For those Harvard residents who signed the petition to repeal Chapter 40B, your effort has paid off. It now appears highly likely that there will be a 2010 ballot question to repeal this onerous law.
Two years ago, the petition failed. But on Dec. 15, the state informed the Repeal 40B group that this time it made it through with a wide safety margin; 78,832 signatures survived the tough state process where 66,593 are required.
There are a few more hurdles, but they are small compared to this one. If the Legislature does not act on the petition and repeal the law by May 4, 2010 (highly probable), an additional 11,099 signatures must be gathered to get the question on the ballot. The Repeal 40B group does not anticipate a problem in achieving this goal.
You may wonder why the state makes it so difficult for citizens to get an approved referendum question on the ballot. There is a good reason. If it were easy, there would be tens, if not hundreds, of questions each election, some being frivolous exercises. This year’s crop of proposed ballot questions is an example. Thirty citizens’ petitions were originally filed with the attorney general. Only five of the 30 made it through even the first few steps of the stringent process. Examples of two that didn’t were petitions to amend the Constitution; one to delegate our powers in international affairs to a world government; and another to guarantee universal healthcare.
The bottom line, those who want to repeal a law or amend the constitution need to be prepared for an expensive, arduous task. If citizens want the change badly enough, there is a path to getting their day in court. We’ll have ours in November 2010.
ANTHONY J. MAROLDA