A bill that would tighten up the process of placing referenda or initiatives on the ballot is heading to Gov. Butch Otter for final approval.
On Friday, the House passed Senate Bill 1108 45-21. The Senate voted 25-10 to approve the legislation on March 11.
The bill alters the voter initiative processes by requiring those seeking a ballot initiative to first collect the signatures of registered voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative district. If that feat is met, the number of petitions would also need to cover at least 6 percent of the registered voters statewide.
Currently, the 6-percent statewide rule is the law of the land.
Supporters say the bill is designed to ensure the interests of rural Idahoans aren’t quashed by residents of bigger cities.
But critics say the timing is suspicious and they claim it is an effort to make it harder to place referenda such as the Students Come First repeal on the ballots.
Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said the 18 legislative districts requirement could potentially prevent voters from bringing a referendum forward if they sign a petition within the wrong legislative district.
“If they have an issue that matters to them, that is important to them, and they don’t know what legislative district they are in that potentially invalidates their signature on these petitions,” Erpelding said. “That’s not right.”
Sponsoring Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, said the office of Idaho Attorney General Lawerence Wasden confirmed the Students Come First referenda still would have succeeded last year even if the new requirements were on the books.
Luker added that the bill was ready last year – and not a response to the Students Come First repeal – but was held until this year to not interfere with the 2012 election process.