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Simpson Presents Another Awful Bill

Idaho House Speaker Mike Simpson is at it again.

The Blackfoot Republican sponsored the worst law of 1991 - the so-called Truth in Taxation Bill - and is an odds-on favorite to repeat that dubious feat this year, unless common sense intervenes.

Simpson has introduced the Hunters’ Rights Amendment, which would ban the use of initiatives to control wildlife and other natural resources on state and federal land.

Simpson did so to protect the few hunters who use dogs and bait to kill bears. Some hunters are worried about an initiative, filed by Idaho Coalition United for Bears, that seeks to ban these questionable practices.

Mindy Harm of the Idaho Conservation League concluded correctly that Simpson’s attempt to thwart a constitutional right for a special-interest group is like using Lake Pend Oreille to drown a cat. It’s overkill.

It’s hypocritical, too. Simpson and his legislative cronies don’t want citizens, the power behind their tin thrones, telling them what to do. Meanwhile, they’re sympathetic to the wise-use movement because they want local input into federal resource management.

Simpson’s hunting buddies should be concerned that they’ll lose if the bear-baiting initiative lands on the 1996 ballot. A Boise State University survey shows hunters and non-hunters alike oppose bear baiting. Similar initiatives have passed in Colorado and Oregon.

Simpson says the regulation of hunting should be based on science - “not 30-second television commercials in the initiative process.” In other words, the omniscient Legislature is far more capable of handling complex issues like this than the rabble it serves. What arrogance.

Passing an initiative isn’t easy.

First, initiative promoters must collect 42,000 signatures to place the question on the ballot. Then, they face a costly campaign fight, a possible court challenge afterward and final approval by the Legislature.

Westerners routinely use initiatives to address issues that the Legislature ignores, is afraid to tackle or rejects. Simpson’s Truth in Taxation Bill, which triggered tax hikes over 700 percent by some local governments, launched two unsuccessful One Percent Initiative drives.

Idahoans used an initiative in 1938 to reduce partisan interference in wildlife management by creating a five-member Fish and Game Commission. Gov. Phil Batt started a firestorm of protest last month when he tried to tamper with that commission.

Simpson, who yearns to be governor someday, would be wise to learn from Batt’s misstep.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

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