Here’s more of the testimony from this morning’s hearing on SB 1159, the initiatives bill, at which so far 50 people have testified, 48 of them opposed to the bill and two in favor:

DIANE JENSEN of Meridian said, “This bill would restrict its citizens of their constitutional rights. The Idaho Constitution says citizens have the right to bring initiatives. The regulations that we have now are effective. They really deter just frivolous things. I’m 77 years old, I have two brand-new knees, and I was out walking the streets, knocking on doors, going to parades in Kuna, Nampa, Caldwell, Middleton, Star, everywhere that we were needed to get signatures. ... I really feel that this bill takes away the rights of our citizens. Medicaid expansion was passed by the will of the people.”

JEFF FEREDAY of Boise, an attorney, asked, “What is the problem that this legislation is designed to remedy? I have heard no problem. … We have heard no convincing case why this legislation is needed. We’ve heard a concern about Idaho having too many ballot initiatives, maybe like California does. That’s baseless, we know that’s baseless. We can argue about California all day, it has nothing to do with Idaho. The Legislature certainly could enact, and appears to be on the brink of enacting, legislation that erects such high hurdles, such onerous burdens between the citizens and the initiative process that the process itself would be out of reach as a practical matter because of those burdens. And I suggest that SB 1159 is exactly that kind of bill. That kind of burden on a constitutional entitlement is a prescription for litigation and probably a situation where such legislation would be overturned. Taking the time to gather signatures down to one-third of what it currently is, unprecedented in the United States to my knowledge, and increasing the percentage from 6 to 10, that’s big. Increasing the districts from 18 to 32, that’s big also. Together they would kill the process, in my opinion.”

JEAN WEINGARTNER of Boise said, “Who would be for this bill? Who would want to give up their rights, their constitutionally guaranteed rights? I think you need to listen to the people. As a Republican, I am ashamed that people would bring this bill up. It’s un-American, it’s un-Idahoan.”

Want more news like this in your email inbox every morning?

FORREST GOODRUM, a Boise attorney, told the senators, “The bill before you seriously impinges on a right guaranteed by the Idaho Constitution. … Ask yourself, would support of this bill violate your oath of office?”

GARY MONCRIEF, political scientist emeritus at Boise State University, spoke against the bill. "In fact, many rural districts are already advantaged by the current system, and SB 1159 would increase that advantage," he said. "Today, the number of registered voters is wildly different from one district to another," because we're near the end of the redistricting cycle, and some areas have grown in the past 10 years while others haven't. Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said he'd heard many presentations from Moncrief, but it was the first time he'd seen him take a position for or against a bill. Moncrief said in his 42 years as a professor, he hasn't generally considered that his role, but now he's retired. "I do ... feel very strongly that this is not what we should be doing at this point," Moncrief said. He quoted from the 2003 Idaho Coalition United for Bears vs. Cenarrusa 9th Circuit decision, saying the bill could well be held unconstitutional. Moncrief said he believes in state legislatures. But, he said, he also believes that sometimes legislatures make mistakes, and he said passing this bill would be one.

ELLEN SPENCER of Eagle asked, "Every time the people speak, are you going to legislate their silence after?"

JANET MOLLERUP of Boise said, “If one of the goals is truly to ensure that rural voters are included in the process, then why doesn’t it give initiative signature gatherers more time, rather than less? Rural voters are more widespread,” and it takes more time to travel to reach out to them, she said. “If the Legislature genuinely wants an initiative to reflect the opinion of more voters statewide, then the time frame should be expanded, not reduced.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

Load comments