The Mass. GOP has filed a “Verfied (sic) Complaint and Motion for a Preliminary Injunction” claiming that Governor Patrick has no authority to declare the Senate interim appointment law an “emergency law” that takes effect immediately instead of in 90 days. You can read the filing at this link (PDF) (thanks to the Herald for posting it). Apparently a hearing is scheduled for 8 a.m.
Let’s do the prediction first: case dismissed for lack of standing. The Mass. GOP cannot allege (and, in this complaint, does not allege) how it is especially harmed by the Governor’s action. It says at the end that it has “shown that irreparable harm will result” if an injunction is not issued (though it never explains why), but it makes no showing at all about how the Mass. GOP, specifically, will be harmed.
Awkwardly, though, it also appears that the MA GOP doesn’t actually know what a “referendum” is. To the flip!
Here’s one of the complaint’s central allegations:
The law, as signed, cannot be subject to a referendum petition or request for suspension.
It can’t? That’s odd — I thought that pretty much all laws enacted by the legislature could be the subject of a referendum. Could you elaborate?
According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s web site, submission of original petitions to Attorney General to originate an initiative petition for a constitutional amendment were due August 5, 2009. That date has passed, and with a special election slated for January 19, 2010 a referendum cannot be had.
Huh? What does the deadline for an initiative petition have to do with this? This is about a referendum, an entirely different … ooooohhh, I think I see the problem: the MA GOP does not realize what the difference between an referendum and an initiative is.
Just to clarify: an initiative is how the people can enact a new law (or a constitutional amendment). A referendum is completely different: it is a mechanism by which the people can vote thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a law that the legislature has already enacted. And, crucially, the referendum process is actually very much available in the case of the interim Senator law. Here’s the MA Constitution (Article 48):
A referendum petition may ask for a referendum to the people upon any law enacted by the general court which is not herein expressly excluded…. A petition asking for a referendum on a law, and requesting that the operation of such law be suspended, shall first be signed by ten qualified voters and shall then be filed with the secretary of the commonwealth not later than thirty days after the law that is the subject of the petition has become law.
The initiative deadlines are completely irrelevant to the referendum. The deadlines for a referendum are determined by when the law in question was enacted; first, 30 days from enactment for 10 signatures, and then 60 more days to gather several thousand more. Then, if they get the signatures, the law is suspended* and an up-or-down vote goes to the people at the next state election.
So come on, Mass. GOP — don’t go crying to the courts (they’re not going to listen anyway). If you don’t like this law, get out there and gather signatures for a real referendum on it!
*This gets a bit complicated: if enough signatures are filed within 90 days of the law’s enactment, the law is suspended until the election unless the law has been declared an emergency law by the legislature or the Governor. In either of those cases, the law stays in effect, but the referendum vote still goes ahead at the next election.