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communications media, including newspapers, magazines, radio and television, would be enlisted in this educational process.
PREPARED STatement of PATRICK QUINN, SECRETARY-TREASURER, ILLINOIS COALITION FOR POLITICAL HONESTY
One of the political realities of the 1970's is the phenomenal growth of citizen action in American public life. In every region of our country, grassroots are energetically organizing around a host of issues to improve their communities.
Time and again, citizens have demonstrated that they are far ahead of foot-dragging politicians when it comes to demanding public interest reforms. Yet year after year the people must watch helplessly as good legislative proposals are killed by lobbyists and political deals in Washington.
Clearly the people of the United States need a mechanism to take on the organized special interest and professional politicans that now dominate the legislative process. That is why the national initiative power is so vitally needed in our country.
The initiative process allows citizens to bypass the legislature and enact laws directly by petition and referendum. It serves as a democratic safety valve by giving voters a chance to propose innovations and reforms that politicians consistently ignore or sidestep. Often the mere threat of an initiative can force a hesitant legislature to take long-overdue action.
This situation occurred in Illinois in 1976 when state legislators quickly passed a law abolishing advance pay for themselves after a citizen petition drive brought attention to this long-standing abuse. For more than 100 years, Illinois legislators had maintained the privilege of collecting their entire annual salary on the first day of office, rather than being paid on a monthly or weekly basis. This practice cost the state treasury $375,000 every session in lost interest. Moreover, even legislators who resigned or who were sent to prison after felony convictions were able to keep their entire salary (currently $20,000 annually). In 1975, one state senator was convicted of income tax evasion a month after being sworn in. He was sent to prison but he refused to return any of his $20,000 annual salary to the state.
Bills to end the advance pay privilege were introduced into the legislature and quickly defeated. A freshman legislator was nicknamed "Bad Bill" Byers when his bill to require monthly salary payments for legislators was defeated by a 21-3 vote in committee. The sopnsor was literally laughed out of the committee. But the taxpayers of Illinois, who were fed up with this legislative abuse of their tax dollars, had the last laugh.
Citizens from across the state joined together in the Coalition for Political Honesty and organized the Political Honesty Initiative, a constitutional amendment to end advance pay for state legislators. More than 12,000 citizens passed Political Honesty petitions and gathered 635,158 signatures in the greatest grassroots campaign in Illinois history.
Shortly after the Initiative's petitions were filed with the State Board of Elections on May 1, 1976, the Illinois General Assembly by a near unanimous vote and in record time enacted a law mandating that state legislators be compensated on a monthly basis. The politicians knew that if they didn't pass the reform themselves, the people of Illinois would do it for them through the Initiative.
The success of the Political Honesty Initiative graphically demonstrated the power and potential of organized citizen action through petition and referendum in Illinois. The vigorous citizen activity encouraged by initiatives does not weaken the legislature and representative government. On the contrary, the initiative power improves legislative performance by providing direct feedback to elected officials about the public's feelings on different issues.
The initiative process is a built-in accountability mechanism to help politicians keep their promises and do a good job. In reality, initiative campaigns give concrete meaning to the citizen right to petition the government for redress of grievances. With the power of initiative, citizens have a valuable democratic tool to promote openness and responsiveness in public institutions and elected officials.
The hope for better government in the United States lies in bringing more grassroots democracy to the legislative process. It's time to open the door to citizen initiative in our country and let the will of the people be the law of the land.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF VINCENT A. DROSDIK III, FOR LIBERTY LOBBY
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am Vincent A. Drosdik III, Assistant Editor of The SPOTLIGHT. I appreciate this opportunity to submit for the record the views of LIBERTY LOBBY's 25,000-member Board of Policy, as well as the quarter of a million readers of our weekly newspaper, The SPOTLIGHT.
The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution begins, "We the People . . ." While it was written and ratified by the sovereign states, the document recognizes with these words that all power of government originates from individuals and the rights they naturally possess.
When the national charter went into effect, the national government was small and extremely limited. For more than a century, the only time most Americans had any contact with the federal government was to mail a letter, perhaps vote or, in that great tragedy, the Civil War, march off into battle or wave good-bye to family members doing likewise.
State and local governments were far more active and visible, providing local services, maintaining roads, operating schools. Only they taxed the people directly. And being closer to the citizen, they were also more accessible and more prone to influence by the populace.
But how much the situation has changed this century! The national government has gone from federal to central, from small to gargantuan, from barely noticeable to overbearingly ever-present, from cheap to expensive. The size and scope of government at all levels have greatly increased, to be sure; but proportionately the federal government has become the senior partner.
Within the federal government, all three branches have mushroomed. Congress, with larger and larger staffs, feels it has the constitutional authority to pass legislation on any matter, forgetting what the 9th and 10th Amendments say, let alone the rest of the Bill of Rights. The President, through Executive Orders and other under-the-board means, exerts more power over the American people than did King George III at the time of our independence. The federal courts, and especially the Supreme Court, does not hesitate to legislate, in effect, whatever it believes ought to be the law-disregarding the fact that the Constitution gives only Congress the power to pass laws.
