Bear baiting will continue to be part of Idaho’s outdoor life, and nuclear waste disposal won’t change. But the success of a term limits initiative was too close to call with about half of Idaho’s ballots counted.
All of the initiatives were winning in Kootenai County.
The attempt to ban bear baiting, spring bear hunting and using hounds to chase bears appeared to be going down by 59 percent to 41 percent.
A favorite to win at the polls as recently as September, the bear initiative was buried by an intense campaign organized by the Sportsmen’s Heritage Defense Fund. This fall, the Defense Fund launched an aggressive attack on the measure, calling it the work of out-of-state animal rights extremists.
The group argued that if the bear initiative passed, other hunting soon would be limited by similar initiatives.
Supporters of the measure, the Idaho Coalition United for Bears, were slow to respond to the attacks and were outspent by contributions from both out-of-state and Idaho hunting groups.
The nuclear waste initiative likewise was being defeated by an even greater margin. Some 65 percent of the voters were saying no to Proposition 3 while 35 percent endorsed it.
Also favored to win early in the campaign season, the nuclear waste measure took a heavy beating from Idaho Gov. Phil Batt, U.S. Sen. Larry Craig and other prominent politicians.
The measure would have voided Batt’s deal to take more nuclear waste in return for promises that the federal government will clean up the radioactive mess at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory near Idaho Falls. Proposition 3 backers contend Batt’s agreement was far from the best deal the state could have gotten.
The pro-initiative forces also argued the Legislature and voters should endorse any deals to bring more radioactive waste to Idaho.
Most surprising was the narrow winning margin for Idaho’s latest Congressional term limits measure. More than 54 percent of voters were supporting Proposition 4 while 46 percent voted no.
The victory may be symbolic, as it was in the last general election. Idaho Attorney General Al Lance has ruled the initiative is unconstitutional and a court challenge is expected.
The measure orders candidates for Congress to sign a term-limits pledge and work for federal term limits. Those who don’t would be so labeled on future election ballots.
Proposition 4 also requires the Idaho Legislature to call for a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to include term limits. Opponents feared that if such a convention were called, it would make other substantial changes to the Constitution.