Pubdate: Wed, 07 Sep 2011 Source: Missoulian (MT) Copyright: 2011 Missoulian Contact: http://www.missoulian.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/720 Author: Charles S. Johnson, Missoulian State Bureau BILLINGS WOMAN PROPOSES VOTER APPROVAL OF LEGISLATURE'S CHANGES TO BALLOT MEASURES HELENA- A Billings woman has proposed changing the Montana Constitution so that voters would have to approve any attempts by the Legislature to amend or repeal a ballot measure previously enacted by Montanans. Michelle Hutsell, part of a group known as the Montana Coalition for Rights, last week submitted a proposed constitutional initiative to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. That in turn triggers a review of the proposed ballot language by several state agencies before backers of the measure can begin gathering signatures. "We need to get our power back," said Hutsell, 33, a registered nurse and a real estate saleswoman. "The government is there to help us, not hurt us." The proposal would amend the Montana Constitution to add language that says: "The people reserve to themselves the power to repeal or amend all laws passed by initiatives. "The Legislature may amend or repeal an initiative statute by another statute that becomes effective only when approved by the electors unless the initiative statute permits amendment or repeal without their approval." That issue arose again in the 2011 Legislature, which passed a bill to repeal the 2004 voter-passed initiative that legalized the use of marijuana for some medical conditions. Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed that bill. Lawmakers went on to pass another bill to more strictly regulate the use of medical marijuana, and Schweitzer let it take law without his signature. Similar concerns were raised when the some legislators tried but failed to overturn ballot measure that banned game farms and outlawed the use of cyanide heap leach mining. In addition, some lawmakers have failed in efforts to revise another initiative that raised the state minimum wage and provides for automatic annual increases if the cost of living goes up. Hutsell said it was repeated legislative attempts to overturn the ban on cyanide heap leach mining that prompted her to work to protect voter-passed initiatives. "I'm just one of the people who keep fighting," she said. "I only want what's right for my family and for our state." To qualify a constitutional amendment for the 2012 ballot, supporters need to gather the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters in Montana, or 48,674 people. They also must obtain the signatures of 10 percent of the voters in 40 of 100 state House districts. Her group's website is www.montanarights.org . - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.