Idaho Democrats introduce legislation to protect referendum process

Idaho Democratic lawmakers are introducing legislation to protect the referendum process after a Rebublican senator introduced a bill to that would make it more difficult to put an initiative on the ballot.

Under current law, a citizen’s initiative effort requires signatures from 6 percent of the voters in 18 legislative districts, within the 18 months leading up to an election. GOP Senator Scott Grow’s measure would change those guidelines, requiring signatures from 10 percent of the voter population in 32 districts, within 180 days.

Democrats say only wealthy special interest groups would be able to gather enough signatures in the time allowed because it would be too costly for average Idahoans. The Dems propose legislation that would make it more difficult for future legislators to make changes to the referendum process.

Republicans say Grow’s bill helps to level the playing field for rural communities by giving them a bigger voice in the process rather than allowing urban communities to dictate policy for the entire state.

Democrats also question the bill’s timing in the wake of a Medicaid expansion ballot initiative that 61 percent of voters approved. Proposition 2 expanded Medicaid to cover some 90-thousand Idahoans who fall into the so-called “Gap” population – those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to receive subsidies on the state health insurance exchange.

Grow’s bill to hamper referendum efforts was tabled in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday, but could be discussed again this week.  (KIVI)