Massachusetts Representative Harriett Stanley (D-West Newbury) has introduced two bills to restrict people who circulate initiative and referendum petitions. HB 207 says, “No person shall engage in the collection of signatures for an initiative or referendum petition for money or any other thing of value.” That bill, if enacted, would be held unconstitutional under the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court opinion Meyer v Grant, 486 U.S. 414. That unanimous decision held that petitioning is First Amendment activity and that states can’t ban paying people to circulate petitions.
Representative Stanley also introduced HB 206, which requires circulators to wear a badge showing their name and address. That bill, if enacted, would be unconstitutional under Buckley v American Constitutional Law Foundation, 525 U.S. 182 (1999), which struck down a Colorado law requiring paid circulators to wear a badge giving their name and address. That U.S. Supreme Court decision did not decide whether a state can require a circulator to wear a badge that tells if he or she is being paid. HB 206 also requires the badge to say how much the circulator is being paid. And it requires the badge to say who the employer is, and which organizations are paying the employer. All this must be clearly visible and in 14-point type. A circulator who violates this law can be fined $500, and his or her employer can be fined $5,000. Thanks to Carla Howell for this news.