(Second in a three part series)
On Friday, we posted an explanation of the recall process in response to a letter to the editor in the Times Union. Since recall is often thought of as part of the “Initiative-Referendum-Recall” triumvirate, we thought we’d shed a little more light on the rest of the Progressive Era gang.
The definition of the term "initiative" in the government context has a lot to do with its common definition: citizens take the initiative to collect signatures in support of forcing a vote on a law or constitutional amendment. Direct initiative measures are voted on directly by the voters, while indirect initiative measures are sent to the legislature and only submitted to the voters if the legislature fails to act. Twenty four states have initiative procedures.
As the National Conference of State Legislatures notes, the constraints on initiatives differ from state to state. Most states require review of the proposed petition before it is circulated for signing. Also, most states limit each initiative to one question or issue.
One interesting take on the initiative is a law that was considered (but ultimately died) in the New Jersey Legislature. A concurrent resolution in the 2001-02 legislative session sought to gives citizens a sort of limited initiative power: they would be allowed to put questions before the people that had to do with government reform. As we wrote in an analysis of this proposal, "The New Jersey model would empower citizens with the right of direct legislation in policy arenas of great importance to the public, while keeping some of the perceived excesses of the initiative process in check."
Certainly an interesting idea for New York.
Check out this nifty slide show about initiative (and our next topic, referendum).