For Immediate Release - September 07, 2011

Attorney General's Office Completes Certification Review of Initiative Petitions

Certifies 23 petitions covering 17 topics

BOSTON - Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office completed its review of 31 initiative petitions, including 30 proposed laws and one proposed constitutional amendment. All but eight petitions have met the requirements outlined in the constitution to move forward in the certification process.

"Ballot initiatives are a tool for citizens across the Commonwealth to directly engage in the process of democracy," AG Coakley said. "After review, we have concluded that most of these initiative petitions have met the requirements posed in the state's Constitution. Our decisions today do not reflect any opinion on the merits or values of the petitions, but were based on a limited review of the form and topics of proposals."

Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution defines the Attorney General's certification criteria. 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 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, freedom of elections, freedom of the press and the right to compensation for a governmental taking of private property, cannot be proposed by ballot initiatives.

Proponents of each certified initiative petition must now gather and file the signatures of 68,911 registered voters by December 7, 2011. Once the requisite signatures are obtained, the proposal is sent to the state Legislature to enact before the first Wednesday in May 2012. If the Legislature fails to enact the proposal, its proponents must gather another 11,485 signatures from registered voters by early July 2012 to place the initiative on the November 2012 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 2012 and again in 2013-2014 to appear on the 2014 ballot.

Today's decisions by the Attorney General's Office are based on a strict constitutional review and do not represent the office's support or opposition to the merits of the petitions.

The 23 certified petitions cover 17 different topics.

To view the list and complete text of and contact persons for each petition, please visit the Attorney General's website under " Current Petitions Filed."


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