Urgent | Idahoans, Please Use Your Voice to Advocate

The Speedy Foundation is reaching out to implore you to #advocate. We reach out while sitting in yet another Senate Health and Welfare hearing regarding the partial repeal of Medicaid expansion, which ignores the will of the voters and will create an expensive secondary coverage gap.

We were met by guards at the doors of a full hearing and now sit in an overflow room with a Capitol full of legislators anxious to get home. At the same time, there is an initiative to limit citizen voices and both of these issues are opportunities for you to #Advocate. Time is of the essence.

Report: Bill would make Idaho's initiative process the toughest in the nation, By: Joey Prechtl, KTVB

“The practical effect of this bill would be to kill the initiative process in Idaho, in my opinion,” former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy said.

Please read on from the Idaho Nonprofit Center:

TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY - Regarding the Initiatives & Referendums Bill - THERE IS NO TIME TO WASTE
Contact your state representative/s
To provide comments regarding SB 1159 (see below for a detailed summary) please click this link to contact your representative TODAY. The full House will vote on the bill tomorrow morning, March 28.

  • Simply plug in your home address and you will get phone number and email for your senator and representatives. 

Citizen Initiatives on Idaho Ballots
As you might have heard in the news, the full bill (SB 1159) passed in the Senate with a vote of 18-17, despite widespread and vocal opposition from the general public. Tuesday, March 26 at 8:00 am the house version of this bill was introduced and subsequently pass through the House State Affairs Committee on a 10-5 vote. Amy Little, CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center was in attendance. 

In summary of the proceedings, there were over three hours of testimony given, largely in opposition to the bill. 30 testimonials were given in opposition and four were in support. Passionate members of the community AND nonprofits gave their testimony. 

Summary of SB 1159

  1. Shortens the time frame for collecting signatures for an initiative or referendum in Idaho from 18 months to 180 days. 

  2. Adds a requirement of a fiscal impact statement 

  3. Changes the required % of signatures of legal voters from 6% to 10%

  4. Changes the signatures required from 18 to 32 legislative districts

  5. Includes an “emergency clause” that will make this law as soon as the governor signs it rather than wait until the beginning of the next fiscal year

    1. Note this emergency clause will effectively block two initiatives and one referendum that have been filed: an initiative for medical marijuana, an initiative to raise the minimum wage, and a referendum to repeal SB 1159 if it were to be signed into law

History and Background

The bill’s sponsor and the State Affairs committee made it crystal clear that this legislation is in response to Prop 1 and Prop 2 which were both on the ballot last November (historical horse racing and Medicaid expansion): both of them were citizen-led initiatives that made it onto the ballot. One passed and one did not.

To put a little context to why citizens of Idaho are opposing this bill, we’ll share the history of how many initiatives have ever made it to the ballot since 1933, how many have passed, and how many were actually laws.
 
CLICK HERE to see the list of actual initiatives and referendums (I & R) since the I & R provision was formally adopted in 1933. Only 17 initiatives were ever approved by voters, and only two of those were actual laws. The number of I & Rs that never even make it onto the ballot is staggering. Yet with this new law, it will become even more difficult for citizens to bring anything forward. In the words of one testimonial to the bill sponsor: “You are trying to fix something that really isn’t broken.”

There are several scholarly articles that link the I & R process to a critical and needed part of the checks and balances of a well-functioning republican government. Sometimes the I & R process is used when citizens deem their elected officials as not acting upon requests for change. 

As in the case of Medicaid expansion, proponents say the citizens of Idaho grew frustrated with a lack of action on expanding health care benefits to more Idahoans, taking matters into their own hands. Same thing for the initiative to raise the minimum wage, supporters of that initiative say they have been asking the legislature for an increase for ten years with no change.

How does this Connect to the Nonprofit Sector? 

You are likely asking yourself this now. There is both a direct and an indirect connection.

Part of the Idaho Nonprofit Center’s mission is to educate and advocate and we often vacillate info sessions about advocacy. One of the ways nonprofits can engage in advancing their mission through advocacy is the support (or opposition) of initiatives that could help them more fully realize their missions.

Example: Last fall a decent number of health and human service organizations actively and publicly supported the passage of Medicaid expansion. Perhaps the most visible is The Speedy Foundation who actively work to reduce the number of deaths in Idaho by suicide. With more Idahoans having access to mental health care benefits there is a greater chance of people getting the support they need thereby reducing suicide deaths.

In summary, the most concerning factor (aside from shortened time frame and expansion of percent required and expansion of legislative districts) is the emergency clause that effectively eliminates the citizens of Idaho to have their voice heard on SB 1159 in November.

The Idaho Nonprofit Center would like to ensure that you are both aware of this legislation and informed about your options moving forward.

This falls under our Policy Agenda, adopted by the board in 2018 within the category of Policy Awareness & Advocacy Education, click here to review the full agenda.

If you would like to express your opinion on this bill we urge you to contact your representatives and the governor’s office immediately. Thank you!