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the originating of a law or constitutional amendment by popular petition. It is intended to allow the electorate to initiate legislation independently of the legislature. This direct form of legislation, together with the referendumreferendum,
referral of proposed laws or constitutional amendments to the electorate for final approval. This direct form of legislation, along with the initiative, was known in Greece and other early democracies.
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, was known in Greece and other early democracies. It is practiced in Switzerland. In the United States the initiative was recognized as early as 1777 in the first constitution of Georgia. It was subsequently adopted by a number of states and may apply also on local and city government levels. There are two kinds of initiative, direct and indirect. In both kinds of initiative a certain number of signatures (usually from 5% to 15% of the electorate in the district concerned) must appear on the petition that proposes the constitutional amendment or legislation. In direct initiative the proposed law is voted on in the next election, or in a special election, after a petition with the required number of signatures has been filed with state or local officials. In indirect initiative the petition goes directly to the legislature and reaches the people only if the legislature fails to enact it into law. In the 1990s ballot initiatives became increasingly popular as various interest groups sought to win approval of measures they supported.


See P. Schrag, Paradise Lost (1999).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


a. the right or power to introduce legislation, etc., in a legislative body
b. the procedure by which citizens originate legislation, as in many American states and Switzerland
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
He indicated that his group is calling for "the presentation of a framework directive in the name of Parliament's right of initiative [ ] We disagree on the issue of subsidiarity.
The Lane Transit District Board will consider a revised ordinance Wednesday night that tries to reconcile the right of initiative petition supporters to gather signatures on LTD property with district officials' desire to maximize the "safety, comfort and convenience" of passengers.
Second, the commission would have to have the right of initiative. To be effective, it would need the power to initiate inquiries into subjects of its own choosing at a time of its own choosing.
Meanwhile, European fishermen say it is time to move up a gear: the EU is equipped with a regulation, which allows it to sanction third countries that do not respect sustainability rules, and it is up to the Commission, they emphasise, to use its right of initiative and propose measures against the two countries that are causing the stalemate.
The Commission has taken note and intends "to exercise its right of initiative".
The Commission defended itself by recalling its right of initiative, adding that in any case the text would be amended according to the comments received.