Did Myers just save Idaho’s own initiative law? | Notice
The best argument for reversing the Idaho legislature’s assault on the right of ordinary Idahoans to make their own laws has come from the most unlikely of sources – the legislature’s own attorney, William Myers de Boise.
Myers was involved in the case because Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Speaker of the Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, refused to rely on Attorney General Lawrence’s office. Wasden.
Myers made this argument to the Idaho Supreme Court last week: If voters don’t like what the legislature does, get another legislature.
“The cure comes in the form of electing lawmakers every two years,” Myers said. “If the legislature makes it so difficult that no initiative or referendum is on the ballot, the people could stand up and elect new lawmakers who will change the law.
Call it the legal equivalent of a political blunder. As defined by expert Michael Kinsley, it’s usually when someone is telling the truth – inadvertently. The truth here – as far as Myers is concerned – is that the legislature believes it should have full control.
Of course, if it’s so easy to replace the Legislature, you wouldn’t need a political safety valve against legislative intransigence.
But replacing a majority of 105 lawmakers is nearly impossible – especially in a one-party state where the GOP is running a closed primary.
This is why more than a century ago, Idahoans amended in their state constitution the Progressive Party platform giving voters the right to pass new laws (initiative) or repeal measures. existing (referendum) in the ballot box.
Second, Popular Law was a way to bypass lawmakers fascinated by the vested interests of corporations – railroads, banks, and trusts – that stifled the voices of workers and small farmers in Idaho.
Now it is special ideological interests – like the Idaho Freedom Foundation – that have the upper hand over the masses on the State Capitol.
Over the years, voters have used this process to address legislative paralysis to pass:
l Environmental reforms, such as the creation of an independent Idaho Fisheries and Game Commission.
l Tax reforms, such as the property tax exemption for homeowners and the 1% Initiative.
l Political reforms, such as the Sunshine Law requiring disclosure of political campaign contributions and term limits.
l Education policy, such as the 2012 repeal of anti-teacher policies advocated by then-public school superintendent Tom Luna.
l Health care reforms, such as the 2018 extension of Medicaid benefits to the working poor in Idaho.
Legislative antipathy to popular law is not a recent development. Over the course of a century, three governors – Moses Alexander in 1915, John Evans in 1984, and Brad Little in 2019 – have vetoed legislative attempts to undermine the power of the people to decide their own fate.
Eventually, however, lawmakers gained ground by placing new obstacles on the ability of organizers to qualify their measures for the poll.
This year, Little acquiesced in a legislative attempt to make it all impossible – by demanding that initiative campaigns garner 6 percent of registered voters in the 35 legislative constituencies. This gives one district – rural or urban, north or south – veto power over the rest of the state. And unless special interest with deep pockets arose, Idaho’s own initiative law was effectively repealed.
All of this goes against the Constitutional Amendment of 1912, which asserts that all “political power is inherent and begins with the people. Government is established for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to modify, reform, or abolish it whenever they deem it necessary.
Even in Idaho, constitutional law trumps laws of the legislature.
This is why the Attorney General stuck to the scenario, denying the obvious. The new requirement does not create an impossible threshold, said Deputy Attorney General Megan Larrondo. Therefore, the Supreme Court can confirm it as constitutional.
“It’s a full assumption if the legislature prevents people from getting action on the ballot,” she said.
If, on the other hand, as Myers asserts, the only remedy is to defeat the legislature, then all political power is “inherent” in the legislature, not the people. How can the Supreme Court conclude that the initiative process has not been abrogated by unconstitutional means?
Here supporters of the betting initiative such as Reclaim Idaho and the Committee for the Protection and Preservation of the Constitution could hardly believe their ears or their good fortune when Myers acknowledged the nefarious legislative intent behind the effort.
And for that kind of legal effort, Bedke and Winder pay Myers $ 470 an hour with their tax dollars. – MT