CCHEERS ... to a small contingent of Idaho GOP lawmakers with the fortitude to face voters who disagree with them.
Reclaim Idaho — the group responsible for promoting the successful Medicaid expansion initiative last year — gave them that opportunity by staging six town hall meetings across the state.
These gatherings are meant to sound the alarm about renewed legislative efforts to stymie the citizen initiative process. Only Gov. Brad Little’s veto blocked the so-called “Revenge on Voters Act,” which would have put initiative campaigns out of business with provisions so stringent virtually no measure would qualify for the ballot:
l Rather than gather 6 percent of the registered voters, the new standard would have been 10 percent.
l Instead of rounding up 6 percent of registered voters from 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, the campaigns would have been struggling to produce 10 percent from 32 legislative districts.
l They also would have had to complete all this work in 180 days, one-third the time they now have.
As Reclaim Idaho came to Boise, Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls and Eagle, 17 of the lawmakers they invited showed up.
But, as you can imagine, most of those had no quarrel with Reclaim Idaho. They had voted against the proposed initiative restrictions.
Here was a singular profile in courage — Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene.
Although Souza voted for the initiative restrictions, she walked into the Coeur d’Alene session. Virtually on her own, Souza didn’t flinch. She stood her ground. She explained her views to the people who sent her to Boise.
And in the process, Souza earned respect from ally and adversary alike.
Much the same thing happened in Idaho Falls this week. Of the seven lawmakers who attended Reclaim Idaho’s town hall in that community, five had voted to impede the initiative process: Sen. Steve Harris, R-Soda Springs, and Reps. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, Jerald Raymond, R-Menan, Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, and Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom.
Armstrong especially had to be feeling the heat.
He’s the guy who during the legislative session equated the “voice of the people” with the sound of pigs screaming upon being castrated and having had salt applied to the wounds.
Odds the folks in that room had not forgotten.
CCHEERS ... to Rep. Jim Addis, R-Coeur d’Alene.
Although he opposed idea of making it impossible to get an initiative on the Idaho ballot, Addis makes a good case about corporate and special interests hijacked the people’s law.
Washington and California are prime examples.
But the remedy is not usurping the rights of voters to enact their own laws.
The solution — as the Coeur d’Alene Republican outlined in the Spokesman-Review this week — involves addressing high-priced campaigns that are spending bundles of cash rounding up petition signatures.
l Pay professional signature gatherers by the hour rather than by the name, thereby removing any temptation to misinform people or even forge signatures.
l If they’re paid to gather names, initiative workers are professional advocates — not unlike legislative lobbyists. They should register with the state.
Obviously, a volunteer, grassroots campaign such as Reclaim Idaho would be exempt.
“These improvements simply help protect the integrity of the process and provide more transparency for the voter,” Addis wrote.
Who could argue with that?
JJEERS ... to Rep. Ricks.
Defending his support of severely curtaining initiative rights in Idaho Falls this week, the Rexburg Republican brought up two bogey men: ballot measures that would raise Idaho’s minimum wage and liberalize the state’s marijuana laws.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea to bring to Idaho, personally,” he said.
But if anyone is out of step on either point, it’s Idaho’s obstructionist legislators.
Thanks to them, Idaho is among only 17 states still pegging its minimum wage at or below the national rate of $7.25 an hour.
A recent Dan Jones and Associates poll found 70 percent of Idahoans think the wage ought to be $10 an hour.
When it comes to marijuana, Idaho’s absolute ban is shared by only three states. Within its own neighborhood, Idaho is virtually an island in a seat of moderation.
Eleven states — including Washington, Oregon and Nevada — as well as the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use.
Another 23 states — including Montana and Utah —allow medicinal use.
Thirteen more have decriminalized it.
According to a Dan Jones poll, 79 percent of Idahoans would back some form of medicinal marijuana law in their state.
If Idahoans want to move their state into the mainstream on either issue, they’ll need to circumvent their recalcitrant Legislature with successful initiative efforts.
Is that what worries Ricks?
JJEERS ... to almost 20 Idaho lawmakers who are putting politics above public safety.
Among them are Sens. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, and Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville, as well as Reps. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, Thyra Stevenson, R-Nezperce, and Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.
Greg Pruett’s Idaho Second Amendment Alliance claims to have locked down their commitment to oppose any red flag laws.
No elected Idaho official dares to get on the wrong side of the gun rights issue. But you’d hope they would make an exception here. Red flag laws are not about confiscating guns. They are about buying time and saving lives.
As enacted by the voters of Washington and elsewhere, a red flag does nothing more than authorize a temporary restraining order. Friends, family or law enforcement would satisfy a judge that a person poses a threat to himself or others. At that point, the individual’s firearms would be temporarily removed — until he appears in court.
Whether it stops the next mass shooting, a red flag law would prevent suicides and domestic violence deaths.
Eighty-five percent of suicide attempts involving the use of a gun result are fatal.
When a gun is present during a domestic violence assault, the odds of death are 12 times greater.
This is not about banning assault weapons, large-capacity magazines or even military-grade ammunition. This is a modest idea.
Leave it up Pruett, however, and nothing in Idaho will change. — M.T.