The Spokesman-Review

Spokane County commissioners voted Friday to challenge a pair of Spokane city initiatives that could change the way business and government function locally.

They join a coalition of economic development interests in seeking judicial review on the legality of the two initiatives called a Community Bill of Rights and a Voter Bill of Rights.

Commissioners said they believe the two measures could significantly hamper economic development by putting more decision-making into the hands of individual citizens.

Envision Spokane and Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution obtained sufficient voter signatures to force their bills of rights onto the city’s November ballot.

In an April 26 editorial, The Spokesman-Review advanced several arguments on why it thought the Clean and Fair Elections Ordinance should not become the law in Spokane. As a member of the group that sponsored that ballot initiative, I assure you we are anxious to respond to those arguments.

However, an election campaign is the time for that. The issue at hand now is whether or not the voters should have the right to vote on this at all. It appears that some on the Spokane City Council and The Spokesman-Review editorial board feel they should not; that this initiative should be stopped before it goes on the ballot.

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The Senate has voted 33-1 in favor of SB 1191, a “trailer” bill to SB 1108, the bill that makes it tougher to qualify initiatives or referendum measures for the Idaho ballot. Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, said the idea behind the trailer bill is to ease the signature-gathering process in counties like his and Ada County, where there are multiple legislative districts. SB 1108 requires signatures from 6 percent of registered voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts for a measure to qualify for the ballot, and it requires signature-gatherers to have a separate petition for each district, and signers to face penalties if they signed the petition for the wrong legislative district.

Testimony so far this morning on SB 1108, the Senate-passed bill to make it tougher to qualify an initiative or referendum measure for the Idaho ballot, has been almost all against the bill. Anne Nesse of Coeur d’Alene brought a petition against the bill that she said has 580 signatures collected online from all over the state, both from rural and urban areas, and is getting 100 more signatures a day. “I have met personally with Kootenai County Republicans, who were appalled, frankly,” she said. “They were practically hugging me when I left, and I’m a Democrat.” She told the committee, “I would guess that you should check with your constituency on this.”

The Idaho Senate voted today to make it tougher for initiatives or referenda to qualify for the state’s ballot, while saying repeatedly that the move had nothing to do with the successful repeal of “Students Come First” legislation in November.

Under SB 1108, measures wouldn’t qualify unless they had signatures from 6 percent of the voters in each of 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, rather than just 6 percent statewide, as current law requires. It passed the Idaho Senate on a 25-10 vote; the bill now moves to the House.

“This allows rural Idaho to participate in this process,” said Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton.

For those who are wondering, the Senate State Affairs Committee didn’t vote this morning on SB 1108, the bill from the Idaho Farm Bureau to make it tougher to qualify initiatives or referendum measures for the Idaho ballot, in an attempt to increase the voice of rural residents in the process. For a second time the committee took testimony on the controversial bill, which would require signatures from 6 percent of voters in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts, instead of just 6 percent statewide, to make the ballot. But it ran out of time. Now, the vote has been pushed back

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Sponsors of an initiative to make it easier for Idahoans to vote by mail if they want to have dropped their bid to get the measure on the ballot in 2012. “We needed 51,000 signatures, and I could just tell from the way we were going that we weren’t going to meet the mark,” said Larry Grant, a former Democratic congressional candidate from Fruitland, Idaho who led the effort. “I didn’t want people working on it for another couple months knowing we weren’t going to make it.”

Supporters of an initiative to put an income tax on people who make more than $200,000 may have the signatures to make the Nov. 2 ballot. The Initiative 1098 folks have informed the Secretary of State’s office they’ll be bringing in an estimated 325,000 signatures on July 1, the day before the deadline for turning in petitions.

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Another initiative to privatize the state’s liquor business is being proposed. A group calling itself Washington Citizens for Liquor Reform filed a measure to get the state out of the liquor business but to continue to raise money from it through a percentage of the booze sold. Also looking to give voters a chance to pass a new law is the North American Self-defense Association, which has one proposal to outlaw all martial arts weapons at schools and colleges, and another that would mandate “abduction prevention training” as part of physical education courses at public schools.

Voters in Spokane County Fire Protection District No. 4 may have been confused by a ballot title when they rejected a levy measure in the sprawling north county district on Tuesday, the district chief said today. The levy was trailing in Tuesday evening’s count with 42 percent of voters saying yes to the measure. A 50 percent majority was needed to allow the district to increase the regular state property tax levy to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation – the state limit for regular levies.

Spokane City Council members Monday spoke loudly against a proposed initiative that would create nine rights the city would be required to enforce. But their dislike of Envision Spokane’s “Community Bill of Rights” didn’t stop them from letting residents make the call. The council voted unanimously to put the measure on the November ballot, a move widely expected since county officials verified supporters gathered enough signatures for a vote.

OLYMPIA – Calling themselves a “broad-based coalition,” same-sex marriage foes want to overturn a new law granting gay and lesbian couples most of the rights of spouses, short of marriage.

“This is both a referendum campaign and a statement of unity within the faith community,” the Faith and Freedom Network announced shortly after filing Referendum 71 this week.

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