Idaho has a small enough population that it’s not tough to track down your local legislator and vent about whatever issue is on your mind.
Most of us personally know the state lawmakers who represent us and when we run into them at the supermarket, little league game or local restaurant they seem to be not only sane, but intelligent.
Idaho’s lawmakers in most cases are literally our friends and neighbors.
But something happens when these people we believe we know travel to the state Capitol every winter to do the state’s business.
From pushing for things such as the defunding of our state’s higher education system and attorney general’s office to taking grant funding away from preschools to grabbing as much power for themselves as possible, even if it means trying to tie our governor’s hands during a deadly global pandemic, our state representatives and senators seem to have an agenda that doesn’t include helping Idahoans to live and prosper.
Don’t believe us? Try to think of one bill state lawmakers have passed this session that helped anyone but themselves.
The latest effort by our lawmakers to establish themselves as Idaho’s absolute monarchy is Senate Bill 1110. It’s a sequel to their ill-fated 2019 effort to essentially make it impossible for Idahoans to qualify initiatives for the state election ballot.
At present, Idahoans can put an issue out there for a statewide vote by gathering signatures from 6 percent of registered voters in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts.
That’s no easy feat — as evidenced by the fact that statewide initiatives often don’t make it onto the election ballot.
The 2019 initiative “reform” effort by our state’s lawmakers required signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in 32 of the state’s 35 legislative districts and would have cut the time that those signatures could be gathered from 18 months to six months.
The Legislature approved that bill despite massive opposition from state residents only to have Gov. Brad Little wisely issue a veto.
Little’s veto powers are definitely needed concerning SB 1110, which would provide the obstruction to the state’s initiatives process sought after by lawmakers by requiring the signatures of 6 percent of registered voters in all 35 legislative districts to put issues to a statewide vote.
It’s clear that most of our state’s lawmakers look at the constitutional power given to Idahoans to put initiatives on the statewide ballot as a threat in much the same way that these same lawmakers see the governor’s emergency powers as he tries to protect us all against COVID-19.
How dare Gov. Little try to keep Idahoans safe during a pandemic and how dare Idahoans have the gall to try to put crazy ideas like providing Medicaid coverage to the poorest among us to a statewide vote.
Those are the optics the Idaho Legislature has created.
State lawmakers will tell you that they’re making it tougher for initiatives to be put on the ballot to keep out-of-state groups from coming to Idaho and trying to liberalize our state with initiatives such as drug legalization.
But it’s clear that the current effort to restrict the initiatives process would do nothing but make it so well-funded outside groups would literally be the only ones who could mount a successful initiative campaign here.
Grassroots efforts like the one to close the state’s Medicaid gap after the Legislature failed to do so over the course of multiple sessions would be a thing of the past if SB 1110 becomes a reality.
Idahoans have unfortunately grown accustomed to their state lawmakers transforming themselves from reasonable leaders to tyrants acting on their worst impulses by simply taking up residence in Boise for a few months every year.
SB 1110 is just the latest example.
Little needs to issue a swift veto to teach the Legislature a lesson.
We doubt our lawmakers will get the message but at least the people’s constitutional right to put initiatives on the election day ballot will be preserved.
Our governor and the rest of us deserve so much better than this group of so-called public servants who have become experts at squandering their annual opportunity to do good.