San Diego Review December 1, 1995
Too many tired, hanging curves?
By Dwayne Hunn
Sometimes, like my hometown Cleveland Indians, you get too far ahead of the curve… When it happens in politics, you also don’t score much.
Getting ahead of too many curves in either game: 1) destroys confidence and passes bench splinters 2) causes public policy grumbling during commercials of Married with Children 3) teaches one to persist, adjust and wait till they slip you a good, crushable pitch.
People’s Lobby was ahead of a lot of curves — reviving the initiative for grassroots organizations, sponsoring initiatives to clean the environment and reform politics, training groups to do the same and sending men to Washington to implement the national initiative and referendum. Unfortunately, People’s Lobby’s truly big hitters went up to the heavenly Big League, and for years the National I&R, was left stranded on political bases.
Today new hitters step up to drive home that biggest political run. Rick Arnold’s highly successful National Voter Outreach, which did 20 of the 66 initiatives in 1992 and 19 of the 76 that qualified in 1994, has branched out to form the American Initiative Committee, whose goal is to amend the National I&R into the Constitution. Former Senator Mike Gravel wants to adopt a National I&R through a 1996 popular vote, re-enacting Philadelphia’s Constitution writing of 1787.
Barbara Vincent, Director of the National Referendum Movement (NRM), has another approach. NRM also has a National I&R goal, but intends to promote that by bringing the initiative process to the 26 states that still lack I&R rights 24 states possess. NRM’s approach, dubbed the Tennessee Plan, attacks on three fronts:
1) Legislatures are lobbied to pass I&R legislation, while seeking the governor’s support;
2) Electorates tests their constitutional right by placing an issue on the ballot via petition;
3) Courts suits are filed under state and federal bills of rights when the petition is denied.
In short, if the politicians won’t pass laws to give citizens the initiative and referendum, citizens put an issue on the ballot without an initiative law. When the Secretary of State denies their legal ability to do so, they “sue the buzzards.”
Didn’t the King of England learn that petitioning for redressing grievances is better than going to war? Wasn’t a foundation of the Constitution the right of redress? Wasn’t the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791 three years after the Constitution alone was submitted to the states, added to guard against the abuse of people’s rights? Wasn’t the right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” one of the key phrases in the First Amendment?
Doesn’t the 1983 Civil Rights Law stating, “No one can use even custom as an excuse to violate citizens’ civil rights…” receive its legal forces from those founding tenets? Our rights emanated from our 1776 Declaration of Independence, so shouldn’t logical historians wonder why it took over 200 years for all the states to have the initiative and referendum?
If the three pronged attack doesn’t obtain timely results, the NRM has a “big squeeze” contingency that relies on Congressional supporters to pass a Uniform Act establishing the IR process for all the states. The states would be required to provide initiative and referendum rights to citizens, as states retain discretion to set signature, filling requirements, etc.
Even before the tired but true 42 year old Satchel Page joined the Indians in 1948, tired politicians were heaving curve balls to keep the initiative out of the peoples’ hands. Today, however, more hitters are digging in to crush hanging curves into the I&R bleachers.