The Post Register of Idaho Falls published this editorial.


Gov. Brad Little, the most important step you can take as this shambles of a legislative session draws to a close is to veto Senate Bill 1110, the effective elimination of the ballot initiative.

You must have noticed, as we all have, that the Legislature has this year become power-hungry. When lawmakers use the phrase “limited government,” it seems what they mean is: “We place limits on everyone else, and nothing limits us.”

They have attempted to place new limits on your power in emergencies, some of which have a sliver of reason and some of which have none.

They have attempted to push aside the Idaho Attorney General’s Office from its mandated role of representing the state’s legal interests.

They have attempted to usurp powers reserved to the federal government.

They have attempted to dictate what can be taught in schools and universities.

They have attempted to directly control many affairs historically in the purview of local governments.

In short, state legislators have taken the principle of federalism, that power should be broadly distributed to avoid concentration at any one level of government, to mean that all power properly resides in their hands.

By far their worst power grab has been SB 1110, an affront to the spirit of the Idaho Constitution, which declares that “all power is inherent in the people.”

Few debated in favor of the bill when it passed the House floor on Wednesday. The most honest was Rep. Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony, who said plainly that she believes the ballot initiative should not exist.

SB 1110 would require those proposing a ballot initiative to gather thousands of signatures in all 35 legislative districts throughout the state. The signature requirements would be the most burdensome in the nation and more burdensome than at any time in Idaho history. It would be the effective elimination of the people’s right to engage in direct self-government.

Imagine if the Legislature attempted to put the same restriction upon itself that it now wants to saddle the people with: In order to introduce any bill, a lawmaker would need to get 34 co-sponsors, one from every legislative district in the state.

What would happen under such circumstances? The legislative process would become ludicrously burdensome, with lawmakers spending all their time gathering co-sponsors and none considering the merits of legislation. It would be so burdensome the Legislature would cease to function entirely.

No one would ever design a legislative process that way because broad representation becomes important when a bill comes up for a vote, not when it is proposed. In the Legislature, a bill may be proposed by a single member but a majority from all districts are required for it to pass. The initiative is designed the same way: People from some parts of the state can propose a ballot initiative, but passing it requires a majority of voters, and every voter, urban or rural, has an equal say.

The supposed justification is that SB 1110 will protect rural voices. How, exactly? If people in Emmett have an idea, and the Legislature won’t hear it, this bill tells them: “You’re going to have to get the Boise bench and Blaine County on board, then we can consider it.”

The bill simply silences the people. People in cities. People in the country. Conservatives. Liberals. Everyone.

If there is one bill you should veto above all others, Gov. Little, it’s this one. Defend this essential right.