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'Stifling' initiative bill passes House, heads to Gov's desk

Staff Writer | April 8, 2021 1:07 AM

The Idaho House voted Wednesday to approve SB 1110, which would require organizers to gather signatures of at least 6 percent of registered voters in all 35 legislative districts to get a citizen initiative on the ballot.

Signature gatherers are now required to secure 6 percent of registered voters in 18 districts, roughly half as many districts as the new bill requires.

Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, originally carried SB 1110 through the Senate. Rep. Jim Addis, R-Coeur d’Alene, carried the bill in the House, saying Wednesday the bill is intended to bring all Idahoans into the lawmaking fold.

“What it does do is ensure all four corners of Idaho have a say,” Addis said Wednesday. “It is inclusive, and it ensures our urban and rural citizens have a voice.”

Within an hour of the vote, Reclaim Idaho — the organization behind Idaho’s Medicaid expansion, the last initiative to successfully reach the ballot — announced it filed an initiative with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. It's called the Initiative Rights Act, which calls for the removal of district requirements in the initiative process altogether.

“The Initiative Rights Act would restore Idaho’s traditional signature requirements, rules that existed virtually unchanged for 76 of the past 88 years,” Luke Mayville of Reclaim Idaho said in a statement. “If the initiative were enacted, Idaho citizens would have the opportunity to place an initiative on the ballot by collecting signatures from 6 percent of Idaho’s registered voters, without regard to where those voters live.”

Addis’s assertion that SB 1110 represents inclusiveness in the lawmaking process have been echoed by its supporters since Vick first introduced the bill in February. It was commonly repeated on the House floor Wednesday by many in support of the bill, including Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay.

“This piece of legislation gets the voice of 35 districts of Idaho in the lawmaking process,” Dixon said.

But opponents spoke with impassioned voices in resistance to SB 1110, including Ilana Rubel, D-Boise and minority leader in the House.

“This is such a stark departure from the principle of equal footing,” Rubel said. “… There is absolutely no reason why we should put in this stifling restriction, when this is a citizen-driven initiative process.”

The 51-18 vote in the House now sends the bill to Gov. Brad Little’s desk for either signature or veto. In 2019, Little vetoed a similar bill.