Initiative

Initiative

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In political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

, an initiative (also known as a popular or citizens' initiative) is a means by which a petition
Petition
A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer....

 signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote (plebiscite
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

). The vote may be on a proposed statute
Statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

, constitutional amendment
Constitutional amendment
A constitutional amendment is a formal change to the text of the written constitution of a nation or state.Most constitutions require that amendments cannot be enacted unless they have passed a special procedure that is more stringent than that required of ordinary legislation...

, charter amendment or ordinance
Local ordinance
A local ordinance is a law usually found in a municipal code.-United States:In the United States, these laws are enforced locally in addition to state law and federal law.-Japan:...

, or, in its minimal form, to simply oblige the exescutive or legislative bodies to consider the subject by submitting it to the order of the day. It is a form of direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

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The initiative may take the form of either the direct initiative or indirect initiative. Under the direct initiative, a measure is put directly to a vote after being submitted by a petition. Under the indirect initiative, a measure is first referred to the legislature
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

, and then put to a popular vote only if not enacted by the legislature. In United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 usage, a popular vote on a specific measure is referred to as a referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 only when originating with the legislature
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

. Such a vote is known, when originating in the initiative process, as an "initiative," "ballot measure" or "proposition." In New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 a vote initiated by the public is called a citizen initiated referendum.

Switzerland


It was included in the Swiss Federal Constitution
Swiss Federal Constitution
The Federal Constitution of 18 April 1999 is the third and current federal constitution of Switzerland. It establishes the Swiss Confederation as a federal republic of 26 cantons , contains a catalogue of individual and popular rights , delineates the responsibilities of the...

 in 1891, permitting a certain number of citizens (currently 100,000) to make a request to amend a constitutional article, or even to introduce a new article into the constitution. The right of initiative is also used at the cantonal and communal level in Switzerland (all canton
Cantons of Switzerland
The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders, army and currency from the Treaty of Westphalia until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848...

s, all communes where the direct democratic
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

 citizens' participation originates); many cantons allow initiatives to enact regular non-constitutional law, but the federal system does not.

If the necessary number of supporters is reached, the initiative will be put to a referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 about two or three years later; the delay helps prevent short-term political moods from getting into the constitution. The parliament and government will both issue their official opinions on whether they recommend voting for or against the proposed amendment, and these opinions will be printed on the ballot.

The parliament may also pass an alternative amendment suggestion which will also be included on the ballot; in this case, the voters cast two votes, one for whether or not they want an amendment, and one for which one they want, the original one from the initiative or the one introduced in parliament, in case a majority decides for amending.

A citizen-proposed change to the constitution in Switzerland at the national level needs to achieve both a majority of the national popular vote and a majority of the canton-wide vote in more than half of the cantons to pass. The vast majority of national initiatives introduced since 1891, when the system started, have failed to receive voter support.

Ireland


Provision for the initiative was included in the 1922 constitution of the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

 but was hastily eliminated when republicans organised a drive to instigate a vote that would abolish the Oath of Allegiance
Oath of Allegiance (Ireland)
The Irish Oath of Allegiance was a controversial provision in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which Irish TDs and Senators were required to take, in order to take their seats in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann .-Text of the Oath:The Oath was included in Article 17 of the Irish Free State's 1922...

, which was nevertheless later abolished by the government. The current 1937 constitution has no initiative.

United States

Main article: Initiatives and referendums in the United States


The United States has no initiative process at the national level, but the initiative is in use at the level of state government in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and is also in common use at the local government level.

Article I, Section I
Article One of the United States Constitution
Article One of the United States Constitution describes the powers of Congress, the legislative branch of the federal government. The Article establishes the powers of and limitations on the Congress, consisting of a House of Representatives composed of Representatives, with each state gaining or...

 of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 vests "all legislative powers herein granted" to the Congress of the United States
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

." Establishing a national initiative procedure would likely require an amendment to the Constitution, which would under Article V
Article Five of the United States Constitution
Article Five of the United States Constitution describes the process whereby the Constitution may be altered. Altering the Constitution consists of proposing an amendment and subsequent ratification....

 require two-thirds of both houses of Congress or the application of two-thirds of the state legislatures to propose, and three-fourths of all state legislatures or conventions in three-fourths of the states
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

) to ratify. The Constitution itself was not ratified by referendum, but pursuant to Article VII was instead ratified by state conventions elected by the people.

