The self-help approach

By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

OOIDA members regularly act to improve local, state and/or federal rules. Whether it is through communication with elected officials, running for office, or offering insight through testimony to various panels and committees, there are many ways to have a say in what happens at all levels of government.

Despite lending your voice and expertise on various issues that affect you, you may see the actions or inaction of elected officials complicating progress. Justifiably, this can dampen any enthusiasm to effect change. But it shouldn’t. Options are available for people to get local, state or regional issues on the ballot.

When elected officials are not doing enough to address important issues, the public typically can pursue ballot measures to get issues before voters. The three types of ballot measures are initiatives, referendums and recalls.

Initiatives are a tool for registered voters to offer proposals to change or create laws. They require the collection of a predetermined number of signatures on a petition to get questions on the ballot. The initiative process is available in 24 states.

Using the initiative process, citizens can elicit a public vote on proposed statutes or amendments to a state constitution. The process is also used to ask advisory questions and propose memorials – nonbinding laws.

Referendums come in two forms. The first kind is a popular referendum. Similar to initiatives, it requires registered voters in 24 states to collect a predetermined number of signatures to qualify a question for the ballot on whether to repeal a law enacted by state legislators.

The second form is a legislative referendum. Allowed in all states, this process is used by state officials or other government agencies to put before voters propositions that typically create statutes, amend the state constitution, or refer bond questions.

Recalls are initiated by the public to remove an elected official from office before his or her term expires. A predetermined number of signatures are required for a recall election.

If your state does not offer an initiative or referenda process, there’s no reason for that to deter your involvement. Residents have every right to put pressure on elected officials to make the necessary changes in statutes to allow people greater control over their local and state rules. LL