For Immediate Release - September 02, 2015

AG's Office Certifies 22 Initiative Petitions

Petitions Cover 16 Topics; 10 Petitions Ineligible for Certification

BOSTON After a thorough review of initiative petitions submitted by the August 5 deadline, the Attorney General’s Office has determined that 22 proposals have met the requirements outlined in the constitution and may proceed to the next step in the process, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

The AG’s Office certified the 22 petitions, including 20 proposed laws and two proposed constitutional amendments. The certified petitions cover 16 topics as some petitioners submitted multiple petitions on the same subject. The AG’s Office did not certify 10 of the initiative petitions because they did not meet the requirements outlined in Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution. Two of the original 35 petitions were withdrawn by the petitioners and action on a third one was deferred at the request of the petitioner. 

A list of the petitions and the AG’s certification decisions are available on the AG’s website. Letters explaining the AG’s decisions not to certify are available on the website.

Today’s decisions are based strictly on the AG’s Office’s constitutional review under Article 48 and do not represent the office’s support or opposition to the merits of the petitions.

Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution defines the AG’s certification criteria and requires that each petition be in the proper form for submission to voters. Petitions may not be substantially the same as any measure on the ballot in either of the two preceding statewide elections, must contain only subjects that are related to each other or mutually dependent, and may not involve an enumerated set of subjects that are specifically excluded from the ballot initiative process by the Massachusetts Constitution.

Among the laws that may not be proposed by initiative petition are laws that would relate 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, may not be proposed by ballot initiatives.

Proponents of each certified initiative petition must now 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 by early July 2016 to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot. An initiative petition, if ultimately passed by the voters, becomes a state statute.

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.

Voters or petitioners who take issue with the AG’s certification decisions can ask the Supreme Judicial Court for a review.