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Idaho Supreme Court to hear lawsuit over new initiative requirements

| June 4, 2021 1:00 AM

The Idaho Supreme Court announced Thursday it would hear a case against a new law tightening restrictions on citizen initiatives.

The lawsuit by Reclaim Idaho and the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution, challenges a new law — what activists have dubbed an “anti-initiative law” — that requires all 35 legislative districts, instead of the previous 18, to collect signatures from at least 6% of voters.

Originally introduced by Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, supporters maintained the purpose of the bill was to increase representation for rural communities. However, critics have said the previous law was already restrictive, and that the new rules would help corporate out-of-state interests more than rural communities.

Reclaim Idaho previously used the initiative process to help pass Medicaid expansion in 2018. Luke Mayville, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, said the law is meant to inhibit citizens’ ability to make their voices heard.

The law has also been criticized by Reclaim Idaho as “retaliation” for the 2018 initiative, which reached the signature threshold requirement in 21 out of 35 legislative districts. If the current law had been in place at the time, the initiative would have failed.

Written testimony against the law includes that of Linda Larson, Bonner County volunteer leader of Reclaim Idaho, Robin Nettinga, former executive director of the Idaho Education Association and Karen Lansing, a former judge on the Idaho Court of Appeals.

The law gives Idaho the “the most restrictive signature-gathering rules in the nation,” Mayville said, and the group believes it violates the constitutional right of Idahoans to propose initiatives.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to argue our case on behalf of the people of Idaho,” said Luke Mayville, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho. “The initiative process has been the guaranteed right of Idaho citizens for over 100 years. For the thousands of Idahoans who are paying close attention, it is a great relief to know that the Idaho Supreme Court understands the urgency of this issue.”

The hearing is scheduled for June 29 at 10 a.m., will take place on Zoom and will be accessible to the public via livestream.