Source: Bellingham City Charter


What's that say, in plain language?
10.01 General Power.

The people of Bellingham, in addition to the method of legislation, otherwise herein provided, shall have power to direct legislation by initiative and referendum.

plain language:

If the elected officials are not doing what some of the voters want, the voters can try to rewrite the law.
10.02 Initiative-Petition Method.

The first power reserved by the people is the initiative. The registered electors of the City may propose any ordinance, or amendments to any existing ordinance, relating to matters within the legislative, as distinguished from administrative, powers of the City as a corporate entity. Notwithstanding the above classification, no ordinance shall be initiated relating to the annual budget or capital expense budget, making or repealing any appropriation, fixing the salaries or wages of officers or employees, or authorizing or repealing the levy of taxes.

.... petition of a number of qualified voters .....

plain language:

Government serves the people, not the other way around, and it's really the people who make the rules.

But, since inexperienced people can really mess things up, to be safe there's some stuff that can't be messed with, since doing it wrong "could harm others".

It takes a big group of people signing on the dotted line to get this done.
10.03 Initiative-Provision As To Source Of Revenue.

No initiative bill requiring the expenditure of additional funds for an existing activity, or of any funds for a new activity or purpose, shall be filed or submitted to a vote unless provision be specifically made therein for new or additional sources of revenue for all such additional funds required thereby.

plain language:

If your new thing will need money, you gotta' say where it will come from.
10.04 Initiative-Council Action.

The City Council may enact or reject an initiative bill, but shall not amend or modify the same: Provided; That the City Council may, after rejection of any initiative bill, propose and pass a different one dealing with the same subject.

10.05 Initiative-Submission To Electorate.

If the City Council shall have rejected any initiative bill, or shall, within thirty (30) days after receipt thereof, have failed to take final action thereon, or shall have passed a different bill dealing with the same subject, the said rejected initiative bill and such different bill dealing with the same subject, if any has been passed, shall be submitted by the Finance Director to the qualified electors for approval or rejection at the next municipal general election: Provided; That the City Council may, in its discretion, provide for a special election at which the vote shall be taken.

plain language:

If the Council likes what the voters wrote, they can just pass it and we're done!

If the Council doesn't like it, they can reject it and write their own about that subject, and put BOTH on the ballot.

But they can't fiddle with what the voters wrote - it stays the same.
10.06 Initiative-Passage And Effective Date.

Any bill thus submitted to the vote of the people, which shall receive in its favor a majority of all the votes cast for and against the same, shall become an ordinance of the City of Bellingham, and be in full force and effect, and be published in the City official newspaper within ten (10) days after the official canvass of the ballots pursuant to law.

10.07 Initiative-Conflicting Bills.

In case the City Council shall, after rejection of the initiative bill, have passed an alternative bill dealing with the same subject, the alternative bill shall be submitted at the same election with the initiative bill.
The ballot titles of both bills shall be printed on the official ballots so that a voter can express separately by making one cross (X) for each two preferences; first, as between either measure and neither, and secondly, as between one and the other.
Only if a majority of all votes cast favor either bill in the first proposition, shall one of the bills so proposed be adopted.
The measure adopted shall be the measure receiving the greater number of votes of the alternative measures.
(amended November 3, 1981.)

plain language:

Voting details.
If there's just one proposal, (the Certified Initiative), there's just one vote, and half-plus-one-vote of everybody who votes on this is needed to make it law.

Like, if 12,000 voters punch YES or NO, and 6,001 punched YES and 5,999 punched NO, that's a win and the Certified Initiative is law.

If there's two proposals, there's two steps and here's how it works; the first vote is:
"Do you want some new law on this?" YES or NO?
It that gets enough YESses, then they look at the second question:
"Which one do you like?" A or B?
and the one with the most votes wins, just like voting for a person.

So with 6,001 who say YES, the choice that gets 3,001 votes is the new law. (Half plus one.)

Hey, look at that! Already, 3,717 voters signed that they like this.

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edited February 10th , 2000 -- mgb