Saturday, September 22, 2007

Details of a Proposal to Amend the Constitution

Here's Question X (the Massachusetts Attorney General's office has given informal approval of this wording):

QUESTION X

Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a proposal to amend the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to replace the state Legislature with 100 randomly selected adult residents of the Commonwealth, each serving a one year term, to be called the Commonwealth Jury and to have all the legislative and other powers of the current Legislature?



DETAILS:

Question X refers to a proposal, not the proposal. Here are some details of a proposal that a State Representative could vote in favor of in compliance with Question X:

1. The state Legislature, with all of its current legislative and other powers (including, for example, the power to subpoena, to hold public hearings, and to legislate the tax code, the state budget and the purposes for which the Commonwealth will use its National Guard and State Police), is replaced by 100 randomly selected adult residents of the Commonwealth collectively designated the Commonwealth Jury.

2. Decisions of the Commonwealth Jury are reached by a majority of the votes cast or, in the case of overriding a veto, by two thirds of the votes cast.

3. Each member of the Commonwealth Jury, designated a Commonwealth Juror, will serve a term of one year, during the first six months of which he or she will be a non-voting member, and during the second six months of which he or she will be a voting member. Service as a Commonwealth Juror entails attending official meetings of the Commonwealth Jury and engaging in its deliberations and decision-making with a sound mind.

4. Every adult resident of the Commonwealth whose official residency has been in the Commonwealth for all of the previous year and who has not served as a Commonwealth Juror in the last 20 years is eligible to be selected as a Commonwealth Juror. Every eligible resident has the same probability of being randomly selected to serve as a Commonwealth Juror, and if selected must serve unless it would be substantially impossible (due, say, to incarceration or physical or mental disability) or unless he or she can show that it would be an extreme hardship. Once selected, the term of service begins no sooner than one year later.

5. The terms of office of the one hundred Commonwealth Jurors are staggered so that one begins on each of the first one hundred days of the year that are a Monday or a Thursday. If a Commonwealth Juror is unable to begin or complete his or her term then each Juror whose term starts after that Juror's term takes the place of the Juror whose term starts three or four days before his or her own term.

6. The Commonwealth shall reimburse each Commonwealth Juror for expenses incurred specifically as a result of serving as a Juror and additionally pay each Juror the amount required to ensure that his or her gross income while serving as a Commonwealth Juror remains the same as it was in the most recent calendar year ending before he or she was selected, up to a maximum of ten times the median gross income of the Commonwealth in that same calendar year, and at minimum an amount sufficient to provide the Juror and his or her dependents an income equal to the current applicable HHS Poverty Guidelines. Commonwealth Jurors shall enjoy the same employment protections that are provided to soldiers under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.

7. It shall be a felony crime to seek to influence a Commonwealth Juror's vote by bribery or a threat of a personal nature against a Juror, or for a Commonwealth Juror to accept a bribe or to fail to report to the assembled Commonwealth Jury and to law enforcement authorities any such attempt to bribe or threaten him or herself.

8. Until such time as the terms of the first one hundred selected Commonwealth Jurors have begun, the existing Commonwealth Jurors do not constitute the Commonwealth Jury, but they have the power to subpoena and hold public hearings.

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Here are some relevant url's about the legal procedure for placing a question on the ballot and the relevant sections of the Massachusetts State Constitution:

Voting Facts


State Ballot Question Petitions

Petition forms can be obtained on or after April 20, 2010 at the Elections Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth Office at:
McCormack Building
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
Take the Red Line to Park Street Station. Once outside the station walk up Park Street toward the State House. Turn RIGHT onto Beacon Street. Make the first LEFT onto Bowdoin Street. Take the next RIGHT onto Ashburton Place. One Ashburton Place will be on the LEFT.

Signed petitions should first be submitted to the LOCAL city or town Board of Registrars or Election Commission for certification no later than July 7, 2010 (only signatures from that local city or town will be counted!!) and then the certified signed petitions should be filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office no later than August 4, 2010. Note: sooner is better because only the first three Questions filed will appear on a given state representative district's ballot.


