August 5, 2021

House GOP Passes Bill Making Citizen-driven Ballot Initiatives Virtually Impossible in Idaho

In a 51-18 vote, House Republicans passed Senate Bill 1110, which seeks to add nearly insurmountable hurdles to the ballot initiative and referendum process in Idaho.

House Democratic Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, debated strongly against it, and said the bill seeks to make an already onerous process ostensibly impossible by doubling the district signature requirements needed. Rubel said Idaho already is the hardest state to qualify a measure for the ballot. In the past decade, Medicaid expansion is the only initiative to pass, and it would not have come close to qualifying under SB1110.

“If y’all are afraid of what the people of Idaho want to do and what their agenda is, and you feel it is important to block that, you may be in the wrong line of work,” Rubel said in her debate. A survey from Boise State University showed 80% of Idahoans opposed adding restrictions.

Proponents of the bill argued it gives rural Idahoans more of a voice in the legislative process. But in his debate, Rep. Colin Nash, D-Boise, showed the divide between urban and rural voters is a myth, as demonstrated by Idaho ballot measure election results by county from 1990-2020.

“Our ballot initiative process has allowed citizens of Idaho to pass laws when the Idaho Legislature fails to act. From Medicaid expansion to the popular homeowner’s exemption that protects residents from rapid property tax increases,” Nash said. “We must stand up for Idahoans’ constitutional right to enact laws independent of the Legislature, not silence and suppress them.”

The bill now moves to the governor’s desk for consideration. The Democratic caucus strongly urges his veto.