Senate wants 60% voter threshold for some ballot initiatives

Senate wants 60% voter threshold for some ballot initiatives

Sen. Mike Diedrich, the assistant Republican leader, said he would have supported the constitutional amendment proposal if it had appeared in the general election, but voted against the proposal when the timeline was expedited because it would apply to ballot initiative campaigns already in process.

“It’s unfair to those people who are following the laws,” he said.

But Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, the Senate pro tem who initiated the move to expedite the constitutional amendment vote, said it was important to get “safeguards in place for the taxpayers.”

He acknowledged that his expedited push was motivated by the Medicaid expansion campaign, but argued the vote threshold should apply to all ballot initiatives that levy taxes or spend significant state funds. The Legislature must gain a two-thirds majority for taxes and budget appropriations.

Democrats like Sen. Reynold Nesiba decried the effort as “undermining the will of the people,” pointing out that ballot initiative campaigns already face requirements to gather thousands of petitions, as well as months of public scrutiny. He said the constitutional amendment for the higher vote threshold would be easier to pass in a primary election that draws fewer voters.

“We are cutting our people off at the knees,” said Sen. Troy Heinert, the Democratic leader.

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