Since 2009, Joe Robach has sponsored legislation in the Senate to introduce Initiative and Referendum to New York State. Joe Robach’s Senate proposal would amend the New York State constitution to reserve for the people of the state the powers of initiative and referendum. Currently, twenty one states in the United States of America have some form of initiative and referendum written in to law. This proposed law would reserve to New Yorkers the power to propose laws and amendments to the State Constitution, and to adopt or reject laws independent of the State Legislature. Initiative is the power of the electors to propose statutes and amendments to the Constitution and referendum is the power to approve or reject statues or part of statutes. In the Joe Robach Senate (R-Rochester) proposal, for an initiative or referendum measure to appear on the ballot, a petition setting forth the proposal must filed with the State Board of Elections and be signed by electors at least equal in number to five percent of the votes cast for all candidates for governor during the last gubernatorial election. Also, signatures must include at least five thousand signatures from three-fifths of the state’s congressional districts. The Board of Elections shall govern the petition process.
Before petitions are circulated under the Joe Robach Senate proposal, a copy of the initiative or referendum would be submitted to the State Attorney General who would then prepare a title and summary of the measure without prejudice, support or opposition. Then the measure would be submitted to the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission for technical comments. To take effect after being on the ballot, the measure by receiving a majority of votes cast on the measure on a statewide ballot, the measure would then take effect January 1st of the next year.
Joe Robach believes that this Senate proposal for Initiative and Referendum is pivotal for allowing New Yorkers the mechanism to have their voices heard on the issues that they feel are important. This measure passed the State Senate last session before failing to come for a vote in the Assembly. Joe Robach looks forward to Senate passage again, while hoping that the Assembly recognizes the will of New Yorkers and addresses the issue.