Pubdate: Wed, 07 Sep 2011
Source: Missoulian (MT)
Copyright: 2011 Missoulian
Author: Charles S. Johnson, Missoulian State Bureau 


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

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 . 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.