Several proposals have been made to institute a national referendum. The Ludlow Amendment
Ludlow Amendment
The Ludlow Amendment was a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States which called for a national referendum on any declaration of war by Congress, except in cases when the United States had been attacked first. Representative Louis Ludlow introduced the amendment several times...

, introduced several times to the House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 by Louis Ludlow
Louis Ludlow
Louis Leon Ludlow was a Democratic Indiana congressman; he proposed a constitutional amendment early in 1938 requiring a national referendum on any U.S. declaration of war except in cases of direct attack...

 of Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

 between 1935 and 1940 during an era of heightened isolationist
United States non-interventionism
Non-interventionism, the diplomatic policy whereby a nation seeks to avoid alliances with other nations in order to avoid being drawn into wars not related to direct territorial self-defense, has had a long history in the United States...

 tendencies, proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would require a national referendum to declare war, except in the case of invasion and attack. The amendment came closest to overcoming a discharge petition
Discharge petition
A discharge petition is a means of bringing a bill out of committee and to the floor for consideration without a report from a Committee and usually without cooperation of the leadership. Discharge petitions are most often associated with the U.S. House of Representatives, though many state...

 on January 10, 1938, when it was defeated in the House by a vote of 209 to 188, far short of the two-thirds vote required.

Unsuccessful attempts to get initiatives have nevertheless occurred, but since the proposals were bills, not a constitutional amendments, probably no initiative could have lawfully been voted on notwithstanding the bills' passage. The first attempt to get national ballot initiatives occurred in 1907 when House Joint Resolution 44 was introduced by Rep. Elmer Fulton of Oklahoma; the proposal was never put to a vote. In 1977, both the Abourezk-Hatfield National Voter Initiative and the Jagt Resolutions never got out of committee. Senator Mike Gravel was part of that effort.

The modern U.S. system of initiative and referendum originated in the state of South Dakota
South Dakota
South Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux American Indian tribes. Once a part of Dakota Territory, South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889. The state has an area of and an estimated population of just over...

. South Dakota adopted initiative and referendum in 1898 by a vote of 23,816 to 16,483. Oregon was the second state to adopt and did so in 1902, when the state's legislators
Oregon Legislative Assembly
The Oregon Legislative Assembly is the state legislature for the U.S. state of Oregon. The Legislative Assembly is bicameral, consisting of an upper and lower house: the Senate, whose 30 members are elected to serve four-year terms; and the House of Representatives, with 60 members elected to...

 adopted it by an overwhelming majority. The "Oregon System", as it was at first known, subsequently spread to many other states, and became one of the signature reforms of the Progressive Era
Progressive Era
The Progressive Era in the United States was a period of social activism and political reform that flourished from the 1890s to the 1920s. One main goal of the Progressive movement was purification of government, as Progressives tried to eliminate corruption by exposing and undercutting political...

 (1890s-1920s).

Union level



The rejected Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE) included a limited indirect initiative right (Article I-46(4)). The proposal of introducing the European Citizens' Initiative
European Citizens' Initiative
The European Citizens' Initiative is one of the major innovations of the Treaty of Lisbon, aimed at increasing direct democracy in the European Union...

 (ECI) was that 1,000,000 citizens, from minimal numbers of different member states, could invite the executive body of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 (EU), the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

, to consider any proposal "on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Constitution." The precise mechanism had not been agreed upon. Critics underlined the weakness of this right of initiative, which did not ultimately entail any vote or referendum.

A similar scheme under the same name, European Citizens' Initiative (ECI), has been put forward in the now ratified European Lisbon Treaty (which entered into force on 1 December 2009), enabling a limited indirect initiative right. It follows very similar rules to the ones outlined in the European Constitution, requiring the signatures of 1,000 000 European Nationals. These citizens would thereby obtain the same right to request the Commission to submit a legislative proposal as the Council has had since the establishment of the European Communities
European Communities
The European Communities were three international organisations that were governed by the same set of institutions...

 in 1957. This, however, does require that the signatures come from a "significant number" of Member States. It is suggested that this significant number will need to be around a quarter of member states, with at least 1/500 of the citizens in those member states supporting the initiative. With the variety of languages within the European Union, this creates a significant hurdle for people to navigate. The treaty also makes it clear that right of initiative should not be confused with the right to petition
Petition
A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer....

