2.2 Proposal review/approval
1.2.3 Fiscal review
1.3 Collecting signatures
1.3.1 Number required
1.3.2 Distribution requirements
1.3.3 Restrictions on circulators
1.3.4 Electronic signatures
1.3.5 Deadlines for collection
1.4 Getting on the ballot
1.4.1 Signature verification
1.4.2 Ballot title and summary
1.5 The election and beyond
1.5.1 Supermajority requirements
1.5.2 Litigation
1.5.3 Legislative tampering
1.5.4 Re-attempting an initiative
1.6 Funding an initiative campaign
1.7 State statutes
2 Changes in the law

Citizens of Massachusetts may initiate legislation through the process of indirect initiative. In Massachusetts, successful petitions are first presented to the Massachusetts General Court. Once presented to the legislature, proposals for amendments and proposals for statutes face distinct requirements. Amendments must be approved by one-fourth of the legislators in joint session before proceeding to the ballot. Statutes may be adopted by the legislature by a majority vote in both houses. If statute is not adopted, proponents must collect another, smaller round of signatures to place the statute on the ballot. In Massachusetts, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum. The Massachusetts General Court can also place measures on the ballot as legislatively-referred constitutional amendments.

Crafting an initiative

Of the 24 states that allow citizens to initiate legislation through the petition process, several states have adopted restrictions and regulations that limit the allowable scope and content of initiated proposals. These regulations may include laws that mandate that an initiative address only one topic, restrict the range of acceptable topics for proposed laws; prohibit unfunded mandates; and establish guidelines for adjudicating contradictory measures.

Single-subject rule

See also: Single-subject rules

Massachusetts has a weak single-subject rule. Proposed measures must only address subjects "which are related or which are mutually dependent."

In 1941, the Massachusetts General Court sought an advisory opinion from the State Supreme Court on this requirement. The request was made in response to a proposed measure allowing doctors to provide contraceptives to married couples for health reasons and exempting medical education and medical journals from prohibitions on giving advice regarding contraception. The court determined that provisions satisfied the requirement, arguing:

"Nor can it rightly be said that the particular subjects... are not related, in view of the relation of each of them to the general subject and purpose of the proposed law. The particular subjects of the proposed law appear to be germane to the general subject of prevention of pregnancy or conception, to such an extent, at least, that they cannot rightly be said to be unrelated."[1]

A 1981 ruling (Massachusetts Teachers Association vs. Secretary of the Commonwealth) confirmed this interpretation, finding that "If... one can identify a common purpose to which each subject of an initiative petition can reasonably be said to be germane, the relatedness test is met." The court further emphasized this point by noting that the related subjects requirement is "less restrictive" than a single-subject rule.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXIV, Section 1

Subject restrictions

See also: Subject restrictions (ballot measures)

Massachusetts does restrict the subject of initiated measures. Measures may not propose laws regarding the following subjects:

  • Religion or religious institutions
  • Judges, judicial decisions, or courts
  • Laws that apply to particular cities/towns
  • Laws that make specific appropriations
  • The 18th Amendment (prohibition of alcohol)
  • Restricting rights found in the Declaration of Rights
  • Subject restriction or the modification of existing restrictions

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Part II, Section 2

Competing initiatives

See also: Superseding initiatives; "Poison pills"; List of Massachusetts ballot measures

The Massachusetts Constitution provides that in the event that two measures conflict, the measure with the most affirmative votes supersedes the other on any points of conflict--the other measure is not wholly superseded. The General Court is permitted to group conflicting initiatives together on the ballot. Unlike in Maine, this grouping does not restrict how voters may vote on the questions. The General Court is also permitted to place a legislative substitute along side any measure on the ballot. This requires a simple majority vote in either chamber in the case of proposed statutes. In the case of proposed amendments, this requires a majority vote in joint session in each of two years.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Parts III & VI

Starting a petition

Each initiative and referendum state employs a different procedure for filing petition applications. Some states require preliminary signatures while others do not. In addition, several states review each proposed statute, verifying that the law conforms to the style and conventions of state law and recommending alterations to initiative proponents. Some of these of these states also review the law for more substantive considerations of content and consistency. Also, many states conduct a review of the ballot title and summary, and several states employ a fiscal review process which analyzes proposed laws to determine their impact on state finances.[2][3][4]

Applying to petition

See also: Approved for circulation

Prior to circulation, petitioners must file a preliminary petition with the Attorney General. This petition includes the title and full text of the measure and the signatures of ten voters. In addition, each of the ten signers must provide documentation of their voter registration (a certificate of voter registration, signed by a majority of the members of the local board of registrars). Once the Attorney General has reviewed the petition, proponents must submit the petition to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. The secretary then drafts the official petition form and supplies it to the proponents.

  • Details and guidelines for petition forms can be found here.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXIV, Section 1 & Massachusetts General Laws, Part I, Title VIII, Chapter 53, Section 22A

Proposal review/approval

See also: Approved for circulation

After an application is submitted, the Attorney General must review the proposal to ensure that it complies with the state's subject restrictions. If it complies, proponents then submit the petition to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and he or she drafts a summary of the proposed law to be included on the official petition form. This summary must be approved by the Attorney General.[5]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXIV, Section 1 & Code of Massachusetts Regulations, Title 950, Section 48.04

Fiscal review

See also: Fiscal impact statements

Massachusetts does not conduct a fiscal impact study on proposed measures. The legislature is required to fund measures that it does not repeal during the initiative process.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Part II, Section 2

Collecting signatures

Each initiative and referendum state employs a unique method of calculating the state's signature requirements. Some states mandate a certain fraction of registered voters while others base their calculation on those who actually voted in a preceding election. In addition, many states employ a distribution requirement, dictating where in the state these signatures must be collected. Beyond these overarching requirements, many states regulate the manner in which signature may be collected and the timeline for collecting them.

Number required

See also: Massachusetts signature requirements

Since Massachusetts employs an indirect initiative process, the General Court has an opportunity to adopt proposed laws and amendments before they move to a popular vote. However, unlike other states, Massachusetts requires additional signatures following legislative inaction.

For an amendment or statute, signatures must equal 3% of votes cast for governor in the most recent election (excluding blanks). If the legislature declines to act on a proposed statute, supporters are required to collect a second round of signatures totaling 0.5% of the votes cast for governor in the most recent election (excluding blanks). For proposed amendments, one-quarter of the legislature must approve the petition in a joint session -- a second round of signatures is not required.

For a veto referendum, signatures must equal 1.5% of the total votes cast for governor in the most recent election. No more than one-fourth of these certified signatures may come from any one county. If the petitioners request suspension of the law in writing, signatures are required totaling 2% of the total votes cast for governor in the last election.

Year Amendment or Statute Statute add-on Veto referendum Veto referendum (suspension of law)
2014 68,911 11,485 34,456 45,941
2012 68,911 11,485 34,456 45,941
2010 66,593 11,099 33,297 44,396
2008 66,593 11,099 33,297 44,396

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Parts IV-V & Article LXXXI, Section 2

Distribution requirements

See also: Distribution requirements

In Massachusetts, no more than one-quarter of the certified signatures on any petition can come from a single county.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, "General Provisions"

Restrictions on circulators

Pay-per-signature

See also: Pay-per-signature

Massachusetts does not ban pay-per-signature.[6]

Out-of-state circulators

See also: Residency requirements for petition circulators

Massachusetts does not require petition circulators to be state residents.[7]

Badge requirements

See also: Badge requirements

Massachusetts does not require paid and volunteer circulators be identified as such on badges or petitions.[8]

Electronic signatures

See Also: Electronic petition signatures

Only one state, Utah, officially permits electronic petition signatures. However, the constitutionality of bans on electronic signatures and the legality of e-signatures in states without bans is largely untested. Massachusetts law does require petitioners to use state-provided petition forms.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Code of Massachusetts Regulations, Title 950, Section 48.07

Deadlines for collection

See also: Petition drive deadlines; Circulation period

Signatures for initiated statutes in Massachusetts are collected in two circulation periods. The first period runs from the third Wednesday in September to two weeks prior to the first Wednesday in December, a period of 9 weeks.

The legislature must act on the petition by the first Wednesday of May. If the proposed law is not adopted, petitioners then have until the first Wednesday of July to request additional petition forms and submit the second round of signatures, a period of 8 weeks.

Initiated amendments, however, do not require this second round of signatures. Unlike initiated statutes, one-quarter of the state legislature must approve the amendment in a joint session before it can be placed on the ballot.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Part IV-V & Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXXI, Section 1-3

Getting on the ballot

Once signatures have been collected, state officials must verify that requirements are met and that fraudulent signatures are excluded. States generally employ a random sample process or a full verification of signatures. After verification, the issue must be prepared for the ballot. This often involves preparing a fiscal review and ballot summary.

