Saturday, February 27, 2021

Legislators want to take our initiative rights away

| February 18, 2021 1:00 AM

When I was little, I played board games like Monopoly with my sister and brother. I was famous in our family for not playing fair, and would try to change the rules of a game in my favor. This usually happened after I lost a game. Usually, the other loser would side with me. Once, I tried to get my siblings to agree that if you didn’t own a monopoly, and the other person did, you only had pay 1/2 the rent.

Fast forward to today. Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, has introduced a bill requiring ballot initiatives be signed by at least 6% of qualified electors in all all 35 of Idaho’s legislative districts — a standard so high that it is unlikely to ever be met.

The first initiative to qualify according to the rules was passed three-to-one in 1938. Two attempts to change the rules since then were passed by the legislature, but never went into effect. The voters do not want this.

Senator Vick wants to change the rules because he thinks he “lost” when the ballot initiative to expand Medicaid in Idaho passed. In reality, we all won. For 10 years, the  Legislature had failed to address the issue of affordable health insurance for working Idahoans who fell into a gap. Now, because the people spoke, more Idahoans have health care; we are receiving federal tax money to pay for most of it and it came in the nick of time for COVID.

Senator Vick's new rules will take away Idahoan's right to put initiatives on the ballot and then vote on them. The current rules are designed to give Idaho citizens a voice. All of us get to decide. 

It's perfectly legal for senators to change the rules, and they have enough votes, just like I did when I was a child. But being legal isn't enough. Our state government is not a game that some win and some lose. In our representative government it is the duty of senators and representatives to let us vote on issues they are unwilling to address, and listen to what we have to say, so that we are all better off. Senator Vick is not playing fair, and his rules are likely to kill the possibility of ballot initiatives on any issue in Idaho.

My siblings, to this day, don't let me play Monopoly anymore.

Please email members of the Senate State Affairs Committee and politely request that they kill this bill. Here are a few key points to share:

Senator Vick's bill will make it virtually impossible for any grassroots campaign ever to qualify another initiative for the ballot.

The bill amounts to an attempt to revoke one of our most cherished constitutional rights.

Tell them why the ballot-initiative process is important to you

Senator Jim Guthrie (McCammon):

Senator Chuck Winder (Boise):

Senator Kelly Arthur Anthon (Burley):

Senator Abby Lee (Fruitland):

Senator Lee Heider (Twin Falls):

Senate Patti Anne Lodge (Caldwell):