Idaho Constitution JFAC

Members of the Idaho Legislature's joint budget committee pose for photos with the original Idaho Constitution. The document, which needs restoration work, was displayed to lawmakers at the close of the budget hearing for the Idaho State Historical Society on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

Sen. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, doesn’t want you to have any say on important matters of state policy. He introduced a bill on Monday that would gut a fundamental right enshrined in the Idaho Constitution.

The 2nd Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms. That doesn’t mean some rules can’t be placed on firearms, but if rules so constrain a right that its exercise becomes impossible, those rules clearly violate the Constitution. It was on that basis that the U.S. Supreme Court threw out D.C.’s handgun ban.

“The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of ‘arms’ that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition ... would fail constitutional muster,” late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion.

Grow should remember that he swore an oath to uphold the Idaho Constitution, an oath he is now moving to violate in the same way Washington, D.C., violated the 2nd Amendment.

Initially, all that it took to get a measure on the ballot was signatures from 10 percent of the voters in the last gubernatorial election. But over time lawmakers have steadily raised the bar, requiring more signatures and increasing the geographical area from which they must be collected. The goal of this “death by a thousand cuts” strategy is clear: to make it so hard to get an issue on the ballot that it will never happen.

By raising the bar to 10 percent of registered voters in 32 of 35 legislative districts, and reducing the time in which to collect them, Grow’s bill would be the final death knell for the initiative process.

The people of the state of Idaho stand to lose a great deal if Grow’s bill advances.

The ballot initiative is why the public has the right to know who pays for politicians’ campaigns and about the spending of special interest lobbyists to influence policy. Lawmakers didn’t volunteer to pass the Sunshine Law. Voters forced the issue in 1974.

The ballot initiative is the reason why lawmakers can’t raise their own pay to whatever level they choose. Voters put that power in the hands of an independent commission in 1970.

The ballot initiative introduced term limit pledges in 1996 and 1998. Lawmakers wouldn’t do that to themselves, and, in fact, once voters had put them in place the Legislature reversed the people’s will. And between the two initiatives, they imposed new restrictions on the process, ones strikingly similar to those in Grow’s bill.

What is a right if every time it is exercised it is immediately curtailed? No right at all.

Reclaim Idaho built a massive, grassroots campaign to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot. It was an Olympic feat of popular organizing. Indeed, it appears to have been much harder to get Proposition 2 on the ballot than it was to make the case for voters to back it. Now Grow wants to make it effectively impossible.

“Running a state government by voter initiative defeats the basic, fundamental premise of the Constitution,” Grow told the Inlander. “We elect representatives, and we trust them with the responsibility.”

Has Grow read the Constitution he swore to uphold? Does he understand it? Does he care what it says?

The very same section that creates the Legislature enshrines the ballot initiative.

And there’s an important distinction between those two powers. The Legislature was created by the people delegating some of their authority to it. But in the very same section that creates the Legislature, the ballot initiative power is “reserved” to the people — that is, it is a portion of their natural rights which the people have chosen not to give up by creating the Legislature.

For the Legislature to turn around and use the authority the people delegated to it to attack the portion they reserved for themselves is an absurdity. It’s like hiring a house sitter and returning to find they’ve changed the locks.

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.

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