December 6, 2005

Voter Initiative Update

Carroll Andrew Morse

The RI Voter Initiative Alliance has collected about 60% of their goal of 20,000 signatures in support of bringing voter initiative to Rhode Island. Voter initiative allows citizens to propose, amend and repeal laws by gathering signatures and placing issues directly on the ballot. If you haven't already, you can sign the petition online here.

The petition is just the tip of the voter initiative iceberg. Here’s a brief outline of the entire process of bringing VI to RI...

Move: Voter initiative supporters will present the petition at the same time voter initiative legislation is formally introduced to the RI General Assembly in January.

Countermove: The General Assembly leadership will try to kill voter initiative as early as possible, in the Judiciary committee, with as little deliberation as possible, and without a vote. The new Judiciary Chairman Robert Donald Lally has already expressed opposition to voter initiative because "it does an end run around representative democracy as he thinks it should work".

Move: Voter initiative legislation will be introduced in 2 parts. The first part (here's a link to last year's version) authorizes the constitutional changes necessary to allow voter initiative. If that bill makes it out of committee and is approved by the whole legislature, then the proposed constitutional changes will have to be approved by a majority of voters in a referendum held during the November 2006 general election. The second part of the legislation actually implements voter initiative, assuming that the constitutional changes pass.

Countermove: If they can't kill it in committee, be wary of the RI legislature passing the constitutional changes necessary for voter initiative, but dragging their heels on fully implementing it.

Thanks to Bev Clay from Operation Clean Government for answering my questions on the legislative steps associated with VI.