One of the most rewarding things we do as elected lawmakers is traveling our district, meeting with our constituents—whether in town halls or their front porches—and listening to their concerns about state government. These one-on-one conversations cannot be replicated by email, phone calls or text messages. That is one of the main reasons why we favor Idaho’s constitutionally protected ballot-initiative process. Proponents of a given issue must meet face-to-face with fellow Idahoans, listen and debate their ideas, and find common ground—or not.
However, that century-old constitutional protection that generations of Idahoans have enjoyed is under attack in the Statehouse. Senate Bill 1159 would all but repeal Article III, Section I of Idaho’s founding document, leaving your legislative right as a citizen in the dust.
Under the legislation—which passed a divided Senate by a one-vote margin (18-17)—Idaho citizens would have to collect tens of thousands more signatures than under current law, collect them in 91 percent of Idaho’s legislative districts (32/35), and have 67 percent less time to do it (180 days as opposed to 18 months under current law). Furthermore, the 180-day timeline would end in April, meaning petitioners would have to slog through Magic Valley snowstorms to collect signatures. This bill is a blatant power-grab on behalf of the Legislature at your expense.
An objective analysis of this bill shows that Senate Bill 1159—if it becomes law—will make Idaho’s ballot-initiative process the most restrictive in the nation. While much has been made of the fact that individual aspects of the bill are no tougher than other states, it’s the cumulative restrictions that puts Idaho ahead of (or behind, depending on your point of view) the pack. If enacted, the only organizations that could meet the standards set forth in the legislation will be multi-million-dollar, out-of-state special interests whose agenda may not reflect Idaho values. The last thing we want to do is cede a constitutional right guaranteed to every Idahoan to groups located outside of Idaho. Such a state of affairs is not just objectionable to our way of life, it’s unconscionable.
Certainly, we are disappointed with our colleagues in the Senate who failed to defeat this legislation. We don’t hold out much hope with the majority of our colleagues in the House. However, under the same constitution which guarantees each citizen the right to bring a ballot initiative, there is also a check on the Legislature which can still be exercised.
Although Gov. Brad Little has been in office less than six months, 2019 may very well be his moment. We sincerely hope the governor meant what he said in his State of the State address when he pledged to give citizens “a reason to be confident in state government, by making government responsive, transparent and accountable.” Senate Bill 1159 all but eliminates our constitutional right to make state government “responsive” or hold them “accountable.” If the governor wishes to back up what he promised to the entire state just three months ago, he needs to send Senate Bill 1159 back where it came from. Vetoing this harmful legislation will signal to all of Idaho—and the nation—that strength, courage and accountability are alive and well in the Statehouse.
Veto Senate Bill 1159.
State Reps. Muffy Davis and Sally Toone are both Democrats who represent District 26, which includes Blaine County.