Ballot initiative bills head to Gov. Little’s desk

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Two bills placing heightened requirements on the Idaho ballot initiative process are now in the hands of Governor Brad Little.

The established ballot initiative process requires signatures from 6% of voters from 18 of 35 districts in 18 months. SB 1159 brought those numbers to 10% from 32 districts in six months. A trailer bill, HB 296, takes the requirements to signatures from 10% of voters from 24 districts in nine months, and would replace the SB 1159 requirements if both bills are signed into law. So far, both have passed the House and Senate.

“There were some comments from the public and other folks that possibly (SB 1159) was a bridge too far,” said Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, according to the Associated Press. “So, having listened to a lot of different comments from people, we felt it would be helpful to reduce some of the requirements.”

Those in favor of amending the ballot initiative process see it as a way to preserve the voices of rural Idahoans. Opponents see the bills as retaliation against Prop 2, the ballot initiative for Medicaid expansion that passed with 61% of the Idaho vote in November.

Reclaim Idaho, the organization that was instrumental in getting Medicaid expansion on the ballot, has been circulating a petition since early last week titled “Idaho Governor Little must veto the ‘Silence the Voters’ act.” As of Wednesday evening, the petition had garnered 11,372 signatures.

The Idaho Statesman reported Wednesday that since Friday, Gov. Little’s office has received 4,644 phone calls and emails regarding the bills, 4,611 of those urging the governor to veto both SB 1159 and HB 296 — roughly 99.3% opposed to the bills.

Little has five days — excluding Sundays — to decide what to do with the bills once he’s received them. He received SB 1159 Tuesday but has not yet received HB 296, according to the Statesman. Little has not released his stance on either bill.

“Gov. Little examines each piece of legislation thoughtfully and individually,” spokeswoman Marissa Morrison told the Statesman Wednesday. “He will not issue statements on pending legislation during his deliberative process.”

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