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 Alabama Constitution Convention and the legistures have failed us for 116 years.
I&R will break the monopoloy 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 the 20 largest US 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.”