Let Bama Vote – Alabama Initiative & Referendum (I&R)
“You can’t want what you don’t know.” author unknown
Section 25 of the 1901 Alabama Constitution provides “That the citizens have a right, in a peaceful manner, to assemble…for redress of grievances or other purposes, by petition, address, or remonstrance.” The First Amendment in the US Constitution ensures each citizen has the right to “petition … for a redress of grievances”.
In a nut shell Initiative and Referendum is defined as
- Initiative = the right to place statutes and constitutional amendments on a ballot
- Indirect – what Alabama proponents are proposing, where as the Legislature has access to the bill before going to the ballot. However, the Legislature can not change, modify, and stall initiative process without first consulting with the “registered agent” and the agent agreeing to it.
- Direct – as most states have, whereas once approved by the AG and petitions verified will go directly to the ballot, without providing it to the Legislature.
- Referendum = the right to ratify or reject statutes
- Popular – from the people
- Legislative – from the Legislature as we frequently have on our statewide ballots
I&R is exceptionally popular in Alabama as across the union. On June 3, 2010, 500 likely voters in each state were asked “In 26 states, citizens can sign a petition to put laws or constituional amendments on the ballot to be decided by the voters at a statewide election. This process is known as initiave and referendum. Would you favor or oppose the initiative and referendum process in your state?” The national average was 67% in favor whereas Alabama bested the national average by 4 points as clearly shown in the below graph. Old or young, rich or poor, and marital status with or without children were all above 50%, less two, and majority above 60% in favor.
However, our legislators be design continuously kill or table the bill in committee, with an absence of public media. I&R has been before our legislature nearly 13 times over the last 15 sessions and never once seeing a floor debate or vote. “Initiative and Referendum” was mentioned during our 1901 Constitution Convention and the legislatures have failed us for 116 years.
I&R will break the monopoly our legislature has on each of us by not providing constitutional amendments for Common Core, Recall, Term Limits, Education Reform, Government Reform, Fair Ballot Access for independent and minor party candidates. Former Lt. Governor Steve Windom told me in 2016, I&R is necessary for Recall.
A poor example of good government exists when citizens are ignored while our government knows citizens in 26 states and the District of Columbia and 17 of our largest 20 cities, while several in states without I&R, such as Birmingham, have a form of I&R – not Alabama statewide. Not a foreign concept to our state government because the concept has been on our U.S. soil since 1600’s. President Teddy Roosevelt, speaking in Columbus, Ohio on February 21, 1912 spoke,
“…the initiative and referendum should be used, not as substitutes for representative government, but as methods of making such government really representative. Action by the initiative or referendum ought not to be the normal way of legislation; but the power to take it should be provided in the constitution, so that if the representatives fail truly to represent the people on some matter of sufficient importance to rouse popular interest, then the people shall have in their hands the facilities to make good the failure. . Give the legislature an entirely free hand; and then provide by the initiative and referendum that the people shall have power to reverse or supplement the work of the legislature should it ever become necessary.”
Gratitude and Appreciation
Representative Mike Ball, a long time student of I&R sponsored its legislation 13 of the last 15 consecutive sessions. Representative Isaac Whorton, with new blood and energy, has sponsored the legislation the last two years; his 2017 bill.
Alabama Voters Deserve and Want Initiative
Tired of big government taking care of themselves (i.e. 2007 62% pay raises) and approving a state cake while unwilling to fill the demands of the people for term limits and recall to mention a few.
Why must citizens be on the receiving end of these tactics?
We should not. With Initiative we will not be subject to the two parties fighting and sleeping together while accomplishing nothing we want and need.
Representative Mike Ball told me, referring to I&R, “It will not pass until the public demands it.” Well, after 116 years we are demanding it.
Then legislator and now Congressman Mo Brooks agreed with Representative Mike Ball, “In my view, no version of I&R will pass absent (a) a strong, grass-roots effort (that I don’t foresee rising any time soon) or (2) an elevation of issue by a Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House or President of the Senate. It is in this vein that I suggest you focus your efforts on convincing one of the above four to make I&R an issue. If you are successful, everything else will follow.”
How is Alabama doing with Initiative?
- Then Governor Fob James strongly advocated the adoption of the initiative process, unfortunately nothing came of it.
- Kay Ivey – candidate for Lt. Governor of Alabama had strong words in support for Initiative and Referendum.
“Right now, the only voices Alabamians have when it comes to influencing what goes on in Montgomery are the state senator and house member who work on behalf of their individual districts. That’s only two voices out of 140. The only time the people of Alabama get to vote on the actions of the State Legislature is when a constitutional amendment is proposed.
There are two other ways, though, that average citizens could make law even if Montgomery disagrees: “initiative” and “referendum.” They do not replace the legislature, but supplement it in case they fail to do our business.
Initiative allows any citizen to propose a new law, get enough signatures to place it on a ballot, and take it to the people for a vote. Referendum, on the other hand, is when laws are referred to the people for a vote, but the citizenry did not come up with the legislation.
Twenty-four states have initiative, referendum, or both. If we could pass these in Alabama, they would serve as an “insurance policy” to let the people make laws without the help of the Legislature.
If Alabama could pass Initiative and Referendum, we could do the important business of our state even if Montgomery didn’t want to.”
Tidbits of the Power of I&R
Magpul, a firearms company with 600 employees, moved just across the border to retain their employees, after Governor John Hickenlooper signed three anti-gun bills into law. Explaining their reasons and actions on their Facebook page the entry concludes in part “…but we feel confident that Colorado residents can still take the state back through recalls, ballot initiatives, and the 2014 election to undo these wrongs against responsible Citizens.”
Voters not wanting the design of a $50 million St. Petersburg, FL pier approved a referenda halting further construction on August 27, 2013 with a 63% approval. The city is now building a pier with the citizen’s approval.
There are many more recent examples of how I&R was used at all levels of government, state, county, and municipality.