Wednesday, February 21, 2007


(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).

1 comment:

That Lawyer Dude said...

How about this, Voters get to decide on initiatives by petitioning onto the ballot. After they vote, the legislature takes all of the proposals that are accepted by the voters and they must act on them Yea or Nay, then the governor gets to veto if he deems this appropriate. The legislature could override the veto.
The cool thing here is that the voters get to legislate, but the check is on one part of the state lauding over the rest of the state because the elected officials get to vote in a way that protects a big majority from the cities running roughshod over the smaller burbs and rural areas.
If we really want to make it fun, the governor can veto a Nay as well as a Yea vote so he can reinstate the will of the people if he believes that they spoke in a sufficiently collective voice. Finally the legislature can move to repeal the bill after 2 years and all initiative bills sunset after 10 years unless reupped by the legislature and signed off on by the govenor.