By Lyndsie Kiebert
The Idaho Senate State Affairs committee saw a packed house Monday as it discussed a bill that would make it harder to get a voter initiative on a state ballot.
Senator C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, said his bill is meant to “allow the rural districts to also be involved in the process and not just have the cities dictate to the (rural areas) what’s happening in the state,” according to Boise State Public Radio.
The proposed bill increases the number of petition signatures from 6 to 10 percent of registered voters, and raises the number of districts those signatures come from to 32 of Idaho’s 35 districts, rather than the current requirement of 18. The law also currently states these standards need to be met within 18 months. Grow’s bill shortens the timeline to six months.
Grow began his statements at Monday’s hearing to clarify that his bill is “not in response to Medicaid expansion,” which was met with chuckles from the crowd, according to Idaho Reports.
Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said at a press luncheon Tuesday that he had “no doubt that this is a punitive bill to retaliate against a successful measure,” according to the Idaho Press-Tribune. Medicaid expansion saw over 60 percent approval from Idaho voters in November.
Reclaim Idaho, a grassroots group that led the way in getting Medicaid expansion on the ballot, counted for a large part of Monday’s crowded hearing. Group co-founder and Sandpoint native Luke Mayville drove from his home in North Idaho to share testimony. He said that he agreed getting an initiative on the ballot “should be difficult,” but added “it’s already difficult” — a statement followed by applause, according to the IPT.
Mayville said in a statement released Monday following the hearing that Grow’s bill would invite “big-money, out-of-state special interests into Idaho,” alleging those groups would be the only ones able to afford the extensive process the bill aims to require.
“This is a blatant power-grab by the politicians at the expense of the people of Idaho,” Mayville said. “They are attacking Idaho’s Constitution, taking away the vote of Idahoans and consolidating power from the top-down. This is a direct assault on a right of the people of Idaho that has existed for 100 years.”
State Affairs Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, attempted to close the hearing short of listening to all testimony, stating that those still waiting to make remarks were all opposed to the bill, according to the Associated Press. Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said closing the hearing prematurely would imply that the committee wasn’t interested in hearing all concerns.
“I think this is a big issue, and I think the timing is unfortunate as people are seeing it as a swat in the face of the initiative that just passed,” Winder said.
Testimony regarding Sen. Grow’s ballot initiative bill will continue 8 a.m. Friday.
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