Described by one legislator as “one of the worst pieces of legislation” that he has ever seen, nonetheless the Idaho Legislature has passed a bill that will significantly change the ballot initiative and referendum process in the state.
“I really think this is one of the worst pieces of legislation I have ever seen,” Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, told IdahoReporter.com, after he voted “no” on Senate Bill 1108.
“This bill says that one person’s vote on a petition is worth more than others,” Burgoyne said. “It says that there is a rural Idaho to protect from urban Idaho, and I think the whole thing is very misguided.”
Yet a majority of members in the House of Representatives by a 45 to 21 margin saw it differently.
“I come from a bigger county where our population could bring an initiative if we chose to do so,” Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, told IdahoReporter.com. After voting “yes” on the bill, Trujillo noted that “in all fairness to the rural counties, I think this is a better way for our state to handle referendums, so the large urban areas are not overshadowing the rural regions of our state.”
Current Idaho law requires that the minimum number of petition signatures to be collected in order for an issue to be considered by the secretary of state for placement on a ballot must be equal to 6 percent of the qualified electors within the state at the time of the last general election.
SB 1108, which the Senate approved back on March 11, will require both the collection of signatures within at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, as well as a minimum of 6 percent of the qualified electors within each of those 18 districts to sign the petition.
During Senate debate on the bill earlier this month, Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, noted that rural Idahoans who operate farms have in recent years become concerned about initiative efforts to combat what is broadly referred to as “animal cruelty.” Some of those efforts received broad support in the more urban Treasure Valley region of the state, but parameters of the proposed new laws didn’t give adequate consideration to common practices of slaughtering farm animals, he said.
Siddoway’s claim seems to be echoed by the Idaho Farm Bureau. The organization’s website has for several weeks noted its support for the bill, stating that “Senate Bill 1108 would ensure there is broad support across the state for any issue before it is placed on the ballot for an initiative or referendum.”
The bill now goes to Gov. Butch Otter for his consideration.