Constitutional and Statutory Provisions
New Jersey, where the national initiative and referendum movement originated, never
adopted either process. Certainly it was not for lack of enthusiasm among
New Jersey's I&R supporters, including AFL founder Samuel Gompers. At that time
the New Jersey branch of the federation, which endorsed I&R, represented 20,000
In December 1900 the Direct
Legislation Record published the gloomy prediction of Clarence T. Atkinson that
the reform had "no chance of success until the evil of bribery is abolished." By
1907, after 14 years of effort, the New Jersey Direct Legislation League had
despaired of passing an amendment to give voters actual lawmaking power and
instead sponsored a bill allowing voters to put non-binding, advisory
initiatives on the state ballot. That proposal also failed again and again. In
1911 the I&R movement's journal Equity explained New Jersey's failure in terms
of its being "the Trust State": the nation's biggest businesses were chartered
there, and they were the major source of opposition to I&R.
A second attempt to adopt I&R was
made at the state's 1947 constitutional convention with the strong support of
organized labor, but again without success. Interest revived, however, during
the mid-1970s, when the state chapters of Common Cause and the League of Women
Voters began supporting I&R.
In 1981 initiative advocates in
won state senate approval of an I&R bill by a 30 to 3 vote, but Democratic Party
leaders in the assembly kept the bill bottled up in committee. The same thing
happened in 1983: the bill received 32 to 4 approval in the senate but no vote
at all in the assembly. In 1986, I&R advocates, led by Republican assemblyman
(and former state Common Cause director) Richard Zimmer, pushed their bill
through the assembly for the first time, but lost in the senate.
See David Schmidt, Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot
Initiative Revolution (Temple University Press, 1989).