Initiative proponents dislike two initiative bills. Following a week in which proponents of an anti-initiative bill saw public and legal support erode forSenate Bill 1159, the House voted 40-30 to advance the legislation to the governor’s desk. The body also voted 47-22 to pass a companion “trailer” bill (HB296) which makes minor alterations to the controversial Senate bill. That bill will head to the Senate.
“A few dozen state legislators just weakened our Constitution,” said Luke Mayville, Co-Founder of Reclaim Idaho, the organization responsible for putting Proposition Two on the last November’s ballot. “Despite widespread bipartisan opposition to this bill from all over the state, the legislature is making it obvious they don’t have the people’s interests in mind.”
According to opponents, SB 1159 would create the most restrictive ballot initiative process in the nation. HB 296, while mildly less draconian, would also create the most restrictive ballot initiative process in the country. The “trailer” bill would still require petitioners to gather signatures equal to 10-percent of registered voters, both statewide and within a requisite number of legislative districts. House bill 296 would “extend” the amount of time to gather signatures to nine months, from the six months provided for under Senate Bill 1159. It would also require signatures be gathered in two-thirds of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts as opposed to the 32/35 proposed under the Senate bill.
“All House Bill 296 does is put lipstick on a pig,” said Reclaim Idaho Executive Director Rebecca Schroeder. “The bill was jammed through a committee in secret without public testimony. It was tainted from the start and should not have a place in the Idaho Code. It is time for Idaho’s Senate and, perhaps, Governor Little to show strength and courage and reject this attack on Idaho’s Constitution.”
GOP leadership addresses concerns with updating initiative process. In a statement, GOP leadership said: “In our ongoing efforts to address the concerns of Idahoans everywhere, Republican leadership introduced House Bill 296 in the House Ways & Means Committee to address comments and concerns with Senate Bill 1159. HB 296 would change the number of districts required for initiative qualification to 2/3 of Idaho’s legislative districts and increase the time for signature collection to 270 days.”
“These changes are an effort to address public concerns about overburdening citizens with signature requirements, while preserving the voice of rural Idahoans,” said Speaker of the House Scott Bedke. “We have a legislative responsibility to look at policy to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all Idahoans, and these two pieces of legislation do that.”
Both SB 1159 and HB 296 are a result of work in both the House and the Senate to preserve the right of initiatives to serve as the voice of the Idaho voters rather than have the process subverted by outside interests and well-funded out of state entities.
“Most Idahoans agree that initiatives should have a solid vetting process, or we would run all legislation through initiatives. You elect leaders you trust to do that work for you,” said Majority Caucus Chair Rep. Megan Blanksma. “However, the initiative process is important, and these changes still allow for the process to take place in a more clearly defined and equitable way.”
The complementing pieces of legislation moving forward are supported by recent polling data showing bi-partisan support to preserve the rural vote and protect the initiative process for the Idaho voter rather than external special interest groups.
House Bill 293 Is the First Step in Improving Idaho School Funding Formula. Senator Carl Crabtree, District 7; Senator Dave Lent, District 33 and Senator Jim Woodward, District 1 support the passing of House Bill 293 to more clearly define the specific needs of each of Idaho’s students, not individual schools as a whole.
“We supported much of the earlier efforts, but since they didn’t happen, we felt we needed to find a solution before this session ends that will focus on the needs of Idaho’s children, all students deserve that,” said Sen. Crabtree. “HB 293 is a streamlined version of an original bill that focuses on obtaining accurate data to more clearly define a child’s needs. This will ensure they are getting the best possible education, especially in our rural schools. Appropriately funding our students’ education is not just a frivolous want, but an actual need.”
An Interim Committee, including teachers, administrators, board members, business leaders, policy writers and legislators, worked for three years to come up with a new funding formula model to replace the antiquated one currently in use. However, the new model lacked reliable estimates of enrollment and other data which made it difficult to accurately forecast funding of each individual child and district. HB 293 fixes that issue by:
- Providing foundational definitions
- Gathering of enrollment data
- Looking at district expenditures to see where more local funding control is possible
Further clarification of reporting requirements will come through department rules.
The key motivator for the legislation is the guidance it provides to our Idaho educational system on how to take the first step in transitioning to student-based funding. HB293 does not change funding to any school districts. It does require a legislative review of procedures, practices and effectiveness of funding every 5 years.
“We cannot simply walk away from finding a solution. We are confident that all the issues presented yesterday can be quickly resolved through the rulemaking process. The education of our children is foundational. To move forward, we have to take the first step. The best part of this legislation is that we gather the data we need for comparison between current funding and proposed without changing anyone’s funding,” said Sen. Woodward. “This is a defining moment and we need to show our constituents that we hear them loud and clear.”
Medicaid expansion restrictions bill dies in committee. The Senate Health and Welfare committee voted 7-2 against Representative John Vander Woude’s (R-Nampa) Medicaid Expansion Restrictions legislation. The bill passed 45-25 in the House, despite several hours of testimony by Idahoans against the proposed bill. The Democratic members of the committee, Senators Maryanne Jordan/(D-Boise) and David Nelson/(D-Moscow) debated against the bill. Sen. Jordan expressed her appreciation for the bill being stopped in committee.
“The legislature has finally made a good decision for Idaho families who need access to quality healthcare.” She said. “Idahoans do not need all the expensive bureaucracy and red tape that this bill demands. They voted overwhelmingly for us to fund clean Medicaid Expansion with no barriers to coverage.”
One of the largest criticisms of the proposed legislation was the constantly changing fiscal note. There were several drafts of the fiscal note and, despite being asked by Democratic House members, many of the costs of the legislation were not included. Sen. Jordan was extremely concerned that much of the cost was not accurate shown in the fiscal note.
McCrostie’s Slow Down Move Over bill signed into law. Rep. John McCrostie’s/(D-Garden City) Slow Down, Move Over modernization legislation has been signed into law by the governor. Currently, motorists are only required to slow down and move over for police and emergency vehicles on the side of the road. The new law will expand those requirements to tow truck drivers and highway incident response vehicles. Rep. McCrostie believes that this new law will be lifesaving.
“In working with stakeholders, I learned that this was a huge problem in Idaho and nationwide,” he said. “National statistics have estimated that a tow truck operator dies once every seven to ten days due to a tow scene accident. This law is a simple update that will ultimately save the lives of hardworking Idahoans.”
Rep. McCrostie collaborated with the Idaho Towing Association on the draft of the bill. AAA, the Idaho Sheriffs Association, insurance groups, and citizens expressed their support in committee.