Free Petition 2

I have written before about this subject.

Then I learned more.

Here is what I have learned since my first post.

Article II. Section 1. Right of Local Self-Government. – It is the intention of this article to reaffirm the customary and traditional liberties of the people with respect to the conduct of their local government, and to grant and confirm to the people of every city and town the right of self-government in local matters, subject to the provisions of this article and to such standards and requirements as the general court may establish by law in accordance with the provisions of this article.
Section 8. Powers of the General Court. – The general court shall have the power to act in relation to cities and towns, but only by general laws which apply alike to all cities or to all towns, or to all cities and towns, or to a class of not fewer than two, and by special laws enacted (1) on petition filed or approved by the voters of a city or town, or the mayor and city council, or other legislative body, of a city, or the town meeting of a town, with respect to a law relating to that city or town; (2) by a two-thirds vote of each branch of the general court following a recommendation by the governor; (3) to erect and constitute metropolitan or regional entities, embracing any two or more cities or towns or cities and towns, or established with other than existing city or town boundaries, for any general or special public purpose or purposes, and to grant to these entities such powers, privileges and immunities as the general court shall deem necessary or expedient for the regulation and government thereof; or (4) solely for the incorporation or dissolution of cities or towns as corporate entities, alteration of city or town boundaries, and merger or consolidation of cities and towns, or any of these matters.
Subject to the foregoing requirements, the general court may provide optional plans of city or town organization and government under which an optional plan may be adopted or abandoned by majority vote of the voters of the city or town voting thereon at a city or town election; provided, that no town of fewer than twelve thousand inhabitants may be authorized to adopt a city form of government, and no town of fewer than six thousand inhabitants may be authorized to adopt a form of town government providing for town meeting limited to such inhabitants of the town as may be elected to meet, deliberate, act and vote in the exercise of the corporate powers of the town.
This section shall apply to every city and town whether or not it has adopted a charter pursuant to section three.

Reading the Costitution above suggested that lawmaking was within the realm of a citizens rights. I read section 8, especially the item about special laws #1). That seems to list that laws can be written by citizens, mayors and elected legislators.

So I searched on.

 Participating in the Legislative Process.
Massachusetts citizens are permitted and encouraged to take an active role in the lawmaking process of the state legislature. It is a good idea for a person who feels strongly about an issue to present his or her ideas to a representative or senator. That person may discover that those concerns have already been formulated into a bill which is awaiting legislative action. If not, the citizen is allowed to file legislation addressing the subject. Massachusetts is one of the few states to allow its citizens to do so. This access is called the “right of free petition.”
Although it is not mandatory that a representative or senator sponsor a citizen’s bill, the rules of the House and Senate provide that a petition must be endorsed for presentation by a member before it can be considered by the General Court. Obtaining the support of individual legislators, then, is most advisable.

Right of free petition?   Rules … provide that a petition must be endorsed for presentation by a member before it can be considered. That sounded very familiar to me. I went to the Municipal Code.


Section 2-17. Ordinances, Resolutions, Motions and Contracts
A. Preparation of Ordinances

All ordinances shall be reviewed by the City Solicitor. No ordinance shall be prepared for presentation to the Council unless requested in writing by a Councillor or by the Mayor.

B. Prior Review by Administrative Staff

All ordinances and contract documents shall, before presentation to the Council, have been approved as to form and legality by the City Solicitor, and, where there are substantive matters of administration involved, the Mayor shall have the opportunity for examination and comment thereon before final adoption.

C. Introducing for Passage or Approval

1) All action items coming before the Council shall be in the form of an ordinance, resolution, contract or proclamation, or any other matters and subjects requiring action, and shall be introduced and sponsored by a member of the Council; except that the Mayor may present ordinances, resolutions and contracts to the Council.

So at a State level, I just need to convince my Senator or Representative and they can sponsor a bill. At the local level it doesn’t as clearly state that but at both levels a bill or resolve/resolution must be sponsored by my elected representative.

I, actually, have learned that I can submit a bill and my Legislator only needs to officially submit it. They do not have to agree to it’s content. At the Municipal level in Methuen, I do not have that luxury. Only Council and the Mayor may submit legislation.
Seems odd that their only requirement for office is to be a resident (and registered voter). I am both but cannot submit legislation for debate to improve my community.
I don’t see any elected officials submitting any changes to these rules either.
Isn’t it MY government?

I thought I should define some terms. I took these direct from the Massachusetts General Court website.

Glossary of Massachusetts Legislative Terms

Free petition

In Massachusetts all citizens have the right to petition the state legislature.This procedure is called the right of free petition. A citizen drafts and files a Petition and accompanying Bill.A legislator sponsors the Bill in the GeneralCourt. If a legislator disagrees with the contents of the Bill, he/she may indicate this by placing the phrase By request after his/her name.(See also Petition and Bill)


Formal document to request consideration of a proposal to the legislature.The proposal, usually a Bill or a Resolve,accompanies the petition. (See also Bill and Resolve)


Document which proposes a change in existing statutes and/or introducesa new statute. The bill accompanies the Petition.Bills are bound in the Legislative Documentsvolumes in the State Library. (See also Petition and Legislative Documents)


A document which requests an action of a less general nature than a Bill,such as the creation of a special commission. Petitionmust accompany the resolve, as with a Bill. (See also Petition and Bill)


Statement of the House or Senate or both branches together on a particular topic or event of concern to them. The titles of resolutions are found in the Journals. (See also Journals)

admin posted at 2011-2-12 Category: Charter, Uncategorized

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