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Term Limits Only Initiative To Win At Polls But Rankin Vows To Try Again With Property Tax Rollback

Thu., Nov. 7, 1996

Idaho voters turned down three of the four initiatives on Tuesday’s election ballot, but opted for a new approach toward imposing term limits on federal officials.

In complete unofficial returns, the term limit initiative won by more than 55,000 votes. The measure was pushed by the Hayden Lake-based Citizens for Term Limits, and seeks to put pressure on legislators and members of Congress to enact term limits.

“This is a great victory not only for the people of Idaho but for all Americans,” said the group’s chairman, Donna Weaver. “Yesterday’s vote in favor of term limits for members of Congress will start the process of ending ‘politics as usual’ in Washington, D.C.”

The three other propositions went down to lopsided defeat. But voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing partnerships between private health-care providers with publicly financed hospitals. Advocates, led by the state’s Hospital Association, see it as a trend-setting change that gives Idaho’s 28 publicly owned hospitals as much flexibility as the 13 private facilities.

Ron Rankin’s latest effort to limit property taxes gathered only about one-third of the votes cast. But Rankin immediately vowed to start another initiative when the 1997 Legislature convenes in January. The proposal lost by 127,000 votes.

Only four counties approved an initiative limiting certain types of bear hunting. Sportsman groups formed a coalition against it, and the initiative lost by nearly 100,000 votes.

Stop the Shipments’ effort to void Gov. Phil Batt’s nuclear waste agreement with the federal government also fell far short. The vote against the initiative was 305,571 to 181,892.

In 1994, nearly 60 percent of the voters approved term limits, all the way down to school board members. But the courts have ruled they do not apply to members of Congress, who were the main target of the 1994 measure.

State attorneys say it is unconstitutional and the measure almost certainly will face a court challenge the first time it is used. It directs legislators and federal officers to work for term limits, and if they don’t, election officials are supposed to put a notice on the ballot next to the candidate’s name that they “disregarded voters wishes” on term limits.

“Proposition 4 will be successful in bringing about a congressional term limits amendment because it holds politicians accountable on the issue,” Weaver said.

Voters rejected a limit on property taxes for the second time in four years.

Laird Maxwell, chairman of Idahoans for Tax Reform, which pushed Rankin’s initiative to limit property taxes to 1 percent of taxable value, said the group will “regroup, refine the property tax initiative and refile it for 1998.”

Both he and Rankin blamed the measure’s defeat on what they called the misuse of public money. Rankin said about $300,000 in taxpayer dollars went to defeat the initiative.

But representatives of Idahoans Against the One Percent, which put together a $200,000 campaign against the measure, said Rankin should have learned a lesson.

“We certainly hope this was a learning experience for Mr. Rankin, in the sense that he needs to be aware of a false initiative that is a tax shift,” said Mark Dunham.

Steve Ahrens, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, said, “The results tonight show the people of Idaho are not listening to Mr. Rankin any more.”

“I think people are beginning to get tired of these repetitive initiative efforts which have caused a lot of money to be spent in defeating something that people already have said they do not support,” Ahrens said. “At some point, he must get the message that no is no.”

Only voters in Blaine, Kootenai, Latah and Shoshone counties approved the initiative to limit bear baiting, spring hunting and using hounds to hunt bears. The Humane Society of the United States put up most of the money to get the initiative on the ballot, and opponents successfully claimed the initiative was just the first step toward stopping other forms of hunting.

Spokesmen for both sides said about $700,000 was spent on the campaign. Lynn Fritchman of Idaho Coalition United for Bears said his group spent less than $200,000. Don Clower, chairman of the Sportsmen’s Heritage Defense Fund, said it spent about $500,000, more than $400,000 from Idaho sportsmen.

“If we sit and say we whooped on them, we’re not very bright,” said Clower. “This is the first shot across the bow. This is going to be a continuing war with the animal rights folks, who will stoop to the lowest level to advance their ethics.”

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