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Senate Bill 1159: Direct or Indirect Democracy

There are a ton of groups lobbying in favor of this bill to control the direct democracy of the people

Legislative Session Indirect Democracy

Senate Bill 1159: Direct or Indirect Democracy

By Representative Heather Scott

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?


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.


6 Comments on Senate Bill 1159: Direct or Indirect Democracy

  1. “A direct democracy where the people make the laws for themselves.”

    When the people constitute independent grand juries, those people represent the whole people in a process by which all enemies foreign and domestic are investigated when anyone has probable cause to suspect wrongdoing: even so-called “prosecutorial misconduct.”

    When the people constitute independent trial juries, those people represent the whole people in a process by which all enemies foreign and domestic are subject to rule of law, even the so-called “elite” in the so-called “government.”

    When criminals in government claim to be immune from the rule of law, then it is up to the people as a whole to check that false claim, to investigate any wrongdoing, and to put the suspected criminal on trial by the country.

    All this talk about what is or is not a democracy, what is or is not a republic, what is or is not a federation, is beside the point at which the criminals enforce those immunities whereby those criminals in government can do whatever they please to anyone, anytime, with impunity. When criminals in government get away with conspiracy murder, for example, it is organized crime, is is not government.

  2. First of all, kudos to Representative Scott for having the fortitude to point the spotlight on the privileged and despicable Committee System…this is a pervasive problem throughout all the legislatures of the country.

    That being said, is 10% or even 30% a “hard” requirement when implementing democratic principles? If a society can’t get 10% or even 30% of the people to agree to something…then, it stands to reason they have chosen something else.

    Now, for what is shown below…hold it in part in the context of someone saying “Democracy is mob rule” and/or “We don’t want western Democracy.”

    I don’t know how Idaho makes its election stats available for “Voter Initiatives” but Texas has something somewhat comparable in “Texas State Constitutional Amendments Submitted for Popular Vote”…with more emphasis on the “Popular Vote” aspect than the way it was presented to the people.

    Texas Turnout and Voter Registration Figures (1970-current)

    Look at the years for (Constitutional) votes…every odd year…these are for 1 to over 10 Amendments presented to the public…and the content/wording really are like voter initiatives would be. The passage rate is over 80%.

    Now look at the Voter turn outs…there are two numbers…one for Registered Voters who voted and the other show the percentage of “Voting Age Voters”. Look at those numbers in shock.

    I’m seeing lots down in the 5% range…even as low as 3.7%

    Is that mob rule? It is ludicrous to see somebody in the Middle East say, “We don’t want western Democracy!” Phfft, it looks like 95% of Texas don’t want it either in this context.

    Which again brings up the point the 6% percent doing something means there is 94% who have not…and the 10%, although being pointed to as a “hard” requirement, means that 90% have not signed the petition.

    Quorums! If a quorum cannot be established it means something else has been chosen…hopefully that thing is responsible reasonable freedom and liberty.

    Now ask yourself, “Is 10% a respectable quorum?”

    The Communist Party who ruled the USSR with 5% of the population would giggle and say, “Got that, baby! And our 5% is the only game in town.” And we all know how much we like giggling Communists.

    • After a little research in looks like Idaho places Initiatives/Proposals/Constitutional Amendments on the same ballot every two years as office elections.

      Federal and Statewide Races – totals by county

      That is fortunate for Idaho because the percent of voters is higher when people are being elected.

      That is also a curious observation about use-case applications of Democratic principles. When looking at the application of Democratic principles the first distinction is, “Is the vote being taken for a person/office holder…or is it for a Initiative/Bill/Referendum/Proposal?”

      For a Initiative/Bill/Referendum/Proposal the consequences are more immediately known…but electing a person, history has shown, the consequences are as fickle as the wind.

  3. “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?” Why? Robin Gray’s comment is why. ^^^

  4. Currently it only takes 6 COUNTIES to get the needed signatures for an initiative BYPASSING the more rural areas of the state giving them effectively NO VOICE in the matter. Making it harder but not impossible for the “people” to force their neighbors to pay for things will make it more equitable around the state and force the signature gatherers to get the opinions of those in the smaller counties. Perhaps a little more time that 6 months given the difficulties that can arise, but if this law had been in effect at the time, Props 1 and 2 would not have received the needed signatures because the smaller areas would have had a voice – and that would have been NO.

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