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Idaho House introduces new initiative restrictions bill

A volunteer for Idaho's Medicaid expansion initiative in 2018 walks Idaho Falls neighborhoods to get signatures to put the issue to voters.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Amy Pratt, a volunteer for Reclaim Idaho, gathers signatures by going door-to-door in Idaho Falls in October 2018 to encourage voters to expand Medicaid eligibility in Idaho.

Ballot initiative organizers would have one fewer month to gather signatures to bring an issue to voters under a new bill introduced Monday morning.

If approved, campaigns would have 17 months to get tens of thousands of signatures from registered voters across the state, instead of the 18 months they have now. They would also need to turn in their signatures on a monthly basis to county clerks’ offices to verify them.

“The state of Idaho has grown,” said Rep. James Petzke (R-Meridian). “More and more and more signatures, of course, is what it takes to get on the ballot and so therefore it takes the [county clerks] and the secretary of state more and more time to validate that."

Chelsea Carattini, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Phil McGrane, said he was consulted about some aspects of the bill, but hadn't seen the bill in its entirety until its introduction. Carattini said he hasn't yet taken a position on the legislation.

Requests for comment from the Idaho Association of Clerks and Recorders weren’t immediately returned by Monday afternoon.

The proposal wouldn’t affect current initiative campaigns, which must collect roughly 63,000 signatures by the end of April to qualify for the ballot.

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) said both proposed restrictions are burdens to organizers, especially casual signature collectors.

“It might take them two months to fill up a list and this means they’d have to be constantly throwing out their lists. This just doesn’t seem necessary, particularly at this stage of session when I don’t see any urgency to do this,” Rubel said.

Petzke said signatures not submitted by each monthly deadline would likely be invalidated.

The proposal comes two weeks after the legislature's self-imposed deadline to introduce new bills. Since that deadline on Feb. 12, House lawmakers have introduced nearly 120 pieces of legislation.

State senators introduced two other bills relating to ballot initiatives Monday.

One would allow sitting legislators to use public resources to endorse or advocate against an initiative or referendum. The other would require paid signature gatherers to wear a badge identifying them as such, along with the same disclosure printed on the petitions they carry.

Each of these bills still need a public hearing before they can be considered by their respective chambers.

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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