State Politics

Bill that would make Idaho’s initiatives harder to get on ballot advances to Senate

Volunteers gather petition signatures to add Medicaid expansion onto the November ballot

Volunteers Laurie Durocher and Paula Davis, right, gather signatures from registered voters in a Nampa neighborhood Saturday, April 7, 2018. They are looking for people in support of adding a Medicaid expansion initiative onto the November ballot.
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Volunteers Laurie Durocher and Paula Davis, right, gather signatures from registered voters in a Nampa neighborhood Saturday, April 7, 2018. They are looking for people in support of adding a Medicaid expansion initiative onto the November ballot.

The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee voted Wednesday morning to send a controversial ballot-initiative bill to the Senate for amendments.

Senate Bill 1159, put forward by Eagle Republican Sen. C. Scott Grow, would significantly raise the threshold of signatures needed to get a referendum on the ballot in Idaho.

The current law requires getting signatures from 6 percent of voters in 18 legislative districts, within 18 months prior to an election. The bill raises that to 10 percent of voters in 32 districts, within 6 months prior to the election.

The bill’s supporters say it shouldn’t be easy to get a statewide ballot initiative. Opponents say it would kill grass-roots efforts and instead favor large corporations and the wealthy, who could afford to pay signature gatherers.

Those opponents include Idaho Democrats and the organizers of the effort to get Proposition 2, for Medicaid expansion, on the ballot.

The Medicaid expansion organizers say the bill would have made it “impossible” to get Prop 2 on the ballot. A Statesman and KIVI 6 On Your Side analysis found that organizers couldn’t have reached Grow’s proposed threshold in many parts of Idaho where voters overwhelmingly approved Medicaid expansion.

Sen. Michelle Stennett, one of the committee’s two Democrats, moved to hold the bill in committee Wednesday instead of letting it advance at all, but her motion failed.

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Watchdog reporter Audrey Dutton joined the Statesman in 2011. Before that, she covered finance policy in Washington, D.C., during the financial crisis. She also worked as a reporter in Maryland, Minneapolis and New York. Audrey hails from Twin Falls.
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