On Saturday I traveled to Oklahoma City to attend “Reforming the Reform Process: How to Restore Oklahoma’s Initiative.” What I learned is that Oklahomans are concerned with reforming a valuable citizen right that doesn’t exist at all in Kansas.
The initiative process allows citizens to place a question on a ballot to be voted on by the people. This is helpful when the legislature or governor refuse to pass laws that the people want. Referendum allows for laws that have been passed to be revoked. In both cases, citizens usually have to gather a large number of signatures in order for the measure to make it on the ballot.
The entrenched powers in states usually don’t welcome initiative and referendum. These powers that will resist I&R are not only legislatures, but also bureaucrats and organizations like teachers unions that benefit from current political arrangements. They’ll do whatever they can to defeat citizen efforts.
For example, I learned of an effort where a group spent some $750,000 to gather signatures on a petition, only to have the effort invalidated due to a technical defect in the language on the petition. The measure, dealing with educational reform, was opposed by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. That group, and others, sued to have the petition effort invalidated. They were successful.
This illustrates a problem that citizen groups face. They may spend tremendous effort and money, only for it to be wasted. In most states, the process is stacked in favor of entrenched interests.
Kansas has no initiative and referendum at the state level. This is only one are in which Kansas lags behind the standard set by other states.