Archives for July 2009

The Obama Justice Department has been slammed for attempting to meddle with a ballot initiative in Oklahoma. Several state lawmakers sent a “stern letter” to Attorney General Eric Holder blasting a letter sent by his office in April.

Health care reform continues to dominate the national discussion. Americans are considering all their options on how to pay for the reform and exactly how to improve the system. In Arizona the voters are trying to decide for themselves on how their state will deal with this important issue. They are showing their power at the ballot box.

In his daily commentary called Common Sense, Paul Jacob writes about Arizona and states:

The fight continues in South Dakota over banning smoking in state bars and restaurants. The focus is now on how referendum petitions were notarized, and the voices of over 2000 voters could be silenced in the debate.

For centuries citizens have petitioned their government in hopes of creating a better representative system. A 17th century political activist John Lilburne pioneered the modern initiative and referendum system. Paul Jacob, President of Citizens In Charge Foundation explain who is John Lilburne and how he changed the world…

Citizens in Charge Foundation President Paul Jacob has some harsh words in the New York Times for new Oregon restrictions on the ballot initiative process:

As the mentioned here, the most famous Massachusetts initiative petition is known as “Proposition 2 1/2”, which just happens to be a perfect example of the fusion between the state and local level I&R processes in the Commonwealth. Ever since Prop. 2 1/2 passed in 1982, voters in a municipality must pass a “Proposition 2 1/2 override” to increase property taxes beyond 2.5% of the assessed value of all taxable property contained in it the municipality. Towns rarely do pass Prop. 2 1/2 overrides.

Bob Behn, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, was interviewed recently about the budgetary crisis facing California.

In what is an otherwise good discussion of the state’s fiscal issues, Mr. Behn ends with an oft-cited criticism of the initiative process:

Akron, Ohio mayor Don Plusquellic, who has been in office for over two decades, survived a recall election last month by a wide margin. Recall supporters had accused the mayor of playing fast and loose with the taxpayers’ money, ethics violations, and questionable campaign financing amongst other things.

If you’re an advocate of the initiative and referendum process, you should hold Massachusetts in high regard. Although the state currently ties with Oklahoma in having the most restrictive process out of the fifteen states that offer residents full initiative, referendum, and constitutional amendment rights, the open town meeting model that has characterized local governance in the Commonwealth since the 17th century has been the longstanding model for the philosophy of citizen initiated lawmaking that is central to the I&R process.

At their regular meeting this week, the city council for Arnold, MO took up and passed a resolution rebuking the Missouri Municipal League for their obstruction of an eminent domain ballot initiative.

According to the the Marijuana Policy Project blog, the US House of Representatives has moved to allow Washington, DC to implement a medical marijuana law pased by voters in 1998. The Congress has been blocking the implementation of the law - passed by 69% of voters - in it’s DC appropriations bills for over ten years. The law must now be passed by the US Senate and be signed by President Obama before taking effect.

Agitation for initiative and referendum in Michigan started with the formation of the state’s Direct Legislation Club in 1895 by George F. Sherman and David Inglis, both Detroit physicians. Inglis was 45 years old, a distinguished professor at the Detroit Medical College. Sherman and Inglis led I&R efforts in Michigan for over a decade without success,
despite support from the noted reformer, Detroit mayor, and later Michigan governor Hazen S. Pingree. In 1900 S. D. Williams of Battle Creek cited the legislature’s Republican majority as the major obstacle.