On Wednesday, fiscal conservatives and values conservatives testified side-by-side against a bill before the Legislature that would more than double the number of signatures needed to repeal a law or amend the constitution. The proposed constitutional amendment, sponsored by Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville), would raise the number of signatures needed from 3% to 7% of the number of voters in the most recent gubernatorial election.
As I told the Committee yesterday, we have the narrowest window to collect signatures and the most draconian standards for those signatures, where even a thumbprint on the corner of the page throws those signatures out. I reminded members of the Committee just how rarely the process is actually used due to its already burdensome nature. (CLICK HERE to read my written testimony.)
Joining me at the hearing was Chip Faulkner of Citizens for Limited Taxation, the group who spearheaded the Proposition 2 ½ effort in 1980. He testified that when the Legislature fails to act, citizens should have the right to take matters into their own hands, and that legislators should not be making it harder for them to do so.
If the higher threshold had been in place then, Faulkner said, "We wouldn’t have come remotely close to getting the signatures. You wouldn’t have had 2 1/2 on the ballot, it wouldn’t have passed, and your property taxes would be double or triple what they are now."
At one point during the hearing, members of committee challenged Rep. Provost on her bill. Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) asked Provost if she had faith in voters to make the correct decisions on ballot questions. She awkwardly responded that some questions are so complex and confusing that information from the Secretary of State’s office isn’t sufficient to educate voters. (One would think that to be a problem with the Secretary of State, but certainly not a valid reason to raise the signature threshold.)
MFI will monitor this constitutional amendment’s progress closely. Though we do not expect it to leave the Election Laws Committee, if it does, we will work with our legislative allies to defeat it.
More Information: Boston Globe