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Senate approves bill changing statewide ballot initiative process

Senate approves bill changing statewide ballot initiative process

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
March 11, 2013
[post_thumbnail] Sen. Jeff Siddoway supported changing statewide ballot initiative process.

The Idaho Senate on a 25-10 vote has approved a bill that would seek to change the ballot initiative and referendum process in the state.

“We have to decide what is more important,” Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian,  commented to IdahoReporter.com after the vote, “ensuring that rural Idaho has a voice in determining whether a referendum makes it on the ballot, or leaving a system in place where the population of the Treasure Valley can largely control it.”

Current Idaho law requires 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.

Senate Bill 1108, which the Senate approved Monday, would 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 debate on the bill, Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, noted that rural Idahoans who operate farms have in recent years become concerned about initiative efforts to combat “animal cruelty.” Some of the 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 notes 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.”

Fulcher, who voted for the stricter initiative requirements,  said “I realize that the passage of Senate Bill 1108 could make it more difficult to put issues on the ballot via initiative. However, I also believe that a broad cross-section of Idahoans should have a voice in making that decision.”

A Boise Valley colleague, though, saw the matter differently. Sen. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, commented: “I appreciate the intent behind this,” he told IdahoReporter.com. “I believe it is a good idea to have both urban and rural support for an initiative. However, I don’t want to unduly complicate the initiative process. I think this will result in an unintended complication of the process.”

Another Boise Valley legislator voted against the measure as well. “I don’t think we have a problem right now in Idaho. We haven’t seen an exploitation of the initiative process,” Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, told IdahoReporter.com. “We are now going to take something that is already hard, and make it more difficult.”

Bayer, along with Sens. Bob Nonini, R- Coeur d'Alene, and Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, all Republicans, joined the seven Senate Democrats in the Senate in opposing the bill.

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