For Immediate Release - August 05, 2015

AG Healey's Office Receives 35 Initiative Petitions Proposing 26 Laws and Nine Constitutional Amendments

AG’s Certification Decisions Will be Released on Sept. 2

BOSTON – Meeting today’s 5 p.m. deadline, 24 groups filed 35 initiative petitions for proposed laws or constitutional amendments with Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office. Of the 35 petitions, 26 were proposed laws for the 2016 ballot and nine were constitutional amendments for the 2018 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, http://www.mass.gov/ago/ballotquestions, under “Current Petitions Filed.”

This filing deadline starts the process for proposed laws and constitutional amendments. As directed by state law, the Attorney General’s Office will review whether the initiative petitions meet certain constitutional requirements and can be certified to file with the Secretary of State. Decisions on certifications will be released on Wednesday, Sept. 2. For more information on the process, please visit Initiative Petition Process, 2015-2016.

The personal policy views of the Attorney General or any members of her office play no role in the certification decisions. Attorney General Maura Healey welcomes public input on whether a petition meets certain constitutional requirements and may be legally certified.

Following certification, proponents of proposed laws are required to gather and file the signatures of 64,750 registered voters by Dec. 2, 2015. Once the requisite signatures are obtained, the proposal is sent to the state Legislature to enact before the first Wednesday in May 2016. If the Legislature fails to enact the proposal, its proponents must gather another 10,792 signatures from registered voters by early July 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

The process for proposed constitutional amendments is different, requiring approval by at least 25 percent of the Legislature in 2016 and then again in 2017-2018 before appearing on the November 2018 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 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.

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 the 2014 election, 33 initiative petitions were submitted, with four ultimately being certified and collecting sufficient signatures to make it to the ballot. For the 2012 election, 31 initiative petitions were submitted, with three making it to the ballot. For the 2010 election, 30 initiative petitions were submitted, with three making it to the ballot. For the 2008 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 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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