The initiative is a means to bypass politicians. In many initiative states initiators have the choice of circulating petitions to propose a statute or a constitutional amendment, (in home rule cities initiators choose between ordinance and charter amendment). In some states lawmakers have the option of approving statutes and ordinances without sending the issue to voters, amendments require voter approval. Amendments also require more petition signatures.
Why do most initiators choose to put in the extra money and effort to propose amendments? Once passed amendments can’t be overturned without a vote of the people.
Gathering signatures, fighting legal battles, and running a campaign is a big commitment most initiators are only willing to make when they know their initiative will result in real change. It’s not surprising most initiators choose to go the constitutional or charter amendment route when possible.
Two recent examples where legislators are able to mess with voter approved initiatives:
South Dakota lawmakers recently exempted persons under 18 from a minimum wage increase approved by voters last November. Supporters of the minimum wage increase are organizing to run a referendum petition drive to challenge the exemption.
Washington state voters approved an initiative last fall to require lower class sizes in public schools. The senate recently passed a measure to change the initiated law and only require k-3rd grade classes be reduced in size, now they want to send it back to voters (further delaying the class size requirement.)