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Eye On Boise

Bill to make initiatives, referenda tougher to qualify draws opposition from across political spectrum

Testimony so far this morning on SB 1108, the Senate-passed bill to make it tougher to qualify an initiative or referendum measure for the Idaho ballot, has been almost all against the bill. Anne Nesse of Coeur d’Alene brought a petition against the bill that she said has 580 signatures collected online from all over the state, both from rural and urban areas, and is getting 100 more signatures a day. “I have met personally with Kootenai County Republicans, who were appalled, frankly,” she said. “They were practically hugging me when I left, and I’m a Democrat.” She told the committee, “I would guess that you should check with your constituency on this.”

GOP activist and former state Sen. Rod Beck told the committee, “This legislation has done something that doesn’t get achieved too often: It’s put me and other conservatives on the same side as the Idaho Education Association, the ACLU and others. That doesn’t occur too often.” The only one to testify in favor of the bill so far, other than its sponsor, the Idaho Farm Bureau, was a representative of the Idaho Beer & Wine Distributors.

Beck said rather than empower rural voters, “I believe this legislation will have the reverse effect.” It requires signatures from 6 percent of registered voters in at least 18 legislative districts to qualify a measure for the ballot; the current requirement is 6 percent statewide. Beck said, “If this legislation becomes law, all it’s going to do is cost more money. An organization that wants to get a measure on the ballot with sufficient resources will be able to do it.” He said, “It's already real hard to get an initiative or referendum on the ballot.”

Monica Hopkins of the Idaho ACLU spoke against the bill, saying it “would make it nearly impossible for all but the richest proponents to qualify initiatives for the ballot.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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