into initiatives process
Commentary by PAT
Idahoans should be
grateful to U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill for providing life
support for a lawsuit that could restore a balance of power between the
public and the Legislature.
lawsuit, which Judge Winmill refused to dismiss at the state’s
request, would eliminate utterly shameful obstacles erected by
legislators to placing citizen initiatives on the state ballot.
Republican majority connived to force citizens to gather signatures of 6
per cent of the registered voters in half of Idaho’s 44 counties
before a ballot initiative could qualify.
initiative backers could garner enough signatures by harvesting them at
a major one-stop gathering such as the state fair.
Why the tougher
law? Because lawmakers and business interests that set the state’s
political agenda are terrified that Idahoans interested in better
government will take matters into their own hands and modify, repeal or
enact laws without the Legislature’s consent.
Defenders of the
tougher new law use the phony argument that lenient requirements will
clutter election ballots with frivolous issues.
Jeepers. One need only sample some of the Legislature’s witch’s brew
of inane issues for examples of what’s frivolous.
congressman, former Lt. Gov. Butch Otter, continues his childish
standoff with the Environmental Protection Agency over a $50,000 fine he’s
been ordered by a court to pay for damage to wetlands at his ranch, the
third such offense.
fine was $80,000. But Otter beat it down to $50,000. Then, in a delaying
tactic, Otter threatened EPA he’d use his position as a congressman to
change the law that got him into a pickle, a threat some might consider
an attempt by a pipsqueak newcomer to muscle EPA into dropping the
Without catching a
breath, Otter came up with a new demand: he’ll pay the fine if EPA
will divert it to environment restoration and guarantee that his $50,000
won’t be used to hire bureaucrats.
Demanding that EPA
isolate and track the ultimate destination of $50,000 mixed into a
budget of more than $7 billion, and dictating what EPA does with
revenues from a fine, has all the trappings of another Otter delay.
By continuing his
stalls, Otter runs the risk of leaving the impression that he’s not
really the true-blue law-and-order Republican conservative he pretends,
but maybe just a petty scofflaw who believes he’s entitled to special
photo-op visit this week to Florida’s huge Everglades National Park is
as cynical a public relations stunt as he and his anti-environmental
coaches have dreamed up thus far.
Remember, Bush is
the president who wants to open public lands for commercial development.
And there he is
posing as a friend of Mother Nature in the Everglades, 1.5 million acres
of the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the continental
United States, which WAS opened to developers — who drained swamps,
allowed salt water to flood the fresh water aquifer with devastating
consequences to humans and wildlife, and is now being restored at
taxpayer expense of some $7.8 billion.
had a name for slippery people like this in their day — snake oil