Restrictions on referendum process won’t pass this session, Senate president says

Senate President Mike Miller

Senate President Mike Miller

Senate President Mike Miller told reporters Wednesday that new standards making it more difficult to petition new laws to the ballot are not likely to pass this year, though he agrees that the practice needs to be curtailed.

“It was taken to the extreme in the last election,” Miller said. “And you know it will have to be curtailed at some point in time in the future.”

Opponents gathered enough signatures to let voters decide on bills on college tuition for immigrant children, same-sex marriage and congressional redistricting. This was first time in 20 years laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor were put on the ballot through the petition process. It required collecting more than 55,000 signatures.

“We don’t need every issue subject to referendum — that would weigh down the Democratic process, and make long lines at the polling place,” Miller said. “There needs to be a verification of signatures.”

Measures were proposed in both the House and Senate this year that would have establish stricter standards for ballot signatures and those collecting signatures on petitions. Neither bill has been voted on in committee.

“I don’t think we’re going to move forward on that issue this year,” Miller said.

But rules need to be established, he said, “so that not every single piece of legislation gets petitioned to referendum, only those that are really deserving the attention.”

–Len Lazarick





About The Author

Meg Tully

Contributing Editor Meg Tully has been covering Maryland politics for more than five years. She has worked for The Frederick News-Post, where she reported during the General Assembly session in Annapolis. She has also worked for The (Hanover) Evening Sun and interned at Baltimore Magazine. Meg has won awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association for her state and county writing, and a Keystone Press Award for feature writing from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you have additional questions or comments contact Meg at:


  1. abby_adams

    Politicians pay lip service to citizen activisim. As long as we are there to cheer those making the decisions for us, we can be allowed an opinion. If we disagree & put forth the effort to bring our concerns to the attention of those governing, it’s a problem. I agree with cwals concerning the so called problems with verifying petition signatures. It’s fine & dandy with Annapolis legislators to grant election day voter registration, but an “issue” to question controversal laws passed by said legislators. It wouldn’t do to have “We the People” paying attention to the laws passed by our august reps. Better that we shut up & continue to feed the revenue beast without questioning.
    The only cure for Annapolis? Term limits & a new, non-gerrymandered redistricting process, maybe then MD taxpayers & voters will have leveled the playing field.

  2. Dukehoopsfan

    “It was taken to the extreme in the last election,” Miller said. “And you know it will have to be curtailed at some point in time in the future.”
    What he really means is that he can’t have the common folk getting all uppity with all these silly attempts to have a representative government and all. I wonder what he is going to say to the 350 people in his district who will lose their jobs when Beretta moves to Virginia later this year as the result of his actions.
    Mike Miller has long been a liability in this state. He needs to move on.

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  3. cwals99

    What needs to happen Mike Miller is for the public to be able to petition to referendum fiscal issues as well. One of the major objections to this bill was the move to require double and triple the signatures for the petition to go to referendum something he didn’t address. These online petitions could quickly have signatures verified if the State were proactive in developing a database that connects voter registrations to these petitions that only need be scanned. So, the fact that verifying is cumbersome is false.

    As we all know this bill is aimed more at localities and the ability to petition local government elections. Baltimore County and Baltimore City pols both shouted loudly for these changes as they know citizens are going to petition to make charter changes. So it will be back before the next election and you need to let your pol know that at both state and local levels…..we do not want our rights hindered by restrictions to citizen’s rights to voice on legislation! These Third Way corporate democrats are not working for their constituents when they work to restrict citizen activism.

    Raise your hand if you see Maryland politics as crony……that’s right….everyone. We want more citizen opportunities in the political process not less.

  4. Bill Bissenas

    The left will be back next year to try again. This is their nature.