Massachusetts General Court Representative Districts:

My residence is in the 18th District: Suffolk BOSTON - Wd. 21, Pcts. 2, 4, 13-16; Wd. 22, Pcts. 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11-13 Brookline (Norfolk County) - Pct. 1

Here is how to find out what Representative District & Ward & Precinct any address is in:


Here is how to get the official form to register to vote.

Fill out all the non-optional relevant lines, and return to (by mail is o.k.) your LOCAL City or Town Hall Board of Registrars or Election Commission.

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How Does the Constitution Get Amended?

CONSTITUTION OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS.

Article XLVIII.

IV. Legislative Action on Proposed
Constitutional Amendments.

[Section 1. Definition. - A proposal for amendment to the constitution introduced into the general court by initiative petition shall be designated an initiative amendment, and an amendment introduced by a member of either house shall be designated a legislative substitute or a legislative amendment.

Section 2. Joint Session. - If a proposal for a specific amendment of the constitution is introduced into the general court by initiative petition signed by not less than twenty-five thousand qualified voters, or if in case of a proposal for amendment introduced into the general court by a member of either house, consideration thereof in joint session is called for by vote of either house, such proposal shall, not later than the second Wednesday in June, be laid before a joint session of the two houses, at which the president of the senate shall preside; and if the two houses fail to agree upon a time for holding any joint session hereby required, or fail to continue the same from time to time until final action has been taken upon all amendments pending, the governor shall call such joint session or continuance thereof.] [Section 2 superseded by section 1 of Amendments, Art. LXXXI. (See below for this amended text.)]

Section 3. Amendment of Proposed Amendments. - A proposal for an amendment to the constitution introduced by initiative petition shall be voted upon in the form in which it was introduced, unless such amendment is amended by vote of three-fourths of the members voting thereon in joint session, which vote shall be taken by call of the yeas and nays if called for by any member.

Section 4. Legislative Action. - Final legislative action in the joint session upon any amendment shall be taken only by call of the yeas and nays, which shall be entered upon the journals of the two houses; and an unfavorable vote at any stage preceding final action shall be verified by call of the yeas and nays, to be entered in like manner. At such joint session a legislative amendment receiving the affirmative votes of a majority of all the members elected, or an initiative amendment receiving the affirmative votes of not less than one-fourth of all the members elected, shall be referred to the next general court.

Section 5. Submission to the People. - If in the next general court a legislative amendment shall again be agreed to in joint session by a majority of all the members elected, or if an initiative amendment or a legislative substitute shall again receive the affirmative votes of a least one-fourth of all the members elected, such fact shall be certified by the clerk of such joint session to the secretary of the commonwealth, who shall submit the amendment to the people at the next state election. Such amendment shall become part of the constitution if approved, in the case of a legislative amendment, by a majority of the voters voting thereon, or if approved, in the case of an initiative amendment or a legislative substitute, by voters equal in number to at least thirty per cent of the total number of ballots cast at such state election and also by a majority of the voters voting on such amendment.

Here is the amended text referred to above:

Article LXXXI. Section 1. Article XLVIII of the Amendments to the Constitution is hereby amended by striking out section 2, under the heading "THE INITIATIVE. IV. Legislative Action on Proposed Constitutional Amendments.", and inserting in place thereof the following:-

Section 2. Joint Session. - If a proposal for a specific amendment of the constitution is introduced into the general court by initiative petition signed in the aggregate by not less than such number of voters as will equal three per cent of the entire vote cast for governor at the preceding biennial state election, or if in case of a proposal for amendment introduced into the general court by a member of either house, consideration thereof in joint session is called for by vote of either house, such proposal shall, not later than the second Wednesday in May, be laid before a joint session of the two houses, at which the president of the senate shall preside; and if the two houses fail to agree upon a time for holding any joint session hereby required, or fail to continue the same from time to time until final action has been taken upon all amendments pending, the governor shall call such joint session or continuance thereof.

