LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Elections Committee on Wednesday approved legislation to require the secretary of state to provide more transparency as it reviews citizen-initiated petitions.
“Recent citizen initiative petitions have taken the Secretary of State’s Office six to nine months to process; there needs to be better accountability,” said Sen. Ruth Johnson, chair of the committee and previous Michigan secretary of state. “Our office averaged 100 days when I was secretary of state and sometimes finished our review of petitions in less than 60 days.
“This bill will bring more transparency to the petition and signature verification process when citizens propose legislation.”
House Bill 5252 would require a summary of the proposed amendment or question and the date it was filed with the Department of State be posted on the department’s website within two days of receiving it. The bill also requires the department to post an update on the status of the petition on its website at least once every 30 days.
“This is a common-sense measure that puts some sunshine on where the Secretary of State’s Office is at on petitions that have been submitted by citizen groups,” Johnson said. “It is important that when citizens exercise their rights under the Constitution to propose legislation that those petitions are reviewed in a timely manner.”
The Michigan Constitution allows citizens to propose laws to the Legislature. For citizens to propose the legislation, petitions must be signed by registered voters totaling 8% of the total votes cast in the last election for governor. Almost a dozen groups in Michigan are currently circulating petitions to initiate legislation.
Once petitions are submitted and approved by the Board of State Canvassers the proposed legislation moves to the Legislature for consideration. The Legislature can approve the legislation with a majority vote in both the House and Senate within 40 days, which is not subject to the veto of the governor. If the Legislature does not approve the proposed legislation, it becomes a ballot question for voters to decide directly.
HB 5252 now heads to the full Senate for consideration.