March 15, 2006

Voter Initiative, Checks, and Balances

Carroll Andrew Morse

In today's Projo, Senator Marc Cote (D-Woonsocket/North Smithfield), the primary sponsor of Rhode Island's voter initiative legislation in the Senate, responds to Representative John Shanley�s (D-South Kingstown) anti-voter initiative op-ed from earlier in the week...

Voter initiative threatens only those legislators who wield disproportionate power in shaping public policy, and the lobbyists and special interests that effectively advance their agendas at the expense of the taxpayers. Shifting any amount of political power from the powerful to the people is commonly resisted.
As part of his article, Senator Cote reviews the many checks and balances built into the RI voter initiative proposal. Both the Secretary of State and the courts have opportunities to prevent an issue from being put on the ballot on civil rights/civil liberties grounds...
Before petition papers are issued, all initiatives must be submitted to the secretary of state for a legal review, to ensure that the civil rights and liberties of individuals and groups will be protected. Not only are these safeguards in place, but should any person or group believe that a proposed initiative will violate their civil rights, after review and determination by the secretary of state's office, our legislation provides for appeal and an expedited Superior Court review and disposition,
And the legislature has the power to undo the results of any initiative...
Representative Shanley states in his article that "initiatives are virtually impossible to change once passed." That is true only in California. In our legislation, if a mistake has been made with an initiative (even legislators make mistakes with some of the bills they pass), the General Assembly can override or amend any initiative approved by the voters with a three-fourths vote during the first four years following the vote. After four years, a simple majority of legislators can override or amend an initiative.
This provision highlights that the value that initiative brings to the lawmaking process -- it prevents bills from being hidden in the committee system. Laws passed via the initiative process can still be killed, they just cannot be killed by a single committee. To repeal a passed initative, every legislator will have to make his or her position known.

This is a healthy thing in a representative democracy.

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Hey, don't you guys get it? If it isn't about Laffey noone cares. Lets get back to Laffey and what he is doing. School Choice....Love it...Big surpluses...He could lecture on it... In fact I think he did for several years at URI!! Let's go!!

Posted by: JimbJimbo at March 15, 2006 5:22 PM

Many people talk about various government reforms or ethics changes. In reality, voter initiative would be the greatest single structural change for our state government that would have the most benefit for the average citizen. It is probably the clearest solution to breaking the control of special interests who dominate the state house. Keep pushing this issue, Mr. Morse.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at March 15, 2006 5:49 PM

Essentially there are two union movements today: public sector unions (AFSME and SEIU in particular) and those that represent workers in the private sector (such as the UAW).

The interests of public sector unions (whose members are TAX CONSUMERS) are increasingly opposed to the interests of those represented by "private sector" unions (whose members are TAX PAYERS).

The public sector unions are against citizen initiative.

The "social services" (welfare bum) lobby is against citizen initiative.

So we know citizen initiative by its enemies - and what better endorsement FOR citizen initiative could there be than to have those groups against it??

Posted by: Tom W at March 15, 2006 7:43 PM

Good call, JumboJimbo on the Laffey interest level thing. It really needs to be all about Laffey; otherwise it is just such a bore! Steve creates good political theater while that crybaby Lincoln manages the theater of the absurd.

By the way, where is that Justin Katz? Is he hanging with James somewhere? Or is he James? He could be hard at work generating a Laffey magnum opus "ex post facto" that will ascertain motive from toilet training onward. Oh boy! I so anxiously await this missive.

Keep up the terrific work, Steve Laffey! You remain my hero and it is just so excellent that it is all about you. Go Laffey!!!!!

Posted by: Lizzie Karl at March 16, 2006 7:33 AM