BOISE, Idaho — Right now, citizens can place new legislation on an Idaho ballot if 18 districts in the state gather the required number of signatures. That process can soon get even more difficult if SB 1110 is signed into law.
The house had a lengthy debate on the bill Wednesday and went back and forth on the reasons for supporting the measure or not. Now after passing the house and the senate - it heads to Gov. Brad Little's desk.
If signed by Little, it would require signatures of 6 percent of registered voters in all of Idaho's 35 legislative districts to be able to qualify any initiative for a spot on the ballot. Former Justice Jim Jones showed up to Little’s office today with 16,000 signatures from over 200 towns across the state calling on the governor to veto the bill.
The 16,000 signatures presented to Little represented what former Jones says is a vote for “people power.”
Some Idaho lawmakers argued SB 1110 would help the citizens of Idaho.
“This is just to help tighten up and give representation to the counties within our state,” Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton said.
Republican lawmakers in support of the bill say the purpose is to increase voter involvement and inclusivity by then requiring more rural districts to be a part of the signature process.
“Including all of the districts helps make sure that all of the districts have a say in what gets on the ballot because once it's on the ballot, there's a real disproportionate amount of spending and voice to be heard from those who stand the benefit from the initiatives,” Rep. Ronald Nate, R-Rexburg said.
Throughout the debate, democratic lawmakers expressed concerns, saying Idaho is already one of the toughest states for citizens to get any initiatives on a ballot
“If y’all are afraid of what the people of Idaho want to do and what their agenda is and you feel it's important to block that, you may be in the wrong line of work,” Rep. Ilana Rubel (D)-Boise said. “I hope that nobody came to this building with the objective of preventing the people of Idaho from getting their wishes but that is essentially what senate bill 1110 is here to do. It's to make it virtually impossible for the people of Idaho to have a voice and have the only mechanism they have to implement their wishes to law.”
“What they are talking about is making the signature-gathering so difficult the people from throughout the state will not be able to weigh in on things that are important to the people,” Jones said.
“If that doesn’t work, we’ll take them to court”
In 2019, Little vetoed a similar bill that would have required 32 of the 35 districts to have signatures. Idaho News 6 reached out to Little’s office and was told he does not comment on legislation prior to acting on it.