Staff’s blog

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.

In 1904, I&R advocates began making headway with an endorsement from the Prohibitionist Party, followed in 1906 by the support of the Socialists and Populists and, in 1910, that of the Democrats. An amendment by Republican State Representative David E. Kulp calling for statewide I&R reached the floor of the lower house of the legislature in 1911, but it was…(Read More)

Nothing to Brag About

Mon, Jul 13 2009 by Staff

A recent editorial in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News takes a shot at California’s much-maligned initiative process, claiming Utah’s highly restricted ballot initiative process to be superior. Much of the blame for California’s current financial woes has been misdirected at the state’s ballot initiative process, and the historic Proposition 13 property tax limitation in particular.

What's On the Ballot?

Fri, Jul 10 2009 by Staff

For many it seems as though 2008’s historic election season has barely just wrapped up. Not so for ballot initiative proponents who are already looking ahead to the next election. Already there are citizen sponsored initiatives on the ballot in three states: Ohio, Maine, and Washington. Numerous other efforts are going on all over the country to collect signatures in the hopes of qualifying for the ballot.

The Power of Recall

Thu, Jul 9 2009 by Staff

One powerful citizen tool that we don’t talk about as much here on the CICF Blog is the power of recall. Recall allows voters to remove a particularly unresponsive, corrupt, or even unpopular elected official from office before their term is up. Citizens in 18 states have the power to recall state-level officials. Many other local jurisdictions give their voters recall powers as well.

Today several state and national grassroot organizations are denouncing California Senate Bill 34 aimed at silencing voters by restricting the citizen initiative process. In an open letter to the California State Legislature, citizens are speaking out on the legislation that targets their First Amendment rights.

Ballot Access News reports that California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is likely to veto Senate Bill 34. The bill, which passed an Assembly committee yesterday, would ban paying petition circulators by the signature.