Senate Passes Constitutional Amendment To Bring More Direct Role To Nyers

Martin J. Golden

September 18, 2008



The State Senate recently passed a constitutional amendment (S.6020) that would give New Yorkers a more direct role in the legislative process by empowering them to enact and amend laws through initiative and referendum.

"Initiative and referendum is an extremely powerful reform tool in politics as it gives the people the ability to make informed decisions to directly effect and change the powers and priorities of their government," Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C, Brooklyn) said. "It empowers the people to directly decide on ideas that have clear public support, yet have not been acted on by their state or local government."

"Initiative and referendum is a fundamental reform that will give New Yorkers more power to make decisions on public policy issues. It will also allow us as lawmakers to obtain a better view of the concerns of the citizens," continued Senator Golden.

An initiative is a proposed statutory or constitutional change that is placed on the ballot for a public vote; referendum refers to the power of the people to place on the ballot, laws that already have been enacted by the Legislature and either accept or reject them in whole or in part. Approximately one-half of states across the nation have some form of initiative and referendum.

The proposal would amend the State Constitution to allow for direct initiative and referendum, whereby measures are placed on the ballot at the November general election for a popular vote after a certain number of signatures are collected. Under the proposal, signatures from five percent of the total voters statewide in the last gubernatorial election would be required. To ensure that a measure has a broad base of statewide support, these signatures would be required to include at least 5,000 signatures of residents from at least three-fifths of the State's congressional districts.

Once on the ballot, an initiative or referendum would become law if it receives a majority of the votes cast. A measure enacted through initiative and referendum could not be repealed or amended by the Legislature for at least two years, and any modifications after that period could only be made with voter approval. Measures could be amended or repealed by the voters through the initiative and referendum process at any time.