The passions have cooled from Minnesota’s direct democracy trial of 2012, when the hot issues of gay marriage and voter ID were put to voters, and some legislators are now taking a critical look at the machinery that allowed that to happen. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and veteran Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, want to make it harder for the Legislature to run to the voters with partisan, emotional issues, and risk permanently enshrining today’s popular opinion into the state Constitution. “I feel very strongly about it,” said Bakk, a former union official who worries that a right-to-work policy, which unions see as a threat to the standard of living, could be pushed into the Constitution by a future GOP-controlled Legislature. “To the extent that I can put something in the way to make it a little more difficult for one party to put something on the ballot, it will make me more comfortable when I leave,” Bakk said.
Minnesota does not have California-style initiative and referendum, in which citizens and special interests can petition and campaign to write new laws or change existing laws. It does have a relatively easy path to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot for voters to consider, which can be used as a backdoor initiative or a way to circumvent a governor’s opposition.
In 2012, voters rejected both the marriage and voting amendments after furious and expensive campaigns. Bakk argues that while those issues received full pro-and-con airings, most proposed amendments in recent history have been approved by voters without such debate.
Putting an amendment on the ballot requires only a simple majority of the House and Senate. Bakk would require a “supermajority” of 60 percent in each body and a waiting period before the issue goes before voters.
Full Article: Are amendments’ path to the ballot too easy? | Star Tribune.