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Invoking ‘Luna Laws,’ Democrats bash voter initiative bill

On Wednesday, legislative Democrats urged Idahoans to speak out against Senate Bill 1108 — a bill that would tighten the initiative and referendum process.

And in arguing against SB 1108, Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett raised the specter of Propositions 1, 2 and 3 — the referendums that overturned the 2011 Students Come First laws.

“Senate Bill 1108 seeks to restrict the people’s ability to reject bad legislation, such as the Luna Laws,” Stennett said in a statement. “(The people) must have access to an initiative and referendum process that gives them a loud voice in the laws that they must live by.”

Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa

Sponsored by Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, and supported by the Idaho Farm Bureau, SB 1108 would require groups pushing voter initiatives and referendums to collect signatures from at least 6 percent of registered voters — and, in the process, reach that 6 percent threshold in at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. The idea, say supporters, is to protect the balance between urban and rural regions.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate State Affairs Committee, which McKenzie chairs.

Here’s a longer look at Stennett’s statement on SB 1108 — and education issues:

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum

“Idaho Democrats heard the message: Idahoans value their children’s futures. Idahoans do not believe their children get a world-class education when teachers are silenced and bullied. Idaho parents want a voice in the policies that shape education — they don’t want dictates from lawmakers.

“Because we listen to voters, Idaho Democrats also endorsed Gov. (Butch) Otter’s wise decision to create an education task force to look at those failed laws and to give parents, students, educators and local people a say in how our children are educated.

“Just a couple months after voters soundly rejected them, the Luna Laws are back as a series of bills that resurrect Proposition 1. This is the same legislative process that the people rejected in November.

“Not only is this Legislature ignoring the people, but Senate Bill 1108 seeks to restrict the people’s ability to reject bad legislation, such as the Luna Laws, and ensure that the majority party need not face such a stunning rebuke of their process and policies in the future.

“Idaho voters must be allowed to exercise their constitutional right to petition their government. They have every right to expect that their elected officials will listen to them or pay the price at the polls. They must have access to an initiative and referendum process that gives them a loud voice in the laws that they must live by.”

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News ( Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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