Things have officially heated up at the Statehouse.
Committees are meeting regularly, folks are settled in and ready to work, and bills are being heard. Most notable among the bills floating around was the introduction of a possible Constitutional Amendment this morning in Senate State Affairs. We’ll need all hands on deck to oppose this one!
Sen. Doug Okuniewicz (known as Doug O) is sponsoring SJR101 – legislation that, if passed by the legislature this session and approved by voters in 2024, would amend the Idaho Constitution and significantly raise the bar on getting a citizen-led initiative or referendum on the ballot.
In 2021, the legislature passed SB1110, which changed the requirements on the geography of signatures needed to qualify an initiative or referendum for the ballot. It was overturned by the courts as unconstitutional. Right now, in order to qualify to be printed on the ballot, an initiative (like the one that created the Idaho Dept. of Idaho Fish & Game or expanded Medicaid) needs to gather enough signatures from 18 of the 35 legislative districts. That number is 6% of the legal voters in those 18 districts. SB1110, and the joint resolution proposed this morning, would change that number to require signatures from all 35 districts.
Now, we all know Idaho is a big, geographically diverse state. To get from Grasmere, ID in the South up to Good Grief, ID in the North is an 11 hour drive. Reaching every legislative district in the state – knocking on doors, attending community events, doing the actual signature gathering – will be impossible, which is why SB1110 was overturned in 2021.
Taking away reasonable access to bring an initiative or referenda to the ballot is a power grab. Since a ballot measure passed in 2018, the Legislature has repeatedly tried to curb the peoples’ power, your power, to change things for Idaho. Now Sen. Doug O wants to amend the Idaho Constitution to do just that, take away your right to bring an initiative or referendum to the ballot. This move will give veto power on any initiative to a single legislative district.
In addition to passing out of both committees, legislation amending the Constitution requires a 2/3 vote in both chambers, then a vote of approval in the 2024 General Election. We don’t want it to go that far. We will need your voice. Speaking up for citizens’ rights to bring an initiative or referendum to the ballot is essential. This is a battle we’ve fought before. We must reject this power grab.
Once SJR101 gets a full hearing in Senate State Affairs, we’ll let you know how to take action, who to contact, and where you can get loud!
Other than that…
There’s several bills (and rumors of bills!) we’re tracking. Check out our list of legislation here so you can be in the know. We’re tracking JFAC – changes to the rules on how it works as well as key natural resource budgets – and a number of other bills that do various things.
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With the legislative session officially now in full swing (and taking swings at your rights!) we’re busy folks! One of the best ways you can support our work is with a donation to keep us in the Statehouse defending Idaho voters’ values. Make a gift here today!