Referendum against nursing shortage: stopped by the constitutional court

The Hamburg Constitutional Court declares the Hamburg referendum against the nursing emergency inadmissible.

Hamburg is not allowed to decide for itself how nursing care is set up in quantitative terms Photo: dpa

The Hamburg "referendum against the nursing emergency" is inadmissible and may not be carried out. This was decided on Tuesday by the Hamburg Constitutional Court. Reasons are the multiple revision of the wording of the petition, a violation of the prohibition of coupling and the lack of legislative competence of the state of Hamburg. The nine constitutional judges thus unanimously agreed to the request of the red-green senate. The latter had appealed to the highest court in the Hanseatic city because of constitutional concerns.

The popular initiative "Against the nursing crisis" had collected a sufficient number of signatures in March 2018. However, the Hamburg Parliament did not adopt the bill as law, so the Ini applied for a referendum. However, their request was revised twice, even after the Senate had already appealed to the Constitutional Court in November. "This is inadmissible," the court ruled.

In addition, the text of the petition mixes two points that have no connection in terms of content: rules on cleaning staff and cleaning standards, and staffing floors for nursing staff. This "coupling" is also inadmissible. The people must have the option of accepting one and rejecting the other. To be allowed to vote only on "all or nothing" would violate the "principle of democracy."

And third, the federal government has legislative competence in these matters and has exercised it. However, according to the court, states are not allowed to "improve" federal law that they do not like. This decision is "not a substantive evaluation" of the initiative’s request, emphasized court president Friedrich-Joachim Mehmel: "It’s a purely constitutional review."

Kirsten Rautenstrauch, Nursing Initiative

"The staff shortage in clinics and its consequences remain a sad reality and dangerous for patients and employees alike"

"Fully confirmed" sees Jan Porksen, head of the Senate Chancellery. "Not everything that may be desirable can also be the subject of a referendum." On the other hand, Kirsten Rautenstrauch from the nursing initiative spoke of a "shocking cold-heartedness of the court": "The staff shortage in the clinics and its consequences remain a sad reality and dangerous for patients as well as employees," she commented.

The staffing problems in the clinics are "an expression of institutional failure" and must be solved, also demanded Pedram Emami, President of the Hamburg Medical Association.

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