Monday, July 18, 2016

Massachusetts Citizens’ Right to Free Petition

Massachusetts is the only state in the country that gives its citizens the right to file bills directly in its state legislature.  This right of free petition is first mentioned as the 12th liberty in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641), which was intended for use as guidance for the General Court at the time:
Every man whether Inhabitant or fforreiner, free or not free shall have libertie to come to any publique Court, Councel, or Towne meeting, and either by speech or writeing to move any lawfull, seasonable, and materiall question, or to present any necessary motion, complaint, petition, Bill or information, whereof that meeting hath proper cognizance, so it be done in convenient time, due order, and respective manner.
This right can also be found in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, which is also the oldest constitution in the world that is still currently in use.  Article XIX of Part the First, which is one of 30 articles that makes up the “Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” states:
The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by the way of addresses, petitions, or remonstrances, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.
Now that you, the Massachusetts citizen, know your right to petition—where do you begin?  It’s important to first take a look at some introductory resources that will help you understand general procedures as well tips on how to draft a potentially successful piece of legislation:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department