This legislation was created by the group Lower Case D out of New York. This legislation could be redrafted for any city to empower and expand the right of Initiative.
To amend the New York city charter, in relation to expanding use of the right of initiative.
Be it enacted by the people of the city of New York pursuant to the authority provided in Section 37 of the Municipal Home Rule Law as follows:
Section 1. The New York city charter is hereby amended as follows, with new text to be added to the charter in italics, text to be removed struck through, and any other text, whether included for context, alluded to with ellipsis, or not appearing here, left intact. If at the time of inclusion in the charter the section or chapter numbers used here already exist, the next unused number shall be used, except that, if appropriate, the new chapter may be combined with an existing or simultaneously adopted chapter:
§ 21. The Council. There shall be a council which shall be the legislative body of the city. In addition to the other powers vested in it by this charter and other law, the council shall be vested with the legislative power of the city, which it shall share with the people, who reserve to themselves the right to propose local laws and to enact or reject the same at the polls in accordance with section sixty-four of this charter and state law. Any enumeration of powers in this charter shall not be held to limit the legislative power of the council, except as specifically provided in this charter.
§ 38. Local laws; referendum. A local law shall be submitted for the approval of the electors at the next general election held not less than sixty days after the council’s adoption thereof, and shall become operative as prescribed therein only when approved at such election by the affirmative vote of a majority of the qualified electors of the city voting upon the proposition, if it:
§ 38.17. Repeals or amends this section or any of the following sections of this charter; sections forty, sixty-four, …
§ 39. Reconsideration. At any time prior to the election at which a local law is to be submitted to the electors for approval pursuant to this charter, unless such local law is an initiative placed on the ballot pursuant to section 64(a)(1), the council, not later than fifteen days prior to the election, may reconsider its action thereon and repeal such local law without submission to the mayor, whereupon the proposition for its approval shall not be submitted at such election, or if submitted the vote of the electors thereon shall be without effect.
§ 41. Submission of local laws or amendments. A proposition for the submission of a local law or an amendment to this charter for the approval of the electors pursuant to this charter shall contain the title of such local law or a brief statement of the subject of such amendment. The city clerk with the advice of the corporation counsel shall prepare an abstract of such local law or amendment concisely stating the title or subject and the purpose and effect thereof in clear language and forthwith shall transmit such proposition and such abstract to the election officers charged with the duty of publishing the notice of and furnishing the supplies for such election, but if such proposition was placed on the ballot by a petition of electors or its equivalent pursuant to §64(a)(1), the language, if any, provided by the public advocate pursuant to this charter shall be used as permissible. If the petition does not contain such language certified by the public advocate, the clerk’s abstract shall first be emailed and transmitted by certified mail to the filer of the petition. If there is more than one proposition on the same subject, the abstract shall describe the differences between them. A sufficient number of copies of such abstract shall be printed, in such manner that the abstract shall appear with the question to appear on the ballot in bold type and separately from the text of the proposition, and shall be delivered with the other election supplies and distributed to the electors at the time of the registration of voters and at the election. If there be more than one such proposition to be voted upon at such election, each such proposition shall be separately, consecutively and consistently numbered on the ballot and on the abstract. In case of a conflict between two local laws or two amendments adopted at the same election, the one receiving the largest affirmative vote shall control.
THE RIGHT OF INITIATIVE
§64. Right of initiative. a. Any local law proposed by a qualified city elector shall be placed on the ballot at the next general election if either:
1. A petition setting forth the proposed local law in full and meeting the applicable requirements of subsection (b) of this section is both filed with the city clerk and qualifies for ballot placement under subsection (c) of this section.
2. Or it qualifies in another manner provided by law.
b. General content and filing requirements for local laws proposed for submission to the city’s electors at a general election pursuant to this subsection.
1. Format. Such local law shall set forth new matter to be added to the administrative code either in italics or underlined and the matter to be deleted therefrom either in brackets or with lines drawn through it, and after adoption the matter so set forth in italics or underlined may be set forth in the administrative code in ordinary type, and the matter in brackets or with lines through it may be omitted; but failure so to set forth any provision of the administrative code which is in fact superseded shall not invalidate the new or amended local law or any portion thereof.
2. If the proposed local law amends, repeals or supersedes any local law inconsistent with it or any inconsistent provision of a state statute which may be amended by local law, it shall specify the chapter number and year of enactment, sections, subsections or other parts of each statute or local law so affected.
3. The proposed local law must: (i) be general, applying throughout the whole city or throughout specified portions thereof, (ii) be constructed to apply in the same way in all parts of the city affected by it, regardless of how any individual part votes in its adoption, and (iii) encompass no more than one subject and matters properly connected therewith. No such proposed law in order to be placed on the ballot under §64(a)(1) may require amendment of this charter, be patently unconstitutional or nonsensical, or include alternative or additional provisions that would be enacted or change its effect depending on the percentage of votes cast in its favor.
