A voter casts her ballot during the Massachusetts special election for U.S. Senate inside the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 2010. The race is between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley to fill the U.S. Senate seat left empty by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). UPI/Matthew Healey

An amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution proposed by Democrats could virtually put an end to citizen-initiated referenda in the state.

The amendment, proposed jointly by state Rep. Byron Rushing in the House and by state Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem in the Senate, would exclude any citizen petition that deals with issues concerning a person’s right to “the enjoyment of life, liberty and property, according to standing laws.”

Massachusetts Family Association President Kris Mineau opposes the amendment, asserting it would have a chilling effect on the people of Massachusetts.

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“If the amendment passes the legislature and it goes all the way through, it would virtually eliminate the citizen’s right to petition in Massachusetts,” Mineau said.

“Oh yes, life, liberty or property. I can’t think of a single piece of legislation that doesn’t affect life, liberty or property in some way,” Mineau added.

Mineau believes there’s a deeper reason for the proposal.

“It’s absolutely the objective of the amendment’s sponsors to shut out the voters. Again, this would be a disenfranchisement of the citizens. They don’t believe we’re sophisticated enough to make decisions that only the elite elected officials are,” Mineau stated.

“That’s why this November’s election is so critical, both in the nation and in the commonwealth (of Massachusetts),” Mineau observed.

Although it was stated nowhere specifically, the change would appear to prevent any family issues from being brought to voters, such as a constitutional amendment that marriage is limited to one man and one woman, as dozens of states already have done.

Republican state Sen. Richard Ross, who won the special election to fill U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s statehouse seat, says he’s opposed to the amendment.

“The people should have the right to have the initiative petition, and I’ve been a supporter of the petition process in the past,” Ross said.

State Rep. Brad Hill also says he supports citizen petitions.

One of the opponents is House Minority Leader Brad Jones. The Republican state representative believes the proposal is done.

“It’s a ridiculous proposal, and it’s not going anywhere,” Jones said.

The measure has solid support, however. Senate Bill 23 received only one dissenting vote and was reported out of the Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee with an “ought to pass” recommendation.

The amendment states, “No proposition inconsistent with any one of the following rights of the individual, as at present declared in the declaration of rights … shall be the subject of an initiative or referendum petition.”

Rushing and Creem were unavailable for comment, and the current constitutional-convention meetings have been adjourned. A clerk’s office source in the state Senate said no date has been scheduled for another meeting.

But Mineau warns the issue isn’t finished.

“It’s not going to go away. It will be back. The ruling elite don’t believe we’re smart enough to decide anything for ourselves, so no, it’s not dead,” Mineau said.


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