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Initiative limits bill clears Idaho Senate

BOISE – A bill making it tougher to put initiatives on the ballot cleared the Idaho Senate on Monday.

Supporters of the legislation, which also apply to referenda, insist the bill is unrelated to voters’ decisive repeal in November of three controversial school-reform laws.

The Idaho House now takes up the legislation, which would require measures to have signatures from 6 percent of voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts to qualify for the ballot. The requirement now is 6 percent statewide.

The repealed school-reform laws were called Students Come First. The Legislature passed those sweeping changes with the backing of the governor and state Schools Superintendent Tom Luna.

When it landed on the ballot, voters overwhelmingly overturned the laws – the first time since 1936.

State Sen. Curtis McKenzie, R-Nampa and the bill’s lead sponsor, said there might be a perception that the bill is related to the repeal of the legislation, but “This doesn’t have anything to do with that. This doesn’t go back in time. … If you had this in place, it wouldn’t have changed that at all.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, argued that the bill actually limits the voice of rural communities, rather than protecting it. Sixteen of Idaho’s legislative districts are within the Boise-Nampa area.

“A ballot supported by that area would need just two other legislative districts’ support to make the ballot, she said.

Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, said, “I am very sympathetic to the stated goals of the people who have brought this forward and what they’re trying to do. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this legislation gets us to the point that they would like.”