Wednesday, October 22, 2008 6:54 PM CDT

It’s a lot different from California, where residents hold statewide votes to decide whether to brush their teeth.

In Wisconsin, there’s no law guaranteeing you’ll get something on the state ballot if you collect X number of signatures. Dan Rotsche wrote a paper on direct legislation for the Legislative Reference Bureau, and he explained how the procedure works.

You can always circulate a petition and send it to your state legislators. It’s completely up to them whether to act on it.

The Legislature can vote to put on the ballot either a binding referendum, which automatically becomes law if it passes; or an advisory referendum, which just lets officials know what voters want. You might remember the advisory one on the death penalty from two years ago.

At the local level, you’ve got a little more power. State law allows people to force the issue in their city or village.

To find out how many John Hancocks you need, take 15 percent of the number in your municipality who voted for governor in the last general election. In the city of Burlington, that means roughly 560 signatures. In Racine, it’s closer to 3,500 (that’s my math; I’d check with the local clerk if you really plan to do this).

In the case of concealed carry, a local petition could probably only be advisory to get the state’s attention. Passing a local law allowing concealed weapons wouldn’t mean much when state law prohibits it.