"Initiative and referendum (I&R) has existed in some form in this country since the 1600s. Citizens of New England placed ordinances and other issues on the agenda for discussion and then a vote utilizing town meetings. These town hall meetings established the precedent which lead to the creation of the legislative referendum process – a process in which the citizens were entrusted with ratifying laws and amendments proposed by their elected officials.
James Madison said it best in Federalist 49 when he stated: '[a]s the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived, it seems strictly consonant to the republican theory to recur to the same original authority...whenever it may be necessary to enlarge, diminish, or newmodel the powers of government.'", http://www.
For over 200 years, citizens in our country have come to expect that their voices will be heard by their government leaders, however, when the representative do not fully represent the will of The People, it has become the right of the governed to petition their leaders through referendum, either binding or non-binding, and thus demonstrating the purest form of direct democracy.
When The People want to enact laws they themselves contrive, it is their right to create Initiatives, gathering signatures to petition their leaders to call to vote all those in their jurisdiction and voice their opinions on such matters they see important to them. The government then creates the referendum to poll the constituency, and the outcome of that vote either influences the leaders to themselves vote on specific policy and law (non-binding referendum), or the results force the elected to enact said law (binding referendum).
Through the use of referendum, The People have created such laws as women gaining the right to vote and electing their leaders through direct primaries, which we will practice tomorrow. It is an invaluable piece of our American government that many others in the world do not have granted to them, and which we sometimes take for granted ourselves.
We, as elected officials in our boroughs, have been chosen by The People to represent their interests, and trust has been bestowed upon us by them to do what we think is best for our communities. However, that trust does not give us "carte blanche" concerning the imposition of OUR wills on policy and law; it is still the responsibility of each one of us to actively poll the opinions of our constituents...actively and often...and bring to conversation equally those topics which are important to the masses as well as the few. However, it is also their RIGHT, nay, their DUTY, as citizens of a free country, to initiate that process when they so deem such appropriate. Let no elected official forget from whence their powers to govern are derived, and thus, let none restrict the power of Voter Referendum.
David "Scotty" Bolton
ACBA Vice-President and Legislative Committee Chairman
McSherrystown Borough Councilman