Finally, we have a de facto fourth branch of the U.S. government-the bureaucracy. Protected by Civil Service from political manipulation, middle level bureaucrats have abused their position, resisting any reasonable changes in policy and, in effect, making their own law. These abuses, however, stem more from the nature of big government than in venality of individual bureaucrats.
LIBERTY LOBBY and all other patriots and conservatives see a general reduction in the size and scope of government at all levels, particularly the federal, and returning power directly to the people as individuals or as members of local communities, as fundamental in solving the problem of unresponsive government. Other federal powers and responsibilities should be turned over to the states, where the people have more control over those governments.
But we realize that our ideal solution is not about to come soon. With the four branches of the U.S. government vying with each other for the lives, liberties and wallets of the American people, and with the states failing, for the most part, to act as defenders of their citizens, it is imperative that an additional check be created on a government that threatens to muzzle us in the press, manipulate us at the ballot box, harass us in the marketplace and bleed us through taxes.
We at Liberty Lobby believe that the National Initiative Amendment is just that additional check needed to defend "We, the People."
Frankly, many of us were hesitant about the proposal. It seemed that irresponsible laws could be passed by an ignorant or inflamed electorate. Yet the American people are taught to trust their representatives in government every
election and, more significantly, to trust them to make decisions every day in the free marketplace of goods and services.
We hesitated when someone said the proposal appeared to go against the wishes of the Founding Fathers. Yet they didn't face a huge four-branch government and very active state and local governments eating up nearly half the production of goods and services in the private sector. If they had, the founders certainly would have given serious thought to a mechanism such as the National Initiative to give the voters more input in the government process. Some conservatives fear the National Initiative, yet they love to quote polls on how the American people want lower taxes, less government, retention of the Panama Canal, and a strong military, and how the federal government fails to reflect the popular will. To those conservatives, we say, in the words of columnist Patrick Buchanan, “. . . the Abourezk amendment offer the people and unimpeded end-run around that liberal establishment. Now is the time for the (conservative) brothers to put up or shut up."
Some liberals have expressed doubts, too. Yet it is they who are so confident in the American people's ability to choose a President and Congress to spend a fourth of their incomes and regulate a significant portion of their lives. The National Initiative is perfectly in line with the liberal philosophy of trusting the people.
And the people themselves indicate a growing disillusionment with government and its ability to deal with problems. A recent Harris Survey Alienation Index reveals:
By 60 to 35%, a majority feels that "The people running the country don't really care what happens to you."
By 61 to 33%, Americans feel that "what I think doesn't count much any more." Just 11 years ago, only 37% shared this feeling.
A significant 35% say they "feel left out of things going on around them."
Finally, by 59 to 31%, a majority agrees that "the people running Washington, D.C. are out of touch with the rest of the country." Elections every other year have not helped stop this trend. Indeed, the power of incumbency is greater today than ever before, especially with the new campaign laws and restrictions of the Federal Election Commission. The people must have a direct way to get their beliefs known directly to the federal government, and overrule it where necessary.
The requirement for, in effect, nearly 5 million signatures on petitions to get an initiative question on the ballot will insure that few frivolous itens will be voted on. With only a few questions to be decided every other year in national elections, the issues will most certainly be extensively debated, insuring probably the most rational decision possible by the voters. And the ability of the Congress to override national intiative questions will guard against possible occasional mass mania.
The wide range of support for the National Initiative, from populist liberal to the so-called "radical right," plus the compelling arguments for it, indicate to Liberty Lobby (the oldest broad-based lobby not funded by special interests) that the time has indeed come for its enactment.
Thank you again for this opportunity to submit this statement for the record.
MICHIGAN UNITED CONSERVATION CLUBS,
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution,
DEAR SENATORS: The Michigan United Conservation Clubs appreciates the opportunity to submit the following comments regarding the voter-initiative constitutional amendment SJR 67.
The MUCC is a statewide conservation organization consisting of 426 affiliated clubs and 100,000 members. As you may know, the Michigan Constitution provides for citizen-initiated legislation. It is not uncommon that three or four ballot proposals go before our voters during general election years. The MUCC initiated such a proposal during 1976 resulting a law requiring deposits on all beverage containers sold in Michigan.
We would like to offer this case study in support of the National VoterInitiative Proposal. The bottle bill referendum had a long history in Michigan. Various forms of container legislation had been before the Michigan Legislature for over ten years. In each case, however, special interest lobbyists had kept these bills from ever going to a vote of either house. A market opinion survey in July, 1976, showed that a full 73 percent of the Michigan electorate favored a ban on throwaway beverage containers.
It was because of that overwhelming public support and because of legislative unwillingness to address the issue that MUCC initiated a referendum on beverage container deposits in Michigan. The measure passed by a ratio of almost 2:1. The significance of this law goes way beyond its conservation purposes. The whole process was a healthy exercise in democracy. Over 12,000 citizens circulated petitions and approximately 405,000 registered voters signed them placing the proposal on the ballot. The ensuing campaign by proponents and opponents and the coverage by radio, television, and newspapers was a tremendous educational and political experience for the citizens of this state. It was extremely satisfying for the citizens of Michigan to play such a meaningful role in the democratic decision-making process. It is only logical that citizens across our country be provided with that same opportunity.