4. Fiscal plan requirement. Any such proposed local law explicitly or necessarily requiring either the expenditure of additional money by the city or the elimination, capping, or reduction of any existing or future revenues of the city must include, as a part of such proposal, a plan to provide monies, revenues, or savings sufficient to meet such proposed expenditures or compensate for such loss of revenue. If the measure is placed on the ballot, the sufficiency of the plan shall be evaluated in the financial impact statement required in §64(d).
5. Such petition, as well as the draft petition described in part 6 below, may be made on paper, in which case signatures to each sheet shall be signed and authenticated in the manner provided by the election law for the signing and authentication of nominating petitions so far as applicable, or may be made using any other form permitted by applicable law for the qualification of ballot proposals. If made on paper, a petition may be made on multiple sheets, and circulated using multiple copies, but when the signature sheets are bound together in one or more volumes with the full text of the proposal they shall be considered one petition, provided that at the time of its signing by petitioners every signature sheet shall be labeled with the above provided proposal’s title or brief description, alphanumeric identifier, and any other language required by law, and be attached to and make reference to a copy of the proposal’s above provided summary and its full text. The public advocate shall promulgate guidelines for the requirements of form for petitions filed under this section.
6. A. Prior to its circulation for signatures for ballot placement, a draft of each petition to be filed under §64(a)(1) shall first be submitted to the public advocate for certification.
B. If the draft petition is accompanied by any filing fee set by the public advocate, not to exceed one hundred dollars and to be waived or deferred with proof of indigence, and contains at least 250 signatures of qualified city electors, which the public advocate shall certify his or her determination of to the person submitting the draft petition (“the drafter”) within 7 days of such draft petition’s submission, then the public advocate shall within 14 days of said submission provide to the drafter and publish, both in the City Record and on the public advocate’s website or a site easily accessible from it, a certified petition form. Such certified petition form shall include an alphanumeric identifier unique to the proposal, an appropriate title or brief description, a full summary of the proposal clearly describing its purpose and effect, and the proposal’s full text, all but the last of which the public advocate with the advice of the corporation counsel may provide or have altered from their draft versions to ensure the petition’s accuracy and clarity. In addition the public advocate may provide and publish with the above an advisory opinion of any changes to the proposal’s text necessary to make its ballot placement permissible under applicable law, or if such draft proposal is fundamentally in conflict with applicable law, the public advocate may provide an explanation of the conflict. Independent of any such advisory opinion, such certified petition or its equivalent may be circulated or it may be amended and resubmitted with new signatures as a draft for certification.
C. If any objection to the public advocate’s certified petition form, received by the public advocate’s office within 28 days after or any time prior to such certification’s publication in the City Record, is not satisfactorily addressed by the public advocate within ten days of such written objection’s reception by his or her office, the supreme court may determine any question arising thereunder and make such order as justice may require.
D. Any person, group, or committee circulating a petition intended to be filed under this section, unless using an alternative form specifically designated by applicable law for the qualification of ballot proposals which makes a running total of its signatures publicly available, shall, whenever the total number of petition signatures in its possession increases by more than one thousand, provide to the office of the public advocate within seven days a tally of how many total signatures it has gathered. Failure to provide such tally within seven days of the date of the thousandth signature gathered since the last reported tally if any, shall result in an additional filing fee to be set by the public advocate for every signature not timely reported. Every such updated tally shall be published with its date online alongside the information required to be published by paragraph (B) of this part.
7. Such petition must contain the valid signatures of no less than twice the number of qualified electors required for a designating petition for a candidate for citywide office.
8. For the purposes of this section, an elector shall be deemed qualified if he or she is registered to vote in the city by city’s board of elections. Each valid signature on a petition filed under §64(a)(1) of this charter shall remain valid for the purposes of filing for a period of no less than two years, provided the signer remains a qualified elector and does not void his or her signature.
9. The city clerk shall determine a petition’s sufficiency and compliance with this section and other applicable law within 21 days of its filing with his or her office. The clerk shall promptly transmit his or her certificate that the petition complies or does not comply with all the requirements of law to both the council and the person by whom the petition was filed and, if the clerk certifies that the petition does not comply, shall state in such certificate specifically in what respects it fails to comply. If the clerk certifies that there is an insufficient number of valid signatures, the clerk shall make available to the legislative body a statement as to the number of signatures found to be invalid and the reasons for such invalidity, and shall make the same information available to the person by whom the petition was filed and make it, together with the petition and his or her notations of rulings thereon or relative thereto, a matter of public record in his or her office using such protocol as is necessary to ensure both their security from tampering and the ability of the petition’s filer and his or her agents to easily access them. A finding by the city clerk that a petition does not comply with all the requirements of law may be contested in a proceeding in the supreme court.
