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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Massachusetts and S. Dakota legislatures violated initiative rules

Update: On the last day, Jan. 2, the Massachusetts legislature finally voted on the initiative.

Both the South Dakota and Massachusetts legislatures have violated their respective states' ballot initiative rules -- the former legislature by voting on a ballot initiative and the latter legislature by failing to vote on a ballot initiative.

As I have previously noted, there are two different kinds of ballot initiatives -- the "direct" initiative and the "indirect" initiative. In the"direct" initiative, a proposition is supposed to be put directly on the ballot without going to the legislature first, and in the "indirect" initiative, a proposition is supposed to go before the legislature before going on the ballot. In an indirect initiative procedure, a proposition may or may not go on the ballot (I don't know how the initiative rules of the different states differ in this regard). Massachusetts' state constitution has an "indirect" initiative procedure that requires the legislature to vote on the initiative and South Dakota has a "direct" initiative procedure. I have already noted that the South Dakota legislature violated the spirit of the state's direct initiative procedure by voting on a resolution against the state's Amendment E ("Jail-4-judges") ballot proposition -- in several decades of following California's propositions, I cannot recall the legislature ever voting on a single one of them. Now the Massachusetts legislature has violated the letter of the state constitution by failing to vote on a ballot proposition.

It is hard enough trying to get an initiative passed into law without having to worry about these illegal and/or unethical sabotage efforts by the state legislature.

A related article on this blog is titled Reform of ballot proposition rules. I would add another proposed reform: where the legislature fails to vote on an indirect initiative, the rules should require that the initiative go directly on the ballot by default.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous W. Kevin Vicklund said...

So, in the end, neither Massachusetts nor South Dakota violated initiative rules.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 9:21:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Massachusetts would have violated the rules if a big stink had not been made. And as I pointed out, S. Dakota violated the rules in spirit. There have been many very controversial ballot propositions in California -- often with doomsday predictions that their passage would be the end of the world -- but AFAIK the state legislature never voted on a single one of them. And illegalizing what the S. Dakota legislature did is among my proposed reforms.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous W. Kevin Vicklund said...

Larry, do you even understand what a resolution is? It is the process by which a legislature voices its position on a matter on which it can not vote. It is legally recognized as the appropriate way for a legislature to encourage other people to vote/rule/legislate/etc. a certain way. It certainly doesn't violate direct initiative rules, and is in keeping with the spirit of the direct initiative. It would be entirely appropriate for North Dakota's legislature to pass a resolution encouraging South Dakotans to vote against the initiative - why is it then a violation for South Dakota to do the same?

Your argument of personal ignorance regarding California's actions is a non-sequitor - whether or not the legislature of California has seen fit to pass a resolution (for or against) on an initiative bears no relation to whether or not it is appropriate to do so. But since you brought it up, my legislature has done so, IIRC. So that makes it two states to one, and the court precedent in South Dakota (according to news reports I read a couple months ago) is that passing such resolutions are appropriate.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Kevin Vicklund wrote,
>>>>> Larry, do you even understand what a resolution is? It is the process by which a legislature voices its position on a matter on which it can not vote. <<<<<<

Wrong. Legislatures sometimes vote on resolutions about things that they could actually enact into law.

>>>>>> It certainly doesn't violate direct initiative rules, and is in keeping with the spirit of the direct initiative. <<<<<<

The spirit of the direct initiative is to have a lawmaking process that is completely independent of the legislature and the special interests that control the legislature. Unfortunately, special interests often control the initiatives too because of the great expense of gathering signatures (paid signature collectors are often required) -- but that is no reason to make matters even worse by allowing legislatures to pass resolutions about ballot initiatives.

Sometimes rules just need to be changed. That reminds me about a true story about a father who tried to enroll his 11-year-old son in a Pop Warner football program. The coach said, "we have a rule -- a kid's got to be 13." The father answered, "have you seen him?" The coach took one look at the kid and said, "we've just changed the rule."

>>>>>>> It would be entirely appropriate for North Dakota's legislature to pass a resolution encouraging South Dakotans to vote against the initiative - why is it then a violation for South Dakota to do the same? <<<<<

How is it appropriate for a state to meddle in another state's internal affairs?

>>>>>>Your argument of personal ignorance regarding California's actions is a non-sequitor - whether or not the legislature of California has seen fit to pass a resolution (for or against) on an initiative bears no relation to whether or not it is appropriate to do so. <<<<<<

It is not personal ignorance -- I have resided in California for several decades and I generally know what goes on here. I think it is significant that the California legislature has apparently never during my residency voted on a resolution regarding a ballot proposition.

>>>>>>But since you brought it up, my legislature has done so, IIRC. <<<<<<

Does your state have an indirect initiative, which is supposed to go to the legislature first? Here is a list of states with indirect initiatives. Also, you might have mistaken a legislative or popular referendum for an initiative.

>>>>>> So that makes it two states to one, <<<<<<

Two wrongs do not make a right.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 5:20:00 PM  

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