Cheltenham Ballot Title and Plain English
Statement of the Measure
"Should the Cheltenham Township Charter be amended to add a Bill of Rights which recognizes the right to local self-government, asserts that corporations do not have the same rights as people or other constitutional rights nor a right to unearned profits, and that recognizes the right of residents to approve or reject land development proposed by certain corporations known as public benefit corporations?"
Plain English Statement:
Cheltenham is a “home rule” township. This means it creates its own laws on any topic not exclusively regulated by the state or federal government. The set of local laws that govern the township are collectively referred to as the Township’s charter. The charter may be amended either by action of the elected government officials or through a citizen petition. This ballot question is presented as the result of a citizen petition. The amendment proposes a “Bill of Rights” which asserts the right to local self-government, restricts the rights of corporations and defines them as subordinate to local law and the rights of individuals.
Specifically, corporations in the township would no longer be legally viewed as “persons.” Corporations could not avail themselves of the state or federal constitutions, and in particular, could not seek relief under the Commerce Clause and the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Commerce Clause permits the federal government to control trade and commerce by and among people in different states. The Contracts Clause prohibits governments from creating laws that limit or affect private contractual obligations. Corporations would not be permitted to violate the rights of township residents or to challenge the proposed Bill of Rights by claiming that it impairs their right to do business or enter into contracts.
If a corporation is involved in any litigation related to the charter, it shall not be entitled to recover future lost profits as a type of damages. Currently, future lost profits are a type of damage recoverable by a corporation.
Some corporations are called state-chartered public benefit corporations. These are a type of corporation that are sometimes called “quasi-public” because they carry out a function or task often seen as a governmental responsibility. An example of such a corporation is the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA. If approval is granted by the voters, the public benefit corporation would still have to adhere to regulations and permitting laws. Under current state law, such approval is granted by elected township officials.