10. Council Review. Whether or not the city clerk finds the petition sufficient, the clerk shall transmit such proposed local law forthwith to the council. If the proposed local law is such that a mandatory referendum is not required, the council may adopt it as its own act. If a mandatory referendum is required, the council may submit it to the electors of the city at the next general election occurring at least sixty days after the council votes to submit it.
11. If, however, such a petition (i) has not been thus withdrawn pursuant to §64(b)(12), (ii) meets all the requirements of law, and (iii) during a period of two months immediately following the filing thereof the council shall fail so to adopt such local law without change or to submit it without change to the electors of the city as aforesaid, then the law proposed in the petition shall be placed on the ballot at a general election occurring at least four months after the petition’s filing with the office of the city clerk, provided it qualifies under part (c).
12. Until 61 days before the election at which its proposed measure would otherwise appear on the ballot, the filer of a petition may withdraw such petition, provided such withdrawal request shall be verified by the clerk and accompanied by the consenting and authenticated signatures of the filer and no less than twenty signers of the original petition, using the same petition format as the original petition being withdrawn.
c. If more than seven initiative petitions would qualify for ballot placement at a general election under part (b) above, only the seven with the highest number of valid signatures made at least four months prior to the election shall appear on the ballot in addition to those proposals whose ballot placement is not governed by this section but is instead governed by section 38 of this charter or by other law, except that if the subject matter of a proposal made under part a(1) of this section makes its ballot placement a violation of state law concerning questions to appear on the ballot when charter revisions are being considered, such state law shall govern. The city clerk shall give public notice of which measures are to appear on the ballot pursuant to this section 60 days before the election, or, if such day is a public holiday, on the next non-holiday. For no less than 90 days after the determination of their ballot status, all valid petitions submitted but kept off the ballot pursuant to this paragraph shall be kept available for reclamation by their filers in their original format for possible reuse of signatures for the next general election where permissible.
d. For each initiative proposal to appear on the ballot, the independent budget office shall prepare and, no later than 36 days before the election, provide to the campaign finance board for inclusion in the voter guide and any other media deemed appropriate by the board: a fiscal impact statement, as described in part (b) of section 33, and including, if the initiative has qualified pursuant to part (a)(1) of this section, the evaluation required by §64(b)(4).
e. Any political committee organized for the purpose of supporting or opposing any local law submitted to the voters under the provisions of this section shall have the same rights as a political party to name watchers and challengers to serve at the election at which the question is submitted.
f. Adoption and enactment. Subject to the last sentence of section 41 of this charter, any measure receiving the affirmative vote of a majority of the qualified electors of the city voting upon the proposition shall thereby be adopted. Such measure shall become operative as prescribed therein or 45 days after the election at which the measure was adopted if the measure does not specify, except that if it was placed on the ballot under §64(a)1, (i) no such local law which explicitly or necessarily requires the expenditure of additional money or loss of existing revenue shall become effective with respect to such expenditure or loss before the beginning of the first fiscal year for which a city budget is prepared and adopted after the election at which the measure was adopted, and (ii) no such local law may violate the state or federal constitution or laws, or this charter. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the council’s ability to amend or repeal a measure adopted via initiative not dealing with matters subject to mandatory referendum.
§ 260. Powers and duties (of the independent budget office).
… f. The director shall, for each qualifying initiative, prepare a fiscal impact statement pursuant to §64(d).
§ 1052. Campaign finance board. a.
15. For the purposes of this section, “candidate” or “candidates” shall include to the extent logically and legally permissible any campaign or political committee advocating for the passage or rejection of any proposals or referenda at any city election, and to the full extent permissible by law, and contingent on paragraph 16 of part (a) of this section, the board’s mandate shall include such proponents and opponents of proposed ballot measures.
16. If they are not met by normal budgetary procedures or other means either described elsewhere in this section or provided for otherwise, costs associated with the inclusion of ballot proposals in the board’s mandate shall only be incurred and paid for to the extent a fund, which the board shall establish and which shall consist entirely of voluntary contributions, any interest earned, and any other funds provided, contains the necessary monies.
§ 1053. Voters guide. Each voters guide published by the board shall contain:
… and (e) where there is a ballot proposal or referendum, concise statements explaining such proposal or referendum and an abstract of each such proposal or referendum, and (f) in case of ballot proposals placed on the ballot in accordance with section 64(a)1 of this charter: a summary of the fiscal impact statement therein required; summaries of arguments for and against the proposal submitted to the board no later than 36 days before the election; and the URL of a web page, either moderated by the board or certified by the board to represent an accurate resource, which shall include the full text of the proposed law, an updated listing of all organizations and elected officials there endorsing or opposing the measure, and access to all public information about all related campaign contributions. The guide shall be prepared in plain language …
Section 2. This local law shall take effect on the first business day in May of the year immediately following its adoption. The public advocate in office at the beginning of that year is hereby authorized and shall be responsible, assisted as needed by the corporate counsel, for securing any preclearance required by applicable law.