(The Center Square) – A Kentucky lawmaker wants a constitutional amendment that would give residents a chance to propose their own laws for the state.
State Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, has filed House Bill 150, which would let voters decide if Kentucky becomes the 27th state to enact a referendum process.
In an email with The Center Square, Raymond said she became interested in referendums after learning about voters in Multnomah County, Oregon, passing a pre-K initiative in November 2020. She said it showed promise for enacting broad policy changes.
“This is how Kentuckians get policies they overwhelmingly support across partisan lines but that the majority in Frankfort won’t take up,” she said, citing pre-K, medical marijuana and sports betting as possible examples for ballot initiatives.
According to Raymond’s bill, an initiative would be placed on the next general election if supporters gathered signatures from 2% of the state’s population. The threshold would be based on the most recent U.S. Census count.
The 2020 Census showed Kentucky had just more than 4.5 million people. At 2%, that means a measure could get on the ballot if proponents got 90,117 verified signatures.
Voter-backed measures would only be allowed to focus on a single subject matter.
The secretary of state’s office would be responsible for verifying signatures and the election process. The General Assembly would then pass legislation to enact policies based on approved initiatives.
Raymond said a key provision to her proposal is that the legislature would not be allowed to “hamper, restrict or impair” a measure passed by voters. Proposed ballot initiatives also would not be allowed to target a class of individuals.
Also, if there were competing measures on the same topic on the same ballot, the bill receiving the most yes votes would be enacted.
To get on the ballot for this year, Raymond will need to get three-fifths majorities in the state House and Senate to approve her bill.
So far, there are no co-sponsors for her bill. Still, Raymond said she is working on getting additional support, including from Republicans who hold the majority in the House.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the 26 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands that allow voter initiatives vary on the process and what is permitted.
Only Illinois, Missouri and Ohio allow for initiatives for states neighboring Kentucky. Illinois allows only constitutional amendments, while Missouri allows for both laws and amendments.
In Ohio, a voter-backed petition can put an amendment on the ballot. However, a petition for a new law goes first to the state legislature. If lawmakers fail to act or submit a different proposal, the citizen measure would be placed on the ballot.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.