The Michigan United Conservation Clubs feels strongly that the rights of citizens to initiate legislation at the national level should be incorporated in the U.S. Constitution.
Very truly yours,
THOMAS L. WASHINGTON,
Executive Director, MONTANANS FOR SAFE POWER, Billings, Mont., January 4, 1978.
Senator JAMES ABOUREZK, 3321 Dirksen Building,
DEAR SENATOR ABOUREZK: Thank you for your invitation to submit testimony for the Subcommittee on the Constitution's hearings on the Voter Initiative Constitutional Amendment. I fully support S.J. Res. 67, introduced by yourself and Senator Hatfield. The initiative process is quite workable and necessary at the state level. I see no reason why it would fail nationally to provide as useful and important a tool for public participation.
In 1976 Montanans for Safe Power qualified a nuclear regulatory measure for the Montana ballot. The measure was defeated, 59%-41%, after a federal court struck down Montana's corporate campaign contribution restrictions. Proinitiative forces raised $451 from individuals during the campaign, as against $315 raised by anti-initiative forces. However, anti-initiative forces raised over $140,000 from corporate sources, while pro-initiative forces raised none and attempted to raise none. The corporate contribution restriction question is now before the U. S. Supreme Court. If the Court upholds states' rights to restrict corporate contributions, I hope that such state restrictions will be valid as to the national initiative as well. In fact, if there is a way to restrict corporate contributions in the national initiative process, please amend S. J. Res. 67 to accomplish this end. The Montana and Massachusetts restrictions are good models.
EDWARD M. DOBSON, Co-chairman.
THE NATIONAL HEALTH FEDERATION,
Subcommittee on the Constitution,
Senate Judiciary Committee,
Senate Office Building,
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE: I should like to voice strong support for S.J. Resolution 67, the Voter Initiative constitutional amendment. Prompt passage of this resolution will be in the best interest of "of the people, by the people, and for the people" government.
Having used the initiative process citywide and statewide I can assure you that
1. It is not meant to be a substitute for the representative form of government but is merely a "check valve" to allow the people to take peaceful and meaningful action at times when they believe, rightly or wrongly, that their elected representatives have neglected to consider legislation that the people feel is important or that their elected representatives have enacted legislation that the people do not want.
2. It will not lead to irresponsible legislation being passed. In fact, the electorate is more likely to refuse to pass legislation because of its inborn skepticism. In this way you find that legislation passed by the people is more responsible than legislation in general.
3. In addition, S.J. Resolution 67 provides that 3% of the people voting at the last election for President must sign the petition; this means 2,500,000 valid signatures or 3,500,000 signature in total, since some will be illegible, unqualified, incomplete, etc. At 20 signatures an hour this amounts to about 200,000 manhours of work. This 3% requirement though stringent is more than enough to assure that flippant legislation through the initiative won't even get on the ballot, let alone be passed.
4. Voters are capable of intelligently passing judgment on one issue at a time. These same voters in electing their representatives must pass judgment on a far more complex issue since candidates express themselves on several issues and the voter must weigh all these issue before he can decide which candidate he wishes to vote for. If the electorate is capable of voting for his representatives he is more than capable of voting for or against an issue via the initiative. Your immediate and favorable action on S.J. Resolution 67 will be a strong indication of your confidence in the American people, the people who were responsible for putting you into office.
JOHN YIAMOUYIANNIS, Ph.D.,
PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATIC CLUB,
Kansas City, Mo., November 23, 1977.
Senator JAMES ABOUREZK,
Senate Post Office,
SIR: Thank you for your letter of November 17 requesting my written testimony concerning the Voter Initiative Constitutional Amendment (J. S. Res. 67). Please convey the following testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee:
True democracy is a risky form of government, almost dangerous. It is government based on the yet untried belief that the majority of the people can rule themselves, that no special interest or elite is required to choose leaders and/or government policy. We have had our present Constitution for nearly 200 years; we all know that the Founding Fathers set up a republic not a democracy. The original Constitution placed limitations on the powers of the voters. One such limit concerned how Senators were to be chosen. They were appointed up until the 17th Amendment (1913). Thereafter, citizens gained more power to direct their own government and our country started on its way to having a more perfect government:
19th Amendment-granted suffrage to women, 23rd Amendment-presidential vote for District of Columbia, 24th Amendment-Barring of Poll Tax to vote, 26th Amendment-voting rights for 18-20 year olds.
Now you are considering a new, also risky change to the Constitution. Should voters be permitted to directly initiate a federal law, as they may do in several of the States? If one considers the recent trend described above as dangerous, then vote no, against J. S. Res. 67, enough is enough, the democratic movement has gone too far. But, if one believes that the ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy, then the proposed Voter Initiative is a good move towards granting more voter responsibility and control over his government.
Returning to my first statement, that democracy may be dangerous. This is true because the power of the majority can be more tyrannical than any dictator. Alexis de Tocqueville first explained this 150 years ago, so I won't add more. However, our current Constitution has provide to be an adequate safe