Senate Bill 1159: Direct or Indirect Democracy
After listening to several hours of testimony on SB1159, I have been trying to determine if there is a bigger picture. I Keep thinking there is something more to it than a reaction to Medicaid expansion-Prop 2. And while the MEDIA markets it as the “voter’s revenge bill”, I believe there is something more going on here.
Simple questions of WHO is sponsoring the bill? and WHY, are pretty easy to figure out. The reason for the emergency clause is likely to thwart the upcoming initiatives being marketed to raise minimum wage and other liberal policies that have destroyed other states economies.
I believe the legislature understands the growth that has been happening to this state. As demographics change, so will the direction of law and policy. No one that I know in Idaho wants our state to become more like California.
But to react with fear to stop what is likely coming and pass a bill to make it harder to get a citizen initiative on the ballot is not my style. I have always been in favor of grass roots and citizens over system and party.
Here is what I see as the bigger picture here- and what is really happening:
Article 4 section 4 of our US constitution guarantees us a Republic form of government and recognizes that all power resides in the people. So WHY are we fighting to make something harder for the people to put something on the ballot?
This ballot/initiative process that is trying to be changed by SB1159 was put into our constitution in the early 1900’s and is actually a PROCESS of direct democracy that has been inserted into our Republic form of government. A direct democracy where the people make the laws for themselves.
And lest we are too quick to attack and judge this democratic process, in contrast, let’s take a quick look at what we have going on here in the legislature… our process of “Indirect Democracy”.
Yes, legislators are elected by our citizens to represent them which is how a representative Republic is supposed to operate. The citizens in our district are supposed to bring their ideas to us, we discuss the ideas with our constituents, turn ideas into bills and then have the body vote on the bill to see if others around the state agree with our idea or not…Right???
We have set up our own democratic PROCESS within the legislative system. Our internal system of committees and chairmen and leadership sets up an INDIRECT DEMOCRACY, or a bunch of small monarchies, where even one committee chair is allowed to veto a bill idea of the people’s Representative or Senator.
So back to the bill. What we are fighting over is who gets more control? -the direct democracy-people process or the indirect democracy-the legislative process?
There are a ton of groups lobbying in favor of this bill to control the direct democracy of the people….….Why? Because it is way easier to control 70 House members and 35 Senators that it is to control the masses of people when it comes to ideas.
The lobby groups against this bill, are few, but powerful….and believe it is easier to control the masses of citizens through media and networking than it is to get their new (sometimes non- traditional Idaho) ideas though the legislature.
So, the real decision on the bill is which way do you want to adjust the control. More control for the people or more control for the legislature?
The real question is HOW DO WE FIX THIS DISCONNECT AND CONFUSING POLITICAL BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE GOVERNED CITIZENS AND THE GOVERNING ELECTED OFFICIALS?
Idaho is growing and we can continue to make band-aid approaches to the problems that comes with growth, but we really need to start acting like a legislative body and have a REAL VISION and look at real solutions to keep Idaho great!
The initiative process allows citizens to write legislation, take it to the Secretary of State, get a required number of signatures, put it on ballot to have all citizens vote on it. This is a direct way citizen can create law without the governor or legislature being involved at all.
The legislature can dictate the rules on how the process works, put time limits on it and control the number of signatures required to make it happen.
Currently it takes 6% of the citizen’s signatures (who voted at last general election/must be verified), 18 districts (1 more than half) and has to be completed in 18 months.
If passed, a proposed Senate Bill 1159 (SB1159) would change 4 things…
Change the requirement of 6%….to 10% of voters (50,000-100,000 voters) -making it harder to get more voters.
18 districts….32 of 35 of districts (90% of state) -making it harder to cover more areas.
18 months…..6 months (will make it impossible for a citizen grassroots)
Emergency..It will go into effect immediately
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Edit : Corrected to show it is a Senate bill and not a House bill.