Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

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
Opinion
  • Street flowers Street flowers

    Walk along Frostburg’s Main Street in the spring and summer and one can’t miss the beautiful floral arrangements that adorn the lampposts.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • President and Obamacare: Who needs Congress?

    Being a fellow from a small town like Cumberland I don’t always really understand what’s going on in Washington. But I have watched a few houses being built over the years. I even helped some with one house, but my brother fired me from that work pretty quickly, mainly because it was his house being built.

    April 22, 2014

  • Sweet Success Business Forum this evening in Frostburg

    As a member of the Frostburg Business and Professional Association (FBPA), I am pleased to inform the community of the “Sweet Success” event sponsored by the city of Frostburg and our organization.

    April 22, 2014

  • First base First base

    The idea of spending up to $7,500 for a study about the possibility of bringing a minor league baseball team to the area should at least be allowed to reach first base.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • You can help United Way reach its goal

    The United Way of Allegany County campaign for 2013-14 will end April 30 and to date has raised more than $430,000, which is over 86 percent of its goal. But there is still $70,000 to be raised in a very short time.

    April 21, 2014

  • Support Canal classrooms with tax-deductible gift

    While your April 17 article (“Park Service opens Canal classrooms,” Page 1A) described this exciting program accurately, your readers may be wondering how they can help support this new educational opportunity for school children in Allegany County.

    April 18, 2014

  • Ivan Hall story brings back memories of a unique man

    I enjoyed Mike Sawyers’ Ivan Hall story. It was well written and brought back some wonderful memories of my Cumberland days and especially, an unique man.

    April 18, 2014

  • It’s a secret It’s a secret

    Could someone enlighten us about why not even the names of the two entities bidding on development of the Footer Dye Works building can be divulged?
    A Times-News article about the bids included an explanation from a lawyer for the attorney general’s office about the need to keep the names and other information secret at this time. Despite that, the logic of not divulging at least a little more information escapes us.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • What do we do about those who weren’t criminals after all?

    Now that Maryland has become the 17th state to (finally) decriminalize possession of marijuana, one could say that the legislature and governor should be patted on the back for doing the right thing.

    April 17, 2014

  • 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