Signature verification

See also: Signature certification

In Massachusetts, petition signatures are submitted to local registrars according to each signer's registration. Once certified by the local registrar of voters, the measure is then submitted to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Petitioners are responsible for the picking up the certified signatures from the local registrars and submitting them to the secretary. The deadline for submission to the local registrars is two weeks prior to the deadline for submission to the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts General Laws, Part I, Title VIII, Chapter 53, Section 7

Ballot title and summary

See also: Ballot title

In Massachusetts, each measure receives a generic name (Question 1, Question 2...) as well as a title drafted by proponents and a summary drafted by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Both of these are reviewed by the Attorney General upon applying to petition. In addition, the Secretary and Attorney General jointly prepare two sentences, one explaining the effect of a "yes" vote and the other explaining the effect of a "no" vote.

Along with the title, ballot includes both the summary and the yes/no descriptions. The state also prepares a voters guide on state ballot questions with arguments for and against each proposed measure.

  • A sample of a past voters guide can be found here.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXIV, Section 1; Code of Massachusetts Regulations, Title 950, Section 48.04 ; Massachusetts General Laws, Part I, Title VIII, Chapter 54, Section 53 & Massachusetts General Laws, Part I, Title VIII, Chapter 54, Section 42A

The election and beyond

Ballot measures face additional challenges beyond qualifying for the ballot and receiving a majority of the vote. Several states require ballot measures to get more than a simple majority. While some states mandate a 3/5 supermajority, others states set the margin differently. In addition, ballot measures may face legal challenge or modification by legislators. If a ballot measure does fail, some states limit how soon that initiative can be re-attempted.

Supermajority requirements

See also: Supermajority requirements

Massachusetts initiatives, whether statutes or amendments, do not require a supermajority for approval. However, at least 30% of those casting a ballot in the election must vote in favor of the measure. It must also receive a majority of the votes cast for it. This does not apply to legislatively-referred constitutional amendments.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Part IV-V & Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXXI, Section 1-3

Effective date

According to the Massachusetts Constitution, initiated statutes take effect "shall take effect in thirty days after such state election or at such time after such election as may be provided in such law." Courts have yet to fully clarify whether this means thirty days after the election or thirty days after the election results have been certified. However, within the text of the measure, petitioners may stipulate that the law take effect upon certification.[9] Initiated amendments, on the other hand, take effect upon the certification of election results.[10]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Part IV-V & Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXXI, Section 1-3

Litigation

See also: Ballot measure lawsuit news

Any 50 Massachusetts voters can challenge a measure's descriptive title or the sentences explaining the effect of a yes or no vote. Such challenges should be filed with the Supreme Judicial Court.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts General Laws, Part I, Title VIII, Chapter 54, Section 53

Legislative tampering

See also: Legislative tampering

Massachusetts does not limit does not limit how soon, or with what majority, the legislature can repeal an initiated statute. Legislators can only overturn an amendment through the ordinary amendment process.[11] However, if a statute is not repealed the legislature must fund it. The legislature may amend a proposed amendment but only by a three-fourths supermajority vote called in the joint session. (Note: The majority of an initiative's sponsors can amend a proposed statute after the legislature fails to act and without re-collecting signatures. These amendments may not "materially change the substance of the measure.")

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII & Article LXXIV

Re-attempting an initiative

In Massachusetts, no measure may be proposed which is substantially the same as any measure that has been submitted to the people in either of the last two biennial state elections.[12]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXIV, Section 1

Funding an initiative campaign

See also: Campaign finance requirements for Massachusetts ballot measures

Some of the main features of Massachusetts campaign finance law include:

  • Massachusetts treats groups in support or opposition of a referendum differently from other political committees.
  • Massachusetts requires a group in support or opposition of a referendum to file a statement of organization before accepting any contributions.
  • Corporations and labor unions are allowed to donate to campaigns in support or opposition of a referendum.
  • All contributions received must be earmarked within 7 days of receipt of the contribution.
  • All ballot question committees must file their reports electronically.
  • No employee of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can be forced to donate to a campaign in support or opposition of a referendum.

State statutes

Article XLVIII of the Massachusetts Constitution provides authority for the initiative and referendum process.

Part I, Title VIII, Chapter 53 of the Massachusetts General Laws governs the initiative and referendum process.

External links

References



Ballot law
BallotLaw final.png
State laws
Initiative law
Recall law
Statutory changes
Court cases
Lawsuit news
Ballot access rulings
Recent court cases
Petitioner access
Ballot title challenges
Superseding initiatives
Signature challenges
Laws governing
local ballot measures
Contents
1 Laws and procedures
2 Changes in the law
2.1 Proposed changes by year
2.1.1 2011
2.1.2 2010

The following laws have been proposed which modify ballot measure law in Massachusetts.

Proposed changes by year

2011

See also: Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures

Bills that have or might be introduced in the 2011 session of the Massachusetts State Legislature include:


2010

See also: Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures

The following proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the Massachusetts State Legislature: