Testimony in Opposition to SB12

Testimony in Opposition to SB 12, A Proposal for a Legislative Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth relative to the subject matter of initiative petition

Joint Committee on the Judiciary
April 14, 2011

As a public policy organization, Massachusetts Family Institute strongly opposes Senate Bill 12 to amend Article 48 to not allow any initiative petition that would restrict the rights set forth in the state constitution to freedom and equality, or the right of each individual to be protected by society in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property, according to standing laws.

Article 48 was passed during the Constitutional Convention of 1918 under the much heralded progressive movement of the era to give the people a more active role in government. Since that time, hundreds of Legislative Amendments have been proposed, many of which reached the ballot and were passed by the voters. But only 13 Initiative Amendments by the people have successfully passed the significant hurdle of collecting tens of thousands of signatures from registered voters. Of the thirteen attempts, only three were approved by the Legislature to be on the ballot, and of those three, two were approved by the voters in a general election. In 1938 the people voted by 42% to 23% to create biennial sessions of the legislature. In 1974 the people voted to allow the use of highway tax funds for mass transit.

Based on the results of the past 93 years, it is preposterous to claim that the initiative petition process in Massachusetts is too easy and a threat to individual rights. In fact, Massachusetts has the most cumbersome and complicated initiative petition process in the nation, accentuated by the requirement of the Legislature to approve the proposed amendment in two separate legislative sessions before it can be on the ballot. No other state has this requirement. Placing a proposed amendment before the people through an initiative process is so prohibitively difficult in Massachusetts that the process has rarely, if ever, been used.

Why would the Legislature want to make the initiative petition process even more difficult by excluding any subject dealing with freedom, equality, life, liberty or property, “according to standing laws?” Such a limitation would apply to almost any topic thereby effectively taking away the right of citizens to amend their constitution. This is clearly an overreach attempt by certain legislators and special interest groups to throttle the voice and rights of the people.

Please reject this proposed Legislative Amendment to Article 48 of the Constitution.

Sincerely,

Kris Mineau
President

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