, particularly since a petition is directed to Parliament while a citizens' initiative is directed to the Commission; whereas a petition is a method of remonstrance, usually focussing on perceived infringements of European Law, an initiative is a grassroots proposal for new legislation.

It remains to be seen if the ECI evolves into a full initiative or remains in its present state of a de facto petition.

France


A limited, indirect form of local initiative was added to the French Constitution (article 72-1, référendum d'initiative locale) on 28 March 2003 as part of decentralization
Decentralization
__FORCETOC__Decentralization or decentralisation is the process of dispersing decision-making governance closer to the people and/or citizens. It includes the dispersal of administration or governance in sectors or areas like engineering, management science, political science, political economy,...

 reforms. However, the only power these "local referendum initiatives" confer on citizens is the ability to add propositions to their local assembly's meeting agenda. The decision as to whether to submit citizen propositions to a popular vote (referendum) rests with the local assembly.

Germany


All German states have the right to initiative. However, there is no constitutional citizens' initiative in Germany at a federal level.

British Columbia


The Canadian province of British Columbia has a citizen initiative law known as the Recall and Initiative Act. The original proposal was put to voters in a referendum
British Columbia recall and initiative referendum, 1991
The British Columbia Recall and Initiative Referendum was a referendum held in British Columbia on October 17, 1991. It was concurrent with that year's general election. The referendum posed two questions. They were on whether elected officials should be able to be recalled and whether voters...

 held in October 1991 and was supported by over 83% of voters. It was subsequently put into force by the incoming NDP government. Since it came into force in 1995, several attempts have been made to hold an initiative, but until the fall of 2010, none had succeeded in reaching the first of the thresholds – namely, securing signatures of 10% of registered voters in each riding throughout British Columbia. The first referendum to be held under this legislation is currently scheduled for September 2011 on the subject of repealing the Harmonized Sales Tax
Harmonized Sales Tax
The Harmonized Sales Tax is the name used in Canada to describe the combination of the federal Goods and Services Tax and the regional Provincial Sales Tax into a single value added sales tax in five of the ten Canadian provinces: Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, British...

. Details of its use in BC are available on the Elections BC website.

Philippines


People's initiative to propose amendments to the constitution is enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution under Article XVII Section 2, which states:
This provision is further protected by Republic Act 6735 or The Initiative and Referendum Act. The law defines initiative as:
  1. A petition to propose amendments to the constitution.
  2. A petition to propose enactment of national legislation.
  3. A petition to propose enactment of local resolution or ordinance on regional, provincial, city, municipal, or barangay level.


The law also provides indirect initiative defining the exercise of people's initiative through a proposition sent to congress or local legislative body for action.

See also

  • Bond measure
  • History of direct democracy in the United States
    History of direct democracy in the United States
    The history of direct democracy amongst non-Native Americans in the United States dates from the 1630s in the New England Colonies. Some New England town meetings still carry on that tradition.-Progressive Era:...

  • Initiatives and referendums in the United States
  • List of politics-related topics
  • List of Arizona ballot propositions
  • List of California ballot propositions
  • List of Colorado ballot measures
  • List of Oregon ballot measures
  • List of Washington initiatives
  • Ombudsman
    Ombudsman
    An ombudsman is a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency while representing not only but mostly the broad scope of constituent interests...

  • Popular referendum
    Popular referendum
    A popular referendum is a type of a referendum that provides a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a...

  • Recall election
    Recall election
    A recall election is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended...

  • Referendum
    Referendum
    A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

  • Walter Mengden
    Walter Mengden
    Walter Henry Mengden, Jr. , is an attorney and oilman in Austin and Houston, Texas, who is a Republican former member of both houses of the Texas State Legislature from Harris County.-Early years:...


External links


Europe


United States