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In Massachusetts we have a constitutional (state constitution) right to collect signatures, to put a question on the ballot, at a private-property shopping mall. For the law on this, see the following ruling the the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court:


DONALD P. BATCHELDER vs. ALLIED STORES INTERNATIONAL, INC. & another. [Note 1]

388 Mass. 83

May 5, 1982 - January 28, 1983

Present: HENNESSEY, C.J., WILKINS, LIACOS, ABRAMS, NOLAN, LYNCH, & O'CONNOR, JJ.


A person seeking signatures in connection with access to the ballot in a public election has a right under art. 9 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights to do so, in a reasonable and unobstrusive manner, in the common areas of a large shopping mall, subject to reasonable regulations adopted by the mall owner. [91-93] LYNCH, J., with whom HENNESSEY, C.J., and O'CONNOR, J., join, dissenting on the ground that art. 9 does not apply to private conduct of the type challenged in this case. [94-97]

CIVIL ACTION commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk on March 31, 1980.

On transfer to the Superior Court Department, the case was heard by Good, J.

The Supreme Judicial Court granted a request for direct appellate review.

Roderick MacLeish, Jr., & Robert A. Sherman (John Reinstein with them) for the plaintiff.

John A. Christopher, IV, for the defendants.

Anthony P. Sager & Stephen M. Limon, Assistant Attorneys General, for the Attorney General & another, amici curiae, submitted a brief.


Also, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office has issued instructions on this matter, as follows:

SOLICITATION OF SIGNATURES IN PUBLIC PLACES

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Both the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions protect the right to solicit signatures on ballot question petitions in a reasonable and unobtrusive manner in open public areas. This includes the public areas of municipal property as well as the common areas of privately owned shopping centers. Distribution of printed material in connection with signature solicitation is also protected. The right of signature solicitation (along with other free-speech activities) on municipal sidewalks, in parks and in similar open public areas is clear. Hague v. CIO. 307 U.S. 496, 516-16 (1939)

The state Supreme Judicial Court has provided guidance specifically to those persons gathering signatures in privately owned shopping centers. Batchelder v. Allied Stores International Inc., 388 Mass. 83, 445 N.E.2d 590 (1983) Although the Batchelder Court ruling was limited to gathering signatures on candidates’ nomination papers, this standard also applies to gathering signatures on initiative and referendum petitions, under the Massachusetts Constitution. Mass. Const. amend art. 48. Shopping centers may adopt reasonable regulations that require signature gatherers to identify themselves, prevent them from harassing customers and obstructing pedestrian traffic, and allocate space and times among different groups of petitioners. It is therefore suggested that solicitors contact the management company of a privately owned shopping center to arrange for a mutually convenient time for such activity.

In Batchelder the Supreme Judicial Court held that Article 9 of the Massachusetts Constitution protects the right to solicit signatures, and to distribute related printed material, in the common areas of privately owned shopping centers, subject to reasonable regulations. At least the same amount of protection must apply on municipal property that is regularly open to the general public for municipal business. Therefore, ballot-access and nomination paper signature solicitation must be allowed on municipal property that is regularly open to the general public for municipal business, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner regulations.

Please do not hesitate to contact Michelle K. Tassinari, Legal Counsel, at 617.727.2828 or 1.800.462.VOTE for more information on the right of individuals to gather signatures in public places.

03/02

One Ashburton Place, 17th Floor, Boston Massachusetts 02108

(617) 727-2828 . 1-800-462-VOTE (8683)

website:www.state.ma.us/sec/ele . e-mail: election@sec.stste.ma.us

1 comment:

Adam said...

Ordinary People Making Laws - This would be a swift kick in the groin and a violent punch to the back of the head of system that is anything but Democratic - in Massaschusetts or Illinois (where I live). As Harvard legal scholar William J. Stuntz wrote, "Exercising our rights means accepting the risks and responsbilities that accompany them." I am prepared to accept the risks and responsibilities that a process like this would bring.

Further, this a great idea for a Graduate or Doctoral Thesis. I would love to stand and defend this idea.

Thank You, Dr. Spritzler.