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Initiative process change moves through Idaho committee

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

A constitutional amendment that would change the way the citizens of Idaho gather signatures for an initiative is one step closer to going to voters.

SJR 101 is a constitutional amendment that would require 6% of legal voters in every legislative district in the state sign on to an initiative for it to go before voters. The current threshold is 6% in half of the state's legislative districts.

The legislation is similar to a bill that was passed in 2021 making a similar change. The difference, this time, is that lawmakers are seeking to pass the change via a constitutional amendment instead of just a standard bill.

Proponents of the amendment say it is about making the participation in the initiative process more representative of the entire state. Senator Abby Lee pointed out the issue wasn't about whether people supported or didn't support the change, but rather whether it should go before voters to let them decide.

A majority of public testimony opposed the concept, but not necessarily placing it before voters. Regardless, the Senate State Affairs committee approved moving the constitutional amendment forward.

The distribution threshold, as it's called, is not necessarily unusual as we reported earlier. Massachusetts requires that no more than 25% of signatures come from any one county. Utah has requirements spreading the initiative requirements out among legislative districts.

Policymakers should always be careful about changing the right of citizens to make law through an initiative process. If this particular amendment does not make it to the ballot or is rejected by voters, lawmakers may want to consider a variation of the state of Nevada's requirements.

In order for statutory initiatives to pass in Nevada, a single general election vote in favor is needed. But for constitutional amendments, a majority of voters is needed in two consecutive elections.

A referendum - or veto of the legislature's work - would still take just one majority vote. But if citizens choose to bypass the legislature and create their own laws, a higher threshold could be adopted requiring two affirmative votes of the people.

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