As expected, Senate Bill 1150 was advanced out of the Senate State Affairs Committee with only the two Democrats voting against it.
The bill would amend Idaho’s already strict petitioning laws to state that all petitions must be signed within the state of Idaho.
Testimony on the bill was all opposed and included Legalize Idaho’s Joe Evans, Kind Idaho’s Jon Basabe, and Bill Esbensen and Russ Belville from Idaho Citizens Coalition.
Bill Esbensen’s testimony was cut off several times and Russ Belville’s once by the acting committee chair for straying from the topic of the bill at hand. Both were trying to highlight the fact that this is the third bill read for this committee that seeks to squelch petitioning rights, all obviously in the service of stopping our medical marijuana petition.
Sen. Stennett, one of the two Democrats on the committee, noted how soldiers deployed overseas, students studying abroad, and workers who’ve taken extended jobs out-of-state, would all be burdened by passage of SB 1150. She also questioned the need for such a bill when everyone signing and distributing the petition are verified to be Idaho residents.
Sen. Lodge deflected the obvious burden on out-of-state Idahoans’ petitioning rights by simply explaining that petitioners have eighteen months in which to gather signatures, and surely those servicemembers, students, and workers can make it back home to Idaho once in eighteen months in order to sign a petition.
Sen. Burgoyne, the other Democrat, explained how he grew up in a military family, and the idea that servicemembers can just easily arrange to travel back to Idaho to sign a petition doesn’t match his experience.
Joe Evans, a military veteran, also objected to the way SB 1150 would disenfranchise servicemembers. He called it a “one-shot deal targeted at marijuana supporters from businesses in Oregon.”
Jon Basabe testified that his group had previously been told by the state that they could not collect signatures from outside of Idaho. So, if this bill proposes to make that illegal, he asked, does that mean we were given false information by the state in 2020?
Russ Belville testified that the bill “is a transparently obvious attempt to pre-emptively stop us from collecting signatures from the thousands of Idahoans who visit eight legal marijuana shops in Ontario, Oregon, every day.”
“At this point, we’re just waiting for the bill that bans all initiative petitions from using the letter ‘M,'” he added, sarcastically.
In response, Sen. Lodge expressed shock and surprise that anyone would think her bill was targeted specifically at marijuana initiatives. “This is a bill to protect the integrity of initiative petitions,” she repeated like a mantra, begging the question of what threat to initiative integrity is it if someone is signing outside the state?
“I’m not trying to do this to hurt anybody,” she protested, adding, “eighteen months is a long period of time.”
But that’s the maximum period of time. Our initiative is working with sixteen months. And what if someone wanted to change a law for something that happens in January 2022, and there are only three months to collect signatures?
When Sen. Lodge introduced the draft last week, and again in defending the bill today, she mentioned that “she was informed” that this ability of out-of-state Idahoans to sign petitions must be addressed.
Informed by whom? Because it smells to us like it would be law enforcement who have been watching thousands of Idahoans drive to Ontario (or Clarkston, Pullman, Spokane, soon Jackpot), who’d sign up to change marijuana laws so they don’t have to keep making that drive. Law enforcement that doesn’t want that stream of easy arrests coming back into the state that achieves arrest quotas, boosts their careers, and sometimes leads to lucrative asset forfeiture.
SB 1150 is nothing more than another assault on our petitioning rights because they don’t like the subject and they know we’d win. It’s changing the rules in the middle of the game their losing, again. It creates an absurd situation where an Idaho voter out-of-state couldn’t sign an initiative, but he or she could vote on it with an absentee ballot.