Representatives Ball, Hill and Beckman Summary/Synopsis:
This bill would propose an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 to provide that the people also may propose the enactment of general laws and constitutional amendments by an initiative measure subject to the same limitations imposed on the Legislature and that the Legislature may offer an alternate proposal.League Action and Justification: LWVAL is monitoring HB487
unless the bill moves this year.
This is the same amendment introduced by Representative Ball since 2004, sometimes alone, sometimes with others, and once in 2010 with ten or more co-sponsors. Most of these bills never had a second reading. The one time it came up for a vote, it was indefinitely postponed.
Two changes this year’s version are: (1) The $1,000 fee for original filing will be refunded, less administrative expenses, if the initiative is successfully enacted and (2) If an initiative fails to be adopted, an identical initiative may not be submitted sooner than two years after the failure, a League position.
The bill seems to agree with the intent of the League proposals, in VII under Legislative Positions, for any initiative that might be adopted. It includes most of the safeguards detailed for the process, but omits those League recommends to prevent abuses by collectors of signatures.
Major areas of agreement with League cover: a) number of signatures and time limits for the original petition; b) the construction of the official text of the proposal and a ballot summary by the Alabama Law Institute upon request; c) later review by the Legislative Reference Service and the Legislative Fiscal Office. An unbiased statement is required for the official petition.
The role for the Legislature is the one League supports. The official version of the original proposal is submitted in one session to allow legislators to sponsor it. If no action is taken, the gathering of signatures for the official petition is started and the result certified by the Secretary of State. In the next session, the proposal is “enacted” by a third reading in each house. No modifications are allowed, but the Legislature may offer an alternative bill. Both the original proposal and the Legislature’s alternative are on the ballot for voters’ choice. The one with most votes becomes law. The League’s preference for of a larger majority for constitutional amendments is not included in the bill.
The chief weakness of the process for signature collection is one discussed in League’s study—how to prevent groups with a national agenda from “buying” an initiative in Alabama, using some local person or group as a cover. The League position requires: a) “clear identification of sponsors” from the first, instead of only one registered agent to be responsible to the Secretary of State and b) that all organizations gathering signatures periodically file financial disclosure forms. This bill says only that the “individual agent” must file “any elections report and disclosures required by election laws in the same manner as a candidate for elected office.” Our recommendations are designed to prevent stealth sponsors and attempts to restrain paid signature gathers who become aggressive rather than scrupulous to increase their pay. It is possible that the Secretary of State’s regulations and oversight might prevent such abuses that have occurred elsewhere. Bill Progress in Legislature: 3/20/2013:
Read for the first time and referred to the