TESTIMONY IN OPPOSITION TO HB 1830
TO AMEND ARTICLE 48, THE PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTIONAL
INITIATIVE PETITION AND REFERENDUM PROCESS
Joint Committee on Election Laws
March 23, 2011
HB 1830 would more than double the required number of signatures for an initiative petition to amend the Constitution as well as those required for a referendum to repeal a law.
Article 48 was passed during the Constitutional Convention of 1918 under the much heralded progressive movement of the era to give the people a more active role in government. Since that time, hundreds of Legislative Amendments have been proposed and many reached the ballot, but only 13 Initiative Amendments have successfully passed the significant hurdle of collecting tens of thousands of voters’ signatures. Of the thirteen, only three were approved by the Legislature to be on the ballot, and of those three, two were approved by the people in a general election. In 1938 the people voted by 42% to 23% to create biennial sessions of the legislature. In 1974 the people voted to allow the use of highway tax funds for mass transit.
Based on the results of the past 93 years, it is preposterous to claim that the initiative petition process in Massachusetts is too easy and a threat to the Legislature. In fact, Massachusetts has the nation’s most cumbersome and complicated initiative petition process accentuated by the requirement of the Legislature to approve the proposed amendment in two separate legislative sessions before it can be on the ballot. No other state has this requirement. Placing a proposed amendment before the people through an initiative process is so prohibitively difficult in Massachusetts that the process has rarely, if ever, been used.
Why would the Legislature want to make the initiative petition process even more difficult by raising the number of required signatures from 3% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election to 7% ? Why would they want to raise the required number of signatures for a referendum from 2 % to 4.5% ? This would clearly be an overreach attempt by the Legislature to throttle the voice and rights of the people.
Please reject this proposed Legislative Amendment to Article 48 of the Constitution.