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Eye On Boise

Mon., March 18, 2013, 9:18 a.m.

House State Affairs passes bill to restrict initiatives on divided voice vote

The House State Affairs Committee has approved SB 1108, the bill to make it tougher to qualify initiatives or referendum measures for the Idaho ballot, on a divided voice vote; it came after a hearing in which testimony was overwhelmingly against the bill. Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, moved to hold the bill in committee, “on the basis that it’s more cost, it’s more paperwork, it’s more difficulty for a problem that doesn’t appear to exist.” But his motion was defeated on a divided voice vote; a motion from Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, to approve the bill then passed on another divided voice vote, but no one requested a roll call.

“I’m not sure that we have an issue to fix here,” said Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens. “Has there been some domination by Ada County or some other county of this process that we’re trying to remedy?” Russ Hendricks, lobbyist for the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, which proposed the bill, said, “We want to shut the door to the barn before the horse is out. We want to address an issue before it becomes a problem.”

Gannon asked how signature-gathering would work under SB 1108 for someone gathering signatures at the Ada County Courthouse; Ada County alone has nine legislative districts. “Under SB 1108, you would need a petition per legislative district,” Hendricks said. “You would need to know what legislative district that person lived in, and then have them sign the appropriate petition.” Gannon responded, “So at least logistically, this proposal that you’re bringing before this committee, it’s going to be much, much more difficult for people to gather signatures that would qualify to put the initiative on the ballot, is that true?” Hendricks responded, “I would not characterize it as much, much more difficult. There will be some logistical things that they will have to work through.”

Bert Marley of the Idaho Education Association said, “This will make the process for signature collectors a nightmare.” Five people testified against the bill, including GOP activist Rod Beck and Payette County resident Jeff Wright; two others spoke briefly in favor of the bill, both of them lobbyists, representing the Beer & Wine Distributors and the Food Producers. The measure earlier passed the Senate 25-10; it now moves to the full House.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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