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Initiative amendment in Idaho on hold for now

Courtesy State of Idaho

An Idaho House committee voted Thursday not to advance a proposed constitutional amendment that would have changed the process for collecting signatures for initiative and referenda.

A proposed constitutional amendment to regulate the citizen initiative process in Idaho is on hold for the moment.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Doug Okuniewicz (R-Coeur d'Alene) would require sponsors of initiative and referenda to collect signatures from all 35 legislative districts. The current requirement is 18 districts. A similar version of this became law last year, but was declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.

This year’s version applies both to initiatives and referenda, measures meant to nullify laws passed by the legislature.

“The amendment would effectively eliminate the citizens’ right of referendum and, considering this, every member of the Idaho House of Representatives faces a simple question: Should we eliminate the citizen right of referendum or should we leave it alone?” said Luke Mayville, the co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, which created the successful 2018 Medicaid expansion initiative. He spoke before the House State Affairs Committee Thursday.

“If you worry about initiatives passed that you don’t like, you all have the power to repeal those initiatives, so that strikes those of us who work on these initiatives and believe in the initiative process, it strikes us as not just that you don’t want bad laws, you don’t even want the citizens to have a voice. That’s what it seems like," Mayville said.

Rep. Jaron Crane (R-Nampa) says he disagrees with the notion that changing the signature requirement to include all legislative districts is meant to stifle the public’s voice.

“I think that the opposite is actually true. We’re taking this from just being District 15 representing all of Idaho’s interests and suppressing the voice of all Idahoans to saying that all legislative districts, rural Idaho as you just said, from District 1 in the north all the way down to 35, are having a voice. I would actually argue the inverse is true," he told Mayville.

The proposed amendment was approved on a 27-8 vote by the Senate about two weeks ago, but the House committee has voted to hold it for now.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.