Sen. Stoops has introduced SJR 10 which would permit an initiative and referendum process in Indiana. Currently there is no process in Indiana for initiating legislation or constitutional amendments independently of the General Assembly. This would amend Article 4, section 1 of the Indiana Constitution to provide that “the people,” independently of the General Assembly have the power to:
(1) Propose statutes and amendments to the Constitution of the State of Indiana.
(2) Adopt or reject their proposed statutes or amendments to the Constitution of the State of Indiana by ballot.
(3) Approve or reject by ballot any statute, or section or part of any statute, enacted by the General Assembly
A measure (defined as a statute or constitutional amendment) is to be put on the ballot for a vote if a petition with the text of the measure gets signed by voters equaling 2% of the number of voters in the previous Secretary of State race. This is referred to as an “initiative.”
A “referendum” is the power to “approve or reject” all or part of legislation adopted by the General Assembly. The referendum gets on the ballot by a petition with 2% of the number of voters as voted in the last Secretary of State race. The legislature can amend or repeal legislation affected by referendum. They can’t do that with legislation adopted by initiative.
I don’t believe it says anything about when the initiative or referendum goes on the ballot. Special election? Next general election?
The amendment then directs the General Assembly to adopt legislation which would similarly impose the initiative and referendum process on units of local government.
The problem with this sort of thing is that the electorate is not usually all that engaged and, even if you don’t think your legislator sufficiently understands the laws he or she is passing, this pales in comparison to how little your average voter will be familiar with the context of these laws. Even though the process appears very democratic and perhaps that’s even the intent — more often than not, I expect that this process would be used by interests with money who can demagogue an issue to their advantage.
Update I had intended to mention this , but then forgot until Matt (not sure he wants credit or not, so I’ll leave it at the first name!) brought up Ohio on Facebook. I am cautiously supportive of a process which I (perhaps mistakenly) believe exists in Ohio — a “veto only” sort of referendum process that allows voters to hold a referendum on passed legislation in order to repeal it. So, they can veto legislation but not propose it. I don’t think I’m conflicted on whether would support a line item veto for this sort of process or, alternatively, only an up or down vote on a bill. My first inclination would be to require an up or down vote on the entire bill that was passed rather than the ability to pick particular sections of the bill. Think, for example, if a bill had expenditures and taxes to support those expenditures, then the citizens came along and repealed only the taxes but kept the expenditures. But, that makes things awfully messy if, for example, objectionable social legislation is squirreled away in an otherwise very necessary and appropriate budget bill. So, I like this sort of veto-only referendum process much better in theory than the referendum and initiative process; but it still has some very thorny problems.