Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

March 11, 2013

It’s a bad bill

Act would limit voters’ ability to seek a referendum

Maryland legislators should vote down a proposal that would make it more difficult to petition a law through a referendum by voters.

A Montgomery County Democrat senator, Richard Madaleno Jr., is sponsoring a bill that would require petitioners to gather more signatures to put a law up for referendum.

In last November’s election, state voters had a chance to make their voices heard on the same-sex marriage law and allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges. As it turned out, both laws were upheld by voters. But the measures were so controversial that they were settled once and for all when a majority of Maryland voters gave their approval at the ballot box.

Maryland's constitution allows voters to put to referendum all new bills, except budget bills and measures involving the manufacture and sale of liquor. Petitioners are required to gather signatures equal to 3 percent of the number of people who voted in the most recent governor's race. Because 1.9 million people voted in the 2010 contest, that means petitioners would have to gather about 55,000 signatures to put a law on the ballot.

Madaleno's amendment would change that to 5 percent of the total number of registered voters. With about 3.8 million registered voters in Maryland, petitioners would need about 188,000 signatures under the new rules — more than three times as many.

The proposal is being opposed by Common Cause of Maryland. "We are concerned that Madaleno's bill would raise the bar, making it that much harder for citizens to have their voices heard," Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, told the Washington Post. "The petition process, in the states that have both initiative and referendum, has seen reforms to how redistricting occurs, reforms dealing with campaign finance law and ethics laws. Sometimes people have a clearer view of things than the legislature."

Opposition also is coming from the American Civil Liberties Union. Sara Love, public policy director for the Maryland chapter of  the ACLU, doesn't oppose the 5 percent requirement — she noted most states with referendums require between 5 and 12 percent of the number of votes cast in the last governor's race — but the ACLU is opposed to requiring that percentage to come from the number of registered voters.

Making it more difficult to force a law into a referendum is not good government. Instead of discouraging people to use the democratic process, the state should be more interested in enabling voters.

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • The first step The first step

    If all goes as planned, Frostburg State University will one day offer a doctorate in nursing, a physician’s assistant program and a new health sciences building on campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Where to look Where to look

    Drive anywhere in Maryland and it seems there is one highway construction project after another. While it is good to see our roads and bridges being upgraded, it can be nerve-wracking for anyone traveling a long distance.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Library week

    Public libraries remain one of the best uses of taxpayer dollars. They are open to all. Young or old, poor or wealthy, residents can use computers and read current magazines and newspapers. Compact discs featuring a wide variety of music and
    movies on DVD may be checked out in addition to novels and other books.

    April 13, 2014

  • Sunday hunting Sunday hunting

    Legislation that increases hunting oppportunities on Sundays in Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties has passed the Maryland General Assembly and reached the governor’s desk.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • One cannot compromise on God’s word

    A recent letter asked, “What is it about compromises that seem so undesirable?” Most of us are familiar with John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The next verse goes on to say, “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”

    April 13, 2014

  • Ballpark project a partnership, not a government handout

    To the Editor:
    Regarding Mark Nelson’s recent objection to county government assistance to exploring the placement of a minor league baseball team in the Cumberland region, I would answer that the project should be considered a partnership between private enterprise and government. The private support would come by way of donations collected from local citizens, currently banked through the Dapper Dan Club.

    April 13, 2014

  • Editorial Cartoon Editorial Cartoon

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Decriminalizing marijuana lines pockets of drug cartel

    Has the Maryland government decided they like contributing to the drug cartel? Their new decriminalization of marijuana does nothing but line the pockets of the cartel.

    April 11, 2014

  • Speed cameras Speed cameras

    We’ve never been big fans of speed cameras, primarily for two reasons. First, because the cameras are not always accurate, and secondly because many jurisdictions seem to create revenue by installing cameras and issuing high numbers of speeding tickets.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Open data Open data

    Maryland state government took a step in the right direction when the General Assembly approved legislation aimed at making spending data more available and searchable to everyone.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo