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Idaho Legislature Considering New Requirements For Initiatives

Courtesy of the State of Idaho

An Idaho Senate committee said yes Friday to a bill that would make it harder for the public to put initiatives up for a statewide vote.

The committee approved a proposal by Kootenai County Republican Senator Steve Vick. His bill would require initiative sponsors to collect signatures from at least six percent of registered voters in all 35 legislative districts. Current law requires six percent from just 18 districts.

Opponents of the bill say legislators are unhappy with the initiative process because the public approved an initiative in 2018 that expands the state Medicaid program. That was something the legislature had refused to do.

Vick argues current law allows sponsors to concentrate their signature gathering efforts in urban areas and ignore rural voters.

Retired Boise State University political science professor Gary Moncrief [MON-creef] argues rural voters have plenty of pull in the state.

“I say this as I address a panel of nine legislators, five of whom report their residence as McCammon, Burley, Soda Springs, Fruitland and Sun Valley, none of which can be considered an urban area," Moncrief said. "There is simply no evidence that rural interests are underrepresented in Idaho politics.”

Most of the testimony over two days was critical of the bill. Some said puts unreasonable burdens on initiative sponsors. They say they could gather signatures from all but one district and not have success. But a few senators, including Republican Mark Harris, call it a reasonable compromise, compared to a bill two years ago that would have put even tougher requirements on initiative campaigns.

“It includes the involvement of the electorate," Harris said. "It lets people know and lets people be involved in the process to what’s going to be on the ballot and I think this is a good thing.”

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

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