Initiatives and Referendums Law and Legal Definition

Initiative is the power of the people to propose and enact legislation without action by the legislature. Referendum is the power of the people to approve or reject any act of the legislature, and also to approve or reject legislation that the legislature has referred to them. Initiatives and referendums must be based upon constitutional or legislative authority to conduct the same. The subject matters of initiative and referendum are limited by the provisions granting the powers, and legislation frequently provides that certain matters are not subject to initiative or referendum. Administrative or executive actions of the legislature are usually not subject to initiative or referendum. Legislation often provides that certain types of measures are not subject to referendum actions; for example, statutes enacted for emergency measures, budget appropriations, and measures with a limited local effect.

Constitutional and statutory provisions usually set forth the formal requirements and procedures in exercising initiative and referendum powers, such as what the petition must contain and rules for circulation and gathering of signatures. The petition should generally inform the person whose signature is solicited of the nature and purpose of the measure. After the signatures have been obtained, the petition must be timely filed with the proper public officer, who then certifies its compliance with statutory requirements. At the end of the period for filing the petition, the duty to call the election on the subject issue usually becomes mandatory.