Ballot initiative bill passes Senate, divides N. Idaho lawmakers

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Sen. Jim Woodward

The advancement of a bill that would increase requirements for citizen-led ballot initiatives is receiving mixed reviews from North Idaho lawmakers.

Senate Bill 1159, introduced by Sen. C. Scott Grow of Eagle, raises the bar for ballot initiatives from having to gather signatures from six percent of voters in 18 districts to 10 percent in 32 of Idaho’s 35 districts. The bill would also shorten the time frame for gathering those signatures from 18 months to six months.

Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle, told the Reader last week that SB 1159 “goes too far,” and voted against the measure in the Senate Friday. The bill passed the Senate on an 18-17 vote.

Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, presented the bill to the House State Affairs Committee Tuesday, admitting he wanted 35 out of 35 districts to be the new requirement, the Idaho Press reports.

“This is an effort to protect the voice of the majority of Idahoans,” Dixon said.

Rep. Heather Scott

Scott told Hagadone News Network she believes lawmakers who are characterizing the bill as a way to serve rural voters are being misleading, and voted against the measure in committee Tuesday.

“I work for the little guy, and I believe this will make it harder for the little guy to have his voice heard,” Scott said. “With the massive growth, and the changing demographics, the establishment fears losing control. I don’t care how they sell it, it’s suppressing the people.”

Opponents — including Scott, according to Hagadone News Network — see the bill as retaliation after Medicaid expansion successfully made it onto the ballot and garnered over 60 percent approval from Idaho voters.

Both District 7 lawmakers expressed opposition. Sen. Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville voted against the bill and Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird voice opposition during the House committee hearing.

SB 1159 made it out of the House committee with a 10-5 vote. The full House is expected to vote on the bill before week’s end.

Rep. Sage Dixon

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