Initiative & Referendum
If you live in Delaware you will find this information very helpful in gaining insight and knowledge of your First Amendment Right "to petition the government for redress of grievances."
Those we have elected to serve us in Delaware do not permit us full exercise of our First Amendment Rights. In 1906 the citizens in Delaware voted 87% to 13% in favor of advisory Initiative and Referendum only to discover the State Legislators were not interested in hearing what the people thought about issues that directly affected them. Instead, in 1907 the Legislature passed a bill giving I&R rights to the city of Wilmington. Voters there quickly used their newly discovered rights to put five initiatives on the ballot in early 1907. According to Equity, it was "the first use of Direct Legislation on general questions of public policy in an eastern city , and the first among African-American voters." Mean while the Delaware Referendum League pressed on for statewide I&R. Twelve years later, in 1919, they still came up short of the necessary two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature.
In 1980 the police and firefighters union collected enough signatures to put an issue on the ballot in Wilmington only to be told that in 1965 the Legislature had quietly passed a municipal charter law that contained no I&R provision, and this law, state courts ruled, superseded the law that had given Wilmington I&R in 1907. In the mid sixties State Rep. John P. Ferguson sponsored an I&R bill which he introduced every session. By the mid-1970's, as speaker of the House, and with the support of the citizens, the I&R amendment to the Constitution won by a vote of 33 to 1 in the House and it sailed through the Senate, 14 to 3.
However, the Delaware State Constitution requires that a constitutional amendment be approved by a two-thirds vote of both houses a second time, after the next election. Amending the Constitution is an extraordinarily difficult task in Delaware. The Framers, at that time, believed this tiny populated, geographically small agrarian state would continue to benefit from it's closeness and from the dialogue between the people and their representatives. The difficulty in amending the Constitution gave opponent Governor Pierre S. DuPont lV time to began his organized opposition. Governor DuPont had none of the reformist notions of the earlier DuPont. On March 29, 1979, the house defeated I&R by 22 to 6.
In 1998 HB66 provided again for advisory Initiative and Referendum but never made it out of committee, allegedly because of lack of support by the citizenry even though a citizen petition process gathered almost 3,000 signatures. Polling results in late 1997, showed three out of four citizens wanted to reclaim their First Amendment Right and wanted their Legislator to act.
The following bills are proposed constitutional amendments in the current 145th General Assembly; Senate Bill 12 providing Constitutional Amendments be ratified at the polls and Senate Bill 13 providing for binding Initiative and Referendum. Missing, at this time, is the reintroduction of the 2006 HB 66.
A petition form is available for you to use in gathering signatures to present to your State Representative and your State Senator. Please e-mail the Delaware Initiative and Referendum Project (Frank5965@aol.com) for your copy. I would also suggest you tell your State Representative and State Senator you are here to reclaim your sovereignty that is inherently yours, that you want SB 12 and SB 13 passed, and that you will "remember in November".
- To reach Senate Democrats; 739-5086 in Dover, 577-8744 in Wilmington
- To reach Senate Republican; 739-5048 in Dover, 577-8714 in Wilmington
- To reach House Democrats; 739-4351 in Dover, 577-8476 in Wilmington
- To reach House Republicans 739-4487 in Dover, 577-8723 in Wilmington