A split Idaho Supreme Court ruled today that a petition for a vote on whether the city of Boise should put a new 10 Commandments monument back in Julia Davis Park, where one was removed two years ago and given to a local church, should have gone to the voters. The city ruled that siting of park monuments was an administrative decision and not subject to review by initiative, and the 4th District Court agreed with the city. But now the state Supreme Court has held, in a 4-1 ruling, that it was too soon to say.
The measure should have gone to a vote first before any consideration of whether it was improper, the court ruled, because it was just a proposal or idea before that. “The benefits of public debate through the initiative process may be lost,” wrote Chief Justice Gerald Schroeder. “Just as the court would not interrupt the legislature in the consideration of a bill prior to enactment, the court will not interrupt the consideration of a properly qualified initiative.” In a dissenting opinion, Justice Linda Copple Trout noted that the majority opinion overturned three other Idaho Supreme Court cases on initiatives on administrative issues. That question is different from whether an initiative is constitutional or not, Trout wrote – a question that the court clearly won’t touch until after an initiative is enacted.
So the upshot is that the court held that the measure should go to the voters, and then if it passed, it could be overturned later if it wasn’t a proper topic for an initiative.