Brad Little

Gov. Brad Little

Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s position on restricting the citizen initiative process hasn’t changed since he vetoed two legislative proposals earlier this year, writes Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence. Little, who was in Lewiston for several meetings Monday, said he’s willing to consider updates to Idaho’s ballot initiative requirements. However, he doesn’t see a need to make the process substantially more difficult than it is today.

“There’s reasons to keep the hurdle at the same level,” he said during a meeting with Lewiston Tribune editors.

Republican plans to restrict the initiative process turned into one of the most controversial efforts of the 2019 legislative session. They said restrictions are needed to ensure that rural voters continued to have a say in which initiatives qualify for the ballot. Opponents, though, saw the move as retaliation for last year’s Medicaid expansion initiative, which was approved by more than 60 percent of voters.

After multiple hearings and debates, lawmakers agreed to increase the number of signatures needed to qualify an initiative or referendum for the ballot from 6 percent of registered voters to 10 percent. They also reduced the time limit for gathering signatures from 18 months to 270 days, and required the 10 percent threshold to be met in 24 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, up from 18 previously.

Little vetoed the bills, saying the restrictions went too far. He worried the legislation would prompt a lawsuit and ultimately allow a federal judge to decide what Idaho’s initiative requirements should be.

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“It was like everybody said, ‘Here’s my favorite thing,’ and they added them all up,” he said. “The collective power of it was such that it just made (the process) really difficult.”

It would not be unusual, however, for lawmakers to bring back a similar proposal for consideration during the 2020 legislative session.

Little said he’s heard such speculation, but so far no one has approached him.

“My position hasn’t changed,” he said. You can read Spence’s full story here at (subscription required).

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.

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