Veto Power

As the Idaho legislature plods through the ides of March, Governor Little should not be afraid they will stick around to override his veto. They will. They are in no hurry to leave. So, Brad, go ahead and veto the Initiative Killer Bill. It looks like they have the votes to override it. Then it will all be on them.

I understand the legislature’s twist about initiatives. It seems a lot of this session has been about their umbrage. After all, we elect them to make the laws, don’t we? And elect them, we do.

But there is this little thing called the Idaho Constitution. Article 3, Section 1 says:

The people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws, and enact the same at the polls independent of the legislature. This power is known as the initiative, and legal voters may, under such conditions and in such manner as may be provided by acts of the legislature, initiate any desired legislation and cause the same to be submitted to the vote of the people at a general election for their approval or rejection.

So, this proposed law (SB 1110) is well within the power of the legislature. But the details of the law will make the initiative process impossible, which is probably the legislature’s goal.

Twice in the last decade the people of Idaho have either over-rode the legislature (repeal of the Luna Laws) or taken up what the legislature refused (Medicaid Expansion). But then the voters returned the very same legislators they were disagreeing with to their places in the statehouse.

So, I can see why these elected folks feel pretty safe. Safe is not what our representatives should feel.

I’ll bet Governor Little doesn’t feel too safe. I hope that doesn’t keep him from doing the right thing.

Past judicial rulings (2001) have held that the county-based requirements for initiative passage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution (14th Amendment). But the legislature has fixed that by moving to legislative district requirements. Under current law in Idaho, to qualify an initiative for the ballot, signatures from 6% of the voters in 18 of the 35 legislative districts need to be submitted. If SB 1110 passes this week (and it will), this requirement jumps to 35/35 districts.

This will make an initiative or referendum impossible for the citizens of Idaho, despite what the Idaho Constitution guarantees.

Why doesn’t our legislature just propose changing the Idaho Constitution, getting rid of the process altogether? It would be harder, requiring 2/3rds vote in both bodies. It sure looks like they will have that margin. But then we’d have to vote on it, the people. A majority of us would have to say, at the next general election, sure, forget it, we don’t need no stinking initiatives. Given our tendency to elect these folks, we just might go along with them.

But then, twice in the last ten years we haven’t.

Two years ago, Governor Little vetoed a similar bill that had the purpose of making initiatives impossible. That time the legislature had adjourned, and it didn’t really look like they had the votes to override.

This time will be different. If Little vetoes, they’ll still be in town. And they probably will have 2/3rds in both bodies. I hope an override doesn’t deter him.

The Governor said in 2019 with his veto, he feared a Federal Judge would throw out the law. That argument has never stopped the legislature from their proposals.

I sure like having the power of the people proposing or rejecting laws here in Idaho. Believe me, it’s not easy now, and it shouldn’t be. Legislators point to the California or Washington State initiative boogey man. That’s not Idaho. And Brad knows it.

About ddxdx

A Family physician, former county coroner and former Idaho State Senator
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