Dustin Manwaring

Dustin Manwaring

There’s a stick in the door. An ordinary piece of wood, worn from good use. It’s a simple tool with a purpose. For years, the stick has helped secure the glass sliding door leading into the kitchen. The untwisted coat hanger attached to one end removes the necessity of bending down to the floor. Absent a fancy reputation, and with a farmer’s innovative touch, it works really well.

Ordinarily, fixtures are attached to property. With an old slider like ours, this simple object qualifies as a time-tested and reliable fixture. It reminds me of other fixtures and their purpose. Our Idaho Constitution provides “The people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws, and enact the same at the polls independent of the legislature.” Art. III, Section 1. The Legislature sets forth the conditions and manner of the voter initiative process.

Voters recently passed Proposition 2, the Medicaid expansion initiative. This week, a new citizen initiative to legalize medical cannabis and industrial hemp was filed. Before being placed on the ballot, each initiative must receive signatures from 6 percent of the voters from 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.

A new senate bill raises the argument about whether the threshold to qualify a voter initiative is too low. Will Idaho become the next California with 16 ballot questions in a year? Will we continue to enact policy at the polls without disclosing the cost or identifying a funding source? Hopefully not. Whether this legislature tweaks the bar to qualify a ballot question misses the point.

The point is Idahoans will not give up their trusty stick or the ability to walk through the door. If it becomes too difficult to pick up or replace the stick in the door, we should remember the people own the door. They will turn to the judiciary to enforce their reserved legislative power so they can walk through it. This stick and this right are Idaho fixtures.

The Legislature might better refocus its efforts on protecting its territory from encroachment by other agencies of government than from the people. A recent example is the voter-approved amendment to the Idaho Constitution in 2016 to empower the Legislature to approve or reject administrative rules.

It would be meaningful to see increased light shined on who is spending money in our state and where those dollars originate. The legislature should continue its efforts to reform campaign finance. It would also be meaningful to focus singly on making sure future ballot questions include a fiscal impact statement. The initiative process should not be unreasonably difficult if the voters can make an informed decision at the polls.

What I have learned is the stick is not the problem. In our house, we may install a new door with a different lock. The most important thing is we have a working door. We can improve the process without attacking the device that gives us security. Our stick is a fixture. It goes with the house.

Dustin Manwaring is a business and estate planning attorney in Pocatello and served in the Idaho Legislature from 2016-2018.