Constitutional and Statutory Provisions
1900, reformers had organized a Maryland Direct Legislation League, with A. G.
Eichelberger as its president. Ten years later the League claimed "more than
1,000 active, working members." In 1914, the League promoted an I&R bill
sponsored by State Senator William J. Odgen of Baltimore, but the legislature
amended it to remove the initiative provision. This "referendum only" amendment
passed both houses in 1915 and was ratified by the voters. The following year
the League pressed the legislature for an initiative amendment. Their bill
passed the senate with only six dissenting votes, but was tabled (effectively
killed) in the house by a 66 to 27 vote. Never again did an initiative amendment
come close to approval. Charles J. Ogle, secretary of the League in 1916,
attributed the failure to the committee chairmen, "a very active lobby against"
the initiative amendment, and rural legislators' fear of the Baltimore masses.
Since the referendum amendment was ratified in 1915, it has been used 17 times
by citizens to force a statewide popular vote on unpopular laws passed by the
legislature (through 2013). In 1970, voters vetoed the legislature's bill regarding a
Department of Economic and Community Development, and in 1972 and 1974, they
vetoed state aid to nonpublic schools. Until 1988, all subsequent referendum
petitions failed because of either insufficient signatures or court decisions
barring ballot placement. In 1988, however, the legislature passed a bill
banning cheap handguns, and gun control opponents responded with a petition
drive that put the measure on the ballot. Despite the record-breaking
expenditure by the National Rifle Association of more than $4 million for a
"Vote No" campaign, voters approved the law by a 58-percent margin. In
2012, voters approved three high-profile referendums: Question 4 granted
in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, Question 5 approved a redistricting
plan, and Question 6 permitted same-sex marriage.
See David Schmidt, Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot
Initiative Revolution (Temple University Press, 1989).