Inauguration

Chief Justice Roger Burdick, at right, administers the oath of office to Gov.-Elect Brad Little as his wife Teresa looks on during the State of Idaho Forty-Eighth Inauguration ceremony, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019.

Editor’s note: The Post Register does not normally run editorials on the front page. We have made a rare exception in this case because we fear the rights of the people of the state of Idaho are at serious risk of being eroded.

Gov. Little:

Your first inaugural address contained inspiring words. You promised to “reflect our shared Idaho values and aspirations.”

This, you told us, “means all our decisions and actions will be based on assuring you — the citizens — have the utmost faith and confidence in our government.

“At a commencement address, Teresa and I heard Louise McClure, the wife of the late Senator Jim McClure, one of our mentors, state ‘above all ... be ethical in all things.’ The most sacred duty of elected officials is to uphold the trust citizens have granted us. As your Governor, I will work to champion confidence in our government.”

Restrictions on the people’s right to a ballot initiative, currently on their way to your desk, are the test of your promise, Gov. Little. They are as clear and egregious an attack on the Idaho Constitution as we have seen.

One bill cleared the Senate by only a single vote. The other arose from a secretive, irregular process so obviously aimed to avoid transparency that, if you sign it, it will sit as an indelible stain on lawbooks of this state.

We know and respect you.

We know you have served faithfully in Idaho government for nearly two decades. So you know Idaho is not flooded by ballot initiatives like California. In nearly a century, Idaho has had only 30 initiatives.

We know you are a policy wonk who prides himself on doing his homework. So you know what this bill will do. It will set the bar so high that the only issues that have a shot of getting on the ballot are those backed by deep-pocketed industries who can pay a small army to fan across the state and gather signatures.

This attack on a sacred constitutional right of the people has left us without faith or confidence in our government. We have been forced to conclude, not from the words and demeanor of lawmakers but from their actions, that many do not have proper respect for the Idaho Constitution or for its people.

Legislators were told by former judges, attorneys general, veterans and countless common citizens that they do not want this right taken away, that direct democracy should not be banned wholesale from the state of Idaho.

We are disturbed that the legislation would quite obviously not achieve its stated aim: giving a fair voice to rural Idahoans. The bill does the opposite. It ensures their priorities will never be on the ballot.

These bills simply silence all Idaho voices. The claim that it gives rural voters an “equal voice” reminds us of the words of John Donne: “Death comes equally to us all, and makes us all equal when it comes.” What sort of equality is that?

There are ways to ensure that rural voices are heard, and those should be pursued. Those measures are nowhere in these bills.

Because this is so obviously the case, we cannot conclude that the backers of this bill are simply misinformed or misguided.

We cannot come to any other conclusion than this: A small majority in the Legislature take their oaths lightly.

Taking office, each swore, as you did, “I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Idaho.”

And then they voted to violate the 14th Amendment. They voted to so narrowly restrict the constitutionally enshrined right of the ballot initiative as to make the exercise of that right impossible in practice, which is the same as abolishing it.

You said in your inaugural address that you take that oath seriously.

“When I took the oath of office, I swore to faithfully discharge my duties, to work for all Idahoans, and with God’s help, I will,” you said.

We do not yet know how to interpret these words. Are they a sacred oath? Or are they a tawdry campaign slogan masquerading as a sacred oath?

There is, Gov. Little, only one way to demonstrate that you take your oath seriously. There is only one way to restore the faith and confidence of the people of this state in their government.

Veto Senate Bill 1159 and House Bill 296.

Contact Gov. Little at 208-334-2100 or governor@gov.idaho.gov.

The Post Register’s editorial board consists of Publisher Travis Quast, Managing Editor Monte LaOrange and editorial writer Bryan Clark. Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.

Load comments