Trailer bill easing sting of tougher Idaho initiative requirements welcomed by Democrats

Secretary of State Ben Ysursa’s bill to ease the administrative process for signature collection on initiative and referendum petitions was strongly endorsed by the Senate State Affairs Committee Friday.
The bill will require county clerks to do the work of designating the legislative districts of petition signatories, rather than leave that difficult task to signature gatherers. Signatures would be collected by county under the new bill, not legislative district.

The change was prompted by Senate Bill 1108 which passed the House Friday and is headed to Gov. Butch Otter. SB 1108 requires that signatures represent at least 6 percent of the registered voters in at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. Current law simply requires 6 percent statewide.

Rural interests, including the Idaho Farm Bureau, have said the change is necessary to limit the clout of urban Idaho. To qualify a initiative for the ballot — which creates law upon a majority vote at a general election; or a referendum, which strikes down a law — the total signatures would still have to exceed 6 percent of the registered voters statewide.

Though Democrats oppose SB 1108, Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, thanked State Affairs Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, for bringing the bill to the committee as the session draws to a close.

“I just want to thank you for hearing the concerns and responding to them,” Werk said to McKenzie.

Replied McKenzie: “The credit really goes to the secretary of state for bringing this forward. But I think it’s a good idea.”

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, took the unusual step of asking that the bill not only be introduced but sent immediately to the full Senate with the committee’s recommendation that the measure pass. The committee agreed; if leadership wishes to move the bill quickly it could pass before adjournment.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

Posted in Idaho Politics