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Senate Interim Committee on Initiative and Referendum

Charge

The committee was charged with studying and making recommendations regarding the use of initiative and referendum in Texas. Additionally, the report was to include:

the extent to which initiative and/or referendum are currently used in Texas and other states;

methods used in other states to limit the number of initiative and referendum measures on the ballot for any one election;

methods used in other states to limit initiative and referendum ballot measures to major public policy decisions or to prohibit minor issues from being placed on the ballot;

the costs associated with initiative and referendum and methods used to fund those costs;

methods used in other states to inform the public regarding initiative and referendum measures on the ballot; and

methods used in other states to prohibit initiative and referendum campaigns from being dominated by special interest money.

Background

While commonly used together, initiative and referendum refer to two different things. An initiative allows citizens to place proposed statutes, and in some states, constitutional amendments directly on the ballot by obtaining a specified number of signatures on a petition. A referendum provides for a popular vote via petition on laws that have been enacted by the legislature. Texas is not currently an I&R state. Although Texas amends its constitution through a popular vote, it does so through referenda placed on the ballot by the legislature, not through a petition. Proponents have repeatedly failed to adopt I&R in Texas, most recently in the 74th Legislature.
Recommendation

4 While no two states have exactly the same requirements for qualifying initiatives, there are a number of commonly followed steps. Therefore, while the I&R report does not include any draft legislation, the basic requirement for qualifying an initiative or referendum generally include a petition proposal submitted to a designated state official.