For Immediate Release - September 04, 2013

AG's Office Completes Certification Review for Initiative Petitions

Certifies 28 Petitions Covering 14 Topics

BOSTON After a thorough review of the 33 initiative petitions submitted in August, all but five have met the requirements outlined in the constitution to move forward in the certification process, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. The AG’s Office certified 28 petitions, which includes 25 proposed laws and three proposed constitutional amendments. The 28 certified petitions cover 14 topics; some petitioners submitted more than one version of a petition on the same topic.

“Ballot initiatives allow citizens across the Commonwealth to directly engage in the process of democracy,” AG Coakley said. “We have conducted a complete and thorough review of these initiative petitions and found that most meet the requirements posed in the state’s constitution. Our decisions do not reflect any opinion on the merits or values of the petitions, but simply that the constitutional requirements were met.”

A list of the petitions and whether or not they were certified is available on the AG’s website. Non-certification letters are available for those petitions that were not certified by the AG’s Office.

Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution defines the AG’s certification criteria and requires that each petition must 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 to each other or mutually dependent, and not involve a narrow set of subjects that are specifically excluded from the ballot initiative process by the Massachusetts 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 4, 2013. Once the signatures are obtained, the proposal is sent to the state legislature to enact before the first Wednesday in May 2014. If the legislature fails to enact the proposal, its proponents must gather another 11,485 signatures from registered voters by July 2014 to place the initiative on the November 2014 ballot. An initiative petition, if ultimately passed by the voters, becomes the equivalent of a statute.

For constitutional amendments, sponsors must gather the required 68,911 signatures this fall. Then, their proposals must be approved by at least 25 percent of the legislature in 2014 and again in 2015-2016 to appear on the 2016 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.

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