Amherst League of Women Voters

A Voice for Citizens, a Force for Change

Consensus Question 4

Question 4 in the Massachusetts Leagues' study of the Ballot Question Process asks "Should there be a limit to the length (e.g., number of words or number of pages) of the full text of a proposed law for an initiative petition (and eventual ballot question)?"

Currently, the entire text of a proposed law (or, in the case of a referendum, of the existing law) is published in "Information for Voters" as the "full text of question". There is no limit on the length of this part of each measure. In 2018, they ran from one to three pages. but in 2016 the full text for the question on the Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana took 11 pages. This text is prepared by the proponents of an initiative measure, who may seek assistance from the Attorney General's office on an informal, non-binding basis.

The "single-purpose requirement", affirmed several court cases over the years, requires that a single petition may include only subjects that are related or mutually dependent. The most recent instance was in 2018, when the Court ruled that a petition involving the flat income tax rate and also prioritizing spending on public education, creating a new (millionaires) tax and prioritizing revenues from this new tax for transportation, should not be certified by the Attorney General. (See Appendix 2, Massachusetts Laws, Regulations and Court Cases of the LWVA Study Report, pp. 6ff.) This at least ensures that proposed laws are not hundreds of pages, like those routinely considered by Congress.

Question 4 is on page 6 of the Study Guide.