For Immediate Release - August 06, 2009

Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Receives 30 Initiative Petitions Proposing 25 Laws and Five Constitutional Amendments

Certification Decisions Due on September 2

BOSTON - Meeting yesterday's 5:00 p.m. deadline, 17 groups have filed 30 petitions for proposed laws or constitutional amendments with Attorney General Martha Coakley's office. Of the 30 petitions, five constitutional amendments were filed for the 2012 ballot. Some initiative petition sponsors submitted more than one version of a petition on the same topic.

A list of all the petitions and their contact persons is available on the Office's website.

Yesterday's filing deadline is only the start of the process to get the proposed laws on the ballot for the 2010 statewide election. According to state law, the Attorney General will review whether the initiative petitions meet certain constitutional requirements and can be certified to file with the Secretary of State. The deadline for certification is Wednesday September 2. The personal policy views of the Attorney General or any members of her office play no role in the certification decisions. Attorney General Coakley welcomes public input on whether a petition may be legally certified.

Following certification, proponents are required to 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.

The process for proposed constitutional amendments is different, requiring approval by at least 25 percent of the Legislature in 2010 and then again in 2011-2012 before appearing on the November 2012 ballot.

The Massachusetts Constitution requires that proposed initiatives be in the proper form for submission to voters, not be substantially the same as any measure on the ballot in either of the two preceding statewide elections, contain only subjects that are related or mutually dependent, and not involve a narrow set of subjects that are specifically excluded from the ballot initiative process by the state Constitution.

For example, a petition cannot be approved if it relates to religion, religious practices or religious institutions; the powers, creation or abolition of the courts; the appointment, compensation or tenure of judges; a specific appropriation of funds from the state treasury; or if it infringes on other protected constitutional rights, such as trial by jury, freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

Voters who take issue with the Attorney General's certification decisions can ask the Supreme Judicial Court for a review.

For last year's election, 13 initiative petitions were submitted, with three making it to the ballot. For the 2006 election, 16 initiative petitions were submitted, with three making it to the ballot. Thirteen initiative petitions were submitted, with none making it to the ballot for the 2004 election. For the 2002 election, 27 initiative petitions were submitted, with only two making it to the ballot. In 2000, six of 33 initiative petitions submitted made it to the ballot. In 1998, two of 26 petitions submitted made it to the ballot; only one of 26 proposed ballot initiatives went before voters in 1996; and, in 1994, seven of 42 initiatives submitted appeared on the ballot.

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