Bill Description: Senate Bill 1367 would impose more onerous and frequent reporting requirements on political candidates and other entities who communicate on political issues.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
Senate Bill 1367, as amended in the Senate, would make many changes to Idaho's laws on campaign finances. There are several concerning provisions in this bill. But perhaps the most notable one redefines "electioneering communication" to include virtually all forms of political messaging within 60 days of a primary election. The current definition applies only within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election.
This change means that political messages that are sent while the Legislature is in session will be regulated as "electioneering communication" in most election years. The amendment to Senate Bill 1367 does provide an exception for "references to legislators and legislative candidates during the period while the legislature is in session and scheduled to meet before a primary election." It should be noted, however, that this exception does not include references to the governor who signs legislation or to the attorney general whose opinions frequently kill or bolster legislative efforts.
Imposing the state's regulatory structure regarding "electioneering communication" on people or groups who spend as little as $500 talking about current events in the Legislature represents a significant impediment to free speech.
Under existing law, to be considered a "political committee" (and fall under the regulations for them), a person must receive contributions and make expenditures exceeding $1,000 in a calendar year for the purpose of supporting or opposing one or more candidates or ballot measures.
This $1,000 threshold has been in place for many years, and even as the highest inflation in 40 years reduces the value of a dollar, Senate Bill 1367 slashes this threshold to just $500.
Once again, free speech is hampered by putting more regulations on people who wish to communicate their views on political issues.
Current law exempts entities "registered with the federal election commission" from being considered a "political committee" and facing both state and federal reporting requirements. Senate Bill 1367 removes this exemption for any entity "registered with the federal election commission that makes expenditures supporting or opposing any candidate or measure in the state of Idaho, except for federal candidate elections."
More regulations and more impediments to free speech.
The bill also adds new references to "social media advertising" and "text messages," bringing these forms of political communication under increased state regulation.
Transparency is appropriate for government. Government should be entirely transparent. How or whether this should be applied to candidates is up for debate. What should not be debatable is the absolute right of individuals or groups of individuals to exercise unlimited free speech to communicate their opinions about politics, candidates, and ballot measures, free from any control or regulation by the state.
Senate Bill 1367 does not invent these regulations, but it does increase their scope and applicability, thereby harming the inalienable right of free speech.
Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?
Idaho code contains criminal and civil penalties for insufficiently reporting the ways a person or group of people exercise their free speech rights when they communicate about political topics at election time. Senate Bill 1367 makes these penalties apply to small expenditures routinely undertaken by individuals, such as for social media advertising. This represents a significant increase in the threat of penalties for victimless actions that should be protected under the Constitution. Boosting a post on Facebook without telling the government about it shouldn't be a crime.
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