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
  • 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

  • Translations differ, but the message is eternal

    This letter is in response to a recent letter titled “One cannot compromise on God’s word” (April 13 Times-News). I had previously written a letter titled “Why are compromises so difficult to achieve” (April 7).

    April 15, 2014

  • Closing the loopholes will help clear the regulatory waters

    After a decade of uncertainty over Clean Water Act jurisdiction following Supreme Court challenges in 2001 and 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers announced a forthcoming administrative rule to close enforcement loopholes, restoring protections to 20 million acres of wetlands, more than half the nation’s streams, and drinking water for 117 million Americans.

    April 15, 2014

  • The first step Remember where your freedom comes from before criticizing

    The deal at Fort Hood could have been avoided if it was caught in time.
    When you think a GI is not acting right, have him or her checked out before you put them back on duty and give them a weapon. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious and dangerous problem if it is not taken care of right away.

    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

  • Midterm elections give chance to return to American values

    A movement has been started by veterans of our armed forces to get out the vote in 2014. That includes Coast Guard and Merchant Marine personnel for those not familiar with the history of both and their sacrifice. This is no small special interest  group, but many millions of Americans who can have an enormous impact on the  outcome of the November election if they all respond.

    April 14, 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

  • Group wants status quo on Sunday hunting

    Many Maryland residents have grown very concerned about two legislative bills that are arriving on the desk of Gov. Martin O’Malley after being approved by both the Senate and House chambers this session. With the governor’s possible signature of these bills into law, hunting would be allowed on certain state lands on Sundays — a day in the past reserved for rest and non-hunters to enjoy public lands.

    April 10, 2014

  • New policies will grow better streamside buffers

    Well-functioning forest buffers along streams are perhaps the most effective and least costly best management practice we have to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

    April 10, 2014

  • National Day of Prayer events begin April 30

    The Cumberland National Day of Prayer Committee has finalized plans for the 63rd annual observance, with a prayer rally, a breakfast, an outdoor worship ceremony and youth rally planned April 30 through May 2.

    April 9, 2014