Introduced by Representative Wright of Burlington
Referred to Committee on
Subject: Elections; legislature; citizens’ initiative process
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to establish a citizens’ initiative process and to require the general assembly to vote on laws proposed by citizens in accordance with this process.
AN ACT RELATING TO A CITIZENS’ INITIATIVE PROCESS
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
CHAPTER 23. CITIZENS’ INITIATIVE PROCESS
§ 751. INITIATIVES AUTHORIZED
The citizens of this state may propose legislation for enactment by the general assembly provided that prior to presentation to the general assembly, the legislation is first approved by the voters at a statewide election in accordance with the process set forth in this chapter.
§ 752. APPLICATION FOR INITIATIVE PROPOSITION
Twenty-five registered voters may apply to the secretary of state to prepare an initiative petition. The application must be filed between January 1 and June 1 of even-numbered years. The application shall contain the text of the proposition, a proposed concise description of the proposition, the names and addresses of the applicants, and the name and address of their designated agent.
§ 753. REVIEW OF PETITION
(a) Within 14 days after the initiative proposition is filed, the secretary of state shall:
(1) review the petition and, after consultation with the legislative council, make any nonsubstantive changes the secretary deems appropriate to ensure clarity and consistency of form and expression with Vermont statutes;
(2) revise, if necessary, the concise description to assure that it is accurate, fair, and impartial; and
(3) return the documents to the designated agent.
(b) Upon request, the secretary of state or the secretary’s designee shall meet with the designated agent within ten days after return of the documents to attempt to resolve any disagreements about form, style, or wording. Within ten days after return, the agent shall give or withhold his or her assent to the wording of the petition and the description. If the agent withholds his or her assent, a petition shall not be prepared.
§ 754. INITIATIVE BALLOT
(a) With the assent of the agent, the secretary of state shall assign the petition a number.
(b) Within ten days after assent, the secretary shall prepare the form of the petition which shall be used for the initiative proposition. The petition shall contain on each page a caption describing the subject of the initiative proposition, the number assigned to the petition, the description of the initiative proposition, the statement of the proposition, and space for the signatures and addresses of registered voters. Reproduction of the petition shall not be the responsibility of the secretary of state.
(c) The statement of the petition shall be in the following form:
"We, the undersigned, being registered voters in the State of Vermont, request that the following question be placed on the ballot of the general election to be held November :
“Shall Proposition , relating to [subject], be brought before the session of the general assembly for a recorded vote?"
§ 755. VALIDITY OF PETITION
(a) The petition shall be filed with the secretary of state on or before September 1 of the year in which the application was filed under section 752 of this title.
(b) The petition shall contain the signatures of 30,000 individuals registered to vote in the state and shall contain at least 1,000 signatures from each county in the state.
(c) The secretary of state shall, within ten days after filing of the petition, determine whether sufficient legal names have been submitted to satisfy the requirements of subsection (b) of this section. The secretary of state may use a random sampling method in making the determination.
(d) If the secretary of state finds that the number of legal names is insufficient, he or she shall promptly notify the agent, who may request a name-by-name validation until a sufficient number of legal names has been found to validate the petition, or until it is mathematically impossible for the requirement to be met. The secretary of state shall assess the agent $0.25 for each name validated under this subsection, whether the number of names is found to be sufficient, and may require the posting of adequate surety before undertaking the name by name validation.
§ 756. INITIATIVE BALLOT
(a) In each year in which an application for a petition is accepted under section 752 of this section, the secretary of state shall prepare at most two initiative ballots. The first two petitions determined to be valid under section 755 of this section shall be the petitions for which an initiative ballot is prepared.
(b) The article for a statewide public question on an initiative proposition shall be prepared by the secretary of state. The article shall identify the proposition by its assigned number and contain the concise summary approved under section 753 of this title and a question worded to describe the chief purpose of the proposition so that an affirmative response to the question corresponds to an affirmative vote on the proposition.
(c) A copy of the complete text of the initiative proposition shall be filed in the town clerk’s office prior to election day. Copies of the proposition shall be available to members of the public upon request, free of charge, and shall be conspicuously posted at the polling place.
(d) If the initiative proposition is approved by a majority of the votes cast on that question, the secretary of state shall immediately forward the certificate of the canvassing committee, together with the full text of the proposition, to the clerk of the house of representatives.
§ 757. ACTION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
(a) Upon organization of the general assembly in the January following the general election at which an initiative proposition is approved by the voters, the speaker of the house shall promptly cause the proposition to be introduced without alteration as a bill.
(b) Within 20 legislative days after the beginning of the session, the committee to which the bill was referred, if any, shall report the bill to the house, without amendment or with proposed committee amendments. The house shall proceed promptly to consider the bill and the vote on final passage shall be by roll call.
(c) If the vote in the house is in the affirmative, the bill shall forthwith be messaged to the senate. Within 20 legislative days after the beginning of the session, the committee to which the bill was referred, if any, shall report the bill to the senate, without amendment or with proposed committee amendments. The senate shall proceed promptly to consider the bill and the vote on final passage shall be by roll call.
(d) Except as otherwise provided in this section, the rules of the house of representatives and the senate and presentment to the governor shall apply to enactment of an initiative proposition.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street