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SJR 101: Axing ballot initiatives, again – 2023

Summary: SJR 101 would restrict the citizen initiative process, revising signature requirements for referendum petitions or ballot initiatives.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Passed Senate, House Floor

Issue Areas: Ballot Initiatives, Elections

Official Legislative Site

[March 9 Update: SJR 101 was held in committee subject to the “call of the Chair”. That means that the bill could be brought up again by the Chair. ICL will keep a close eye on the House State Affairs Committee, in the event that SJR 101 reappears, but we are hopeful the bill is dead for the year.]

Sen. Doug Okuniewicz (R-Hayden) and 10 other legislators, including Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Boise) and House Speaker Mike Moyle (R-Star), introduced a Constitutional Amendment aimed at restricting Idahoans’ rights to initiatives, when citizens propose and enact laws at the ballot box, instead of through the Idaho Legislature.

Senate Joint Resolution 101 would require signatures from 6% of eligible voters from all 35 legislative districts, instead of the current requirement for 6% of voter signatures from 18 districts. Under the proposal, if a single district fails to get enough signatures, the initiative would not qualify for the ballot. Idaho already has one of the most strenuous ballot initiative processes in the country and SJR 101 would further restrict it.

If SJR 101 passes with the required 2/3 support from the Idaho House and Senate, and then more than 50% of voters approve it on the November 2024 ballot, then only the most popular, well-funded, and well-organized efforts could realistically qualify for the ballot.

In the past, citizen initiatives led to the establishment of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in 1938 to try to remove wildlife-related decisions from political interference, and to approve the Dredge and Placer Mining Act in 1954, which regulated commercial dredge mining operations that were wreaking havoc on rivers and streams. The fact is that since 1912, only 15 initiatives have been successful. That’s an average of only one every 7 years. Idahoans have been judicious with initiatives, and it remains an important part of our democratic framework.

This proposed constitutional amendment is a solution in search of a problem. And it’s important to remember, the Idaho Constitution says, “All political power is inherent in the people.”

[Note: On March 9th, SJR 101 was held in committee subject to the call of the Chair. There will be a close eye on the House State Affairs Committee coming forward as to when the axing of ballot initiatives makes its next appearance. ICL will continue to work against Senate Joint Resolution 101.]