For Immediate Release - September 02, 2009

Attorney General Martha Coakley Completes Constitutional Review of Initiative Petitions

Certifies 25 petitions covering 12 topics

BOSTON - Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office completed its constitutional review of 30 initiative petitions, including 25 proposed laws and five proposed constitutional amendments. All but five petitions have cleared the first hurdle for inclusion on future statewide ballots.

"After a complete and thorough review by our office, we have concluded that most of these initiative petitions have met the requirements posed in the state's Constitution," Attorney General Martha Coakley said. "Our decision to certify these proposals in no way means they have either our support or opposition, but that simply the constitutional requirements were met for these initiatives to obtain further signatures."

Proponents of each certified initiative petition must now gather and file the signatures of 66,593 registered voters by December 2, 2009. Once the requisite signatures are obtained, the proposal is sent to the state Legislature to enact before the first Wednesday in May 2010. If the Legislature fails to enact the proposal, its proponents must gather another 11,099 signatures from registered voters by early July 2010 to place the initiative on the 2010 ballot. An initiative petition, if ultimately passed by the voters, becomes the equivalent of a statute.

For constitutional amendments, sponsors must gather the required signatures this fall. Then, their proposals would have to be approved by at least 25 percent of the Legislature in 2010 and again in 2011-2012 to appear on the 2012 ballot.

The 25 certified petitions cover 12 different topics. A list of the certified petitions and petitions that were not certified are attached to this message.

Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution legally limits what the Attorney General's Office can certify. Article 48 requires that each petition must be in proper form and must propose a binding law, cannot be substantially the same as any proposal that appeared on the ballot in the last two statewide elections, and cannot address any of a limited list of matters "excluded" from the initiative process by the state Constitution.

Among the issues constitutionally barred from being proposed by initiative petition are laws relating to the powers of courts or to religion, laws that make specific appropriations from the Treasury and laws that apply only to limited parts of the state. Article 48 also provides that laws that are inconsistent with certain constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, the press and the right to trial by jury, cannot be proposed by ballot initiatives.

A list of the ballot initiatives is attached. To view the list and complete text of each petition please visit the Attorney General's website.