Senate 3-21-19

The Idaho Senate gathers before its morning session on Thursday, March 21, 2019.

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BOISE — The Idaho Senate on Thursday amended a controversial bill that’s aimed at making it harder to qualify voter initiatives or referenda for the Idaho ballot, but approved only amendments proposed by the bill’s sponsor, rejecting attempts by minority Democrats to gut the bill.

“These amendments are meant to clarify, and to help with the functionality of the bill,” said Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, the bill’s sponsor.

The bill would require gathering 10 percent of registered voters’ signatures in 32 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts to qualify a measure for the ballot, while also cutting the time allowed to gather signatures by two-thirds and imposing other requirements; current law requires signatures from 6 percent of voters in each of 18 legislative districts.

Grow’s successful amendments clarified when the new 180-day time period allowed for gathering signatures would start; removed a requirement that each petition be for residents of a legislative district, rather than a county, as now; specified that 15 working days after receiving a certificate of review are allowed for measure sponsors to request a fiscal impact statement from the state Division of Financial Management; and require the division to then issue the fiscal impact statement within 10 additional working days.

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, moved to instead strike the bill’s enacting clause, rendering it null and void. Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, seconded the motion. Assistant Majority Leader Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, immediately called for a voice vote; a motion to strike is non-debatable.

Loud “ayes” came from the section of the Senate floor where the minority Democrats sit; that was followed by deeper and louder “nays” from the rest of the chamber. “The nays have it, the motion has failed,” Vick said.

Similar results followed on amendments for each section of the bill.

The amended bill now will go back on the calendar for consideration, debate and a final vote in the Senate as amended. If it passes there, it’d still need House passage and the governor’s signature to become law.

Opponents of the measure have decried it as “retaliation” for the successful passage of Proposition 2, the Medicaid expansion voter initiative, in November. The bill would give Idaho the nation’s strictest rules to qualify a measure for the ballot.

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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