- Associated Press - Monday, April 8, 2019

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - An Idaho House committee on Monday introduced four new bills on ballot initiatives that opponents called an attempt to circumvent vetoes by Republican Gov. Brad Little on two previous pieces of legislation.

The House State Affairs Committee introduced the bills that toughen the requirements to get an initiative or referendum on the ballot. The four bills break up elements of the previous two measures.

“This is an effort to have both (the House and Senate) and, hopefully, the governor choose what is distasteful and, hopefully, tasteful to them,,” Republican Rep. Sage Dixon told the committee at the start of the meeting.

One of the new bills requires a fiscal impact statement and funding source. Another would require signatures from 10% of registered voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 districts.

The third requires signatures of 10% of registered voters from 24 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. And the last one changes the length of time to gather signatures to 270 days.

Little vetoed a previous bill last week and said he plans to veto another when he gets it this week. Both of those bills made it through the House and Senate - but not with veto-proof margins.

Current rules for ballot initiatives require signatures from 6% of voters in 18 districts in 18 months.

The ballot initiative measures have become some of the most contentious legislation this session.

Backers of the legislation say it’s needed to give rural voters an equal voice since signatures in just four highly populated areas can now get an initiative on the ballot.

Opponents say the changes would eliminate a way for voters to take direct action. They say the bills Little rejected would have violated Idaho’s Constitution by making the ballot initiative process so difficult.

Little, in his veto letter last week, said he “reluctantly” decided to veto the two bills because of potential lawsuits that would allow a federal judge to determine Idaho’s initiative process.

However, the governor left open the possibility of working with lawmakers on future changes to the initiative process.

Little’s office declined to comment about the new legislation.

Democratic Rep. John Gannon blasted the new bills as violating the Legislature’s rules by introducing legislation that had been vetoed.

Republican Rep. Steve Harris, the committee’s chairman, consulted with the House parliamentarian during a break and concluded the bills didn’t violate any rules.

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