Two bills in the Rhode Island State Senate would allow voters the chance to nullify unconstitutional federal laws rather than wait for state legislators to do it themselves.

Senate Joint Resolution 67 (SJ67) would amend the state constitution if approved by referendum by the voters.

It would, in part, give voters the power to do the following:

Petition to enact statutes and to amend the constitution at general elections. This power shall be known as initiative and referendum. No initiative shall be permitted which shall abridge the civil rights or liberties, including those guaranteed by Article I of the Rhode Island Constitution, or attempt to preclude the expansion of civil rights, of any individual or group of individuals and no initiative shall be permitted which would repeal or amend this sentence. The superior court shall have original jurisdiction to hear complaints arising under this section on an expedited basis. Any individual shall have standing to bring an action at any time to enforce this section.

To be eligible for the general election, a petition has to have the signature of voters amounting to at least five percent of the total votes for governor at the previous election. An initiative to amend the constitution would have to be signed by at least a number of qualified voters equal to ten percent.

To qualify for certification, signatures from least fifty percent of the cities and/or towns, of which four must be cities, must meet the above percentage requirements. The initiative becomes law or amends the constitution if approved by majority vote. Significantly, the governor would have no authority to veto an initiative approved by the voters.

Senate Bill 66 (SB66) would establish a process creating voter initiative and referendum proposals.

To begin the initiative and referendum process, at least fifty qualified voters must sign the application petition obtained from the secretary of state containing the initiative measure in its entirety.

This would then allow the initiative or referendum to appear on the ballot for the next election. But, it would allow the state legislature to examine the initiative beforehand and vote on it. Their votes would then appear in a voter information handbook.

Some of the biggest challengers to our nullification efforts are legislators, whether they be at a state capitol or in D.C. Within the various processes necessary for a bill to become law, they can disrupt or permanently derail important legislation.

This is why these two bills are so important. While SB66 gives the legislature a chance to vote on initiatives before the voters, it allows the people themselves to write their own legislation and then have the voters decide rather than wait and hope the necessary representatives and senators will approve it.

Recent electoral history has shown when measures left to the voters to decide, such as decriminalizing marijuana, the voters choose to defy unconstitutional federal laws.


For Rhode Island: To support SJ67 and SB66, contact your state legislator and politely urge them to support and co-sponsor this important piece of legislation. Afterward, contact your state senator and politely urge them to introduce similar legislation in their chamber. You can find their contact information HERE.

For Other States: Take steps to stop warrantless drone spying by clicking HERE.

TJ Martinell

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