We have long been skeptical of the initiative processes in California and the Pacific Northwest. Most initiatives are proof that even good concepts can make bad laws.
Oregon initiatives, for example, have tinkered with laws governing marijuana and hard drugs — even property taxes. Each initiative has been fraught with unintended consequences.
Because initiatives do not get a thorough vetting through committee hearings and public testimony, voters need to be extra wary of what they are putting into statute or adding to the state constitution.
Idaho has an even bigger worry. Most of the state’s population is congregated around a few cities. Boise is the largest metropolitan area by far. The current law states that an initiative must get signatures from 6% of the registered voters in 18 legislative districts.
The problem: That can be accomplished by collecting signatures in the four most populous counties — Ada, Canyon, Kootenai and Bonneville. The other 40 counties wouldn’t matter.
In theory, this means an initiative can get on the ballot without a single signature from elsewhere in the state.
Talk about an urban-rural divide. If the urban areas can drive the initiative process — and presumably, pass them — how can the many less-populated areas of the state have a meaningful say?
Sen. Steve Vick, a Republican from Dalton Gardens, has proposed a bill, Senate Bill 1110, that would require initiative supporters to collect the signatures of at least 6% of the registered voters in all of the state’s 35 legislative districts in 18 months.
Opponents say this would enable a single district to “veto” an initiative. No, it would just require sponsors to circulate their initiatives statewide instead of in just a handful of cities.
That is only fair.
In our opinion, if initiative supporters want a new law passed, they should do it the old-fashioned way. They should talk to their legislators.
It can be done, and the laws will be better because they will have gone through the legislative process.