BUDGET ADDRESS (copy)

Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, during the 2019 state budget address at the Capitol in Madison. Crowley is one of three Democrats who authored a proposed constitutional amendment to let voters spearhead legislation. 

A trio of Democratic lawmakers is backing a constitutional amendment to let Wisconsin voters propose and pass laws at the ballot box.

The resolution — from Reps. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, and Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, as well as Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay — aims to “expand the legislative process to include the people,” Crowley said in a statement Wednesday.

Pointing to proposals such as gun-control legislation, legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana and other priorities shown by past Marquette University Law School polls to have majority support, Crowley framed the plan as a way to “give Wisconsin citizens their direct voice back.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, slammed the idea, saying in a statement: “This undermines the entire purpose of the Legislature and I don’t think it will find support among many members, whether Democrat or Republican.”

A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the Rochester Republican does not support the proposal. 

Under the resolution's language, citizen sponsors of legislation would need to get a petition signed by at least 5% of the total votes cast in the latest election for secretary of state. Based on the 2018 election's results, according to the bill's co-sponsorship memo, 130,897 signatures would be required. 

If the signature minimum is met, the proposal would then need to be filed with the secretary of state at least 120 days before the election. The signatures would then be verified by the office and placed on the next round of general election ballots. 

If a majority of voters approve it, the bill would then need to be introduced in the Legislature following the election. It could not be amended by lawmakers or partially vetoed by the governor.

If it doesn't get signed into law that session, the secretary of state would have to put the bill again on general election ballots, and if it's approved at the polls, the measure would become law.

Similar initiatives have been introduced in the past in Wisconsin, Crowley's office said. 

The resolution was circulated for cosponsors Wednesday afternoon. In order to go into effect, it would need the support of two consecutive sessions of the Legislature before going to voters for approval. 

Crowley's office said 24 other states have some sort of voter initiative process, including California — though it lacks the step of submitting an approved measure to the Legislature. States with a similar process as outlined under the resolution include Michigan, Ohio, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. 

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Briana Reilly covers state government and politics for the Cap Times. She joined the staff in 2019, after working at WisPolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter at @briana_reilly.