Suffolk. Civil action commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk on January 6, 1978. The case was reserved and reported by Wilkins, J.
Hennessey, C.j., Quirico, Braucher, Kaplan, Wilkins, Liacos, & Abrams, JJ.
Constitutional Law, Initiative, Equal protection of laws, Separable portions of constitution.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hennessey
Discussion of the procedure for the adoption of a law through a popular initiative as set forth in art. 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. [86-89]
A corporation organized under G. L. c. 180 had no standing in an action seeking relief against the enforcement of the county-distribution requirement of art. 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. [90-91]
Where it appeared doubtful whether art. 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution would have been adopted without the county-distribution provision, that provision, if unconstitutional, would not be severable from the rest of the article. [91-92]
The county-distribution rule embodied in art. 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution does not impinge on any fundamental interest, and, therefore, the strict scrutiny standard of equal protection review is not applicable to the rule. [92-96]
The county-distribution rule embodied in art. 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution does not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [96-97]
This is an action brought in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the enforcement of the county-distribution requirement, embodied in art. 48 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, General Provisions, II, and read into art. 48, The Initiative, V, § 1, as amended by art. 81, § 2. This requirement restricts the number of signatures that may qualify from any one county on behalf of an initiative or referendum petition to not more than one-quarter of the total number needed to qualify. The plaintiffs question the validity of the county-distribution requirement, the application of which has prevented the Secretary of the Commonwealth (Secretary) from transmitting the plaintiffs' initiative petition to the General Court. Unless it is so transmitted, the initiative question cannot be placed on the November, 1978, election ballot.
The case was submitted to a single Justice of this court on a statement of agreed facts and exhibits. The matter was reserved and reported by him to the full bench on the pleadings and the statement of agreed facts and exhibits therein. We conclude that the county-distribution requirement is constitutional, and a declaration to that effect shall be entered.
The relevant constitutional provisions, and the facts of this case, are summarized as follows.
Under the provisions of the Constitution of the Commonwealth, legislative power is vested primarily, but not exclusively, in the General Court. Through the popular initiative and referendum, the power to enact or to repeal certain legislation of Statewide applicability is reserved to the people. The popular initiative is described in the Constitution as "the power of a specified number of voters to submit ...