SECTION 1. Chapter 54 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 42C the following section:-
(a) As used in this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:-
“citizens’ initiative review”, the process through which a citizen panel is assembled, deliberations are conducted for a ballot measure, and the resulting citizens’ statement is disseminated to the voting public
“citizens’ panel”, 18 to 24 Massachusetts residents of voting age as demographically representative as possible of the overall voting age population
“citizens’ statement”, a 1 page document made public immediately upon its completion written by a citizens’ panel that includes key findings and reasons to support and oppose the ballot measure under its review, as well as any other information the citizens’ panel deems pertinent
“deliberations”, a meeting, the proceedings of which shall be open to observation by the public, of no less than 3 and no more than 5 days, during which a citizens’ panel shall evaluate the ballot measure under its review, complete its citizens’ statement, and have the opportunity to hear testimony from and question relevant policy experts and the campaigns or their surrogates supporting and opposing the relevant measure
(b) A citizens’ initiative review commission is established within the executive branch and shall consist of 7 commissioners, all of whom shall be residents of the commonwealth. The governor shall appoint 1 commissioner, who shall be the chairman of the commission; the attorney general shall appoint 1 commissioner; the secretary of the commonwealth shall appoint 1 commissioner; the senate president shall appoint 1 commissioner; the speaker of the house shall appoint 1 commissioner; the minority leader of the senate shall appoint 1 commissioner; and the minority leader of the house shall appoint 1 commissioner. All appointees shall hold expertise relevant to nonpartisan public deliberation.
No person appointed to the commission, in the 5 years preceding such appointment, shall have held presidential, congressional, state legislative or statewide elective office, nor shall have served as mayor or city councilor or equivalent of a city or town in the commonwealth, or as a member of the governor’s council, nor shall have been elected to a state or federal party committee, nor shall have been an executive or legislative agent, nor shall stand for elected office or for election to a state or federal party committee, nor shall serve as executive or legislative agent, nor shall be compensated by any state ballot question committee for the duration of their terms.
The term of office of a commissioner shall be 4 years. Vacancies shall be filled by the appropriate appointing authority.
The commission shall adopt rules for the conduct of its meetings, which shall be open to the public.
The secretary of the commonwealth shall provide staff and other resources necessary for the commission to carry out its tasks.
(c) Citizens’ initiative review shall be conducted in each statewide biennial election in which 1 or more measures will appear on the ballot. Immediately upon the secretary of the commonwealth’s certification of the ballot measures that have qualified to be decided upon by the voters at the next statewide biennial election, the commission shall select the ballot measure or measures for which citizens’ initiative review shall be conducted. The commission shall issue a public statement explaining the rationale for its selection. If the commission determines that no ballot measures are appropriate for citizens’ initiative review, it may select no measures for that biennial election and shall issue a public statement explaining its decision.
(d) No later than February first of the year of a statewide biennial election, the commission shall enter into a written agreement with a nonpartisan organization with expertise in nonpartisan public deliberation to conduct citizens’ initiative review. Such an agreement may span more than one statewide biennial election. Preference shall be given to Massachusetts-based organizations.
The agreement shall include, but is not limited to, the following conditions:
(i) each citizens’ initiative review shall be conducted by a unique citizens’ panel selected using a methodology that is random and ensures the panel is as representative as possible of the overall voting age population of the Commonwealth with regard to at least the following demographic characteristics: age, gender, race, place of residence, political party affiliation, and educational attainment;
(ii) each citizens’ initiative review shall be facilitated by nonpartisan, professional moderators with training in citizens’ initiative; and
(iii) the citizens’ statement shall be written solely by, and solely contain the views of, the citizens’ panel.
Funding for citizens’ initiative review conducted pursuant to agreements entered into by the commission and for independent evaluation carried out pursuant to subsection (f) shall be provided from the General Fund, subject to appropriation.
(e) Each member of a citizens' panel shall be compensated daily for their participation in the deliberations in an amount not less than that paid for juror service pursuant to section 51 of chapter 234A. Their travel and child-care expenses, lodging and food shall also be reimbursed or otherwise provided. An employer shall not dismiss or punish in any way an employee who participates as a member of a citizens’ panel.
(f) No later than April first of the year following a statewide biennial election in which citizens’ initiative review is conducted, the commission shall prepare and publish a report evaluating the citizens’ initiative review or reviews and recommending improvements, if any. To inform its report, the commission shall hold at least one meeting open to the public and provide other opportunities for public comment. The commission may also enter into an agreement with an independent organization to assess a citizens’ initiative review and its value to voters and other stakeholders.
SECTION 2. Section 53 of chapter 54 of the General Laws, as it appears in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting in line 20 after the word “finances”, the following words:-
“, a citizens’ statement prepared in accordance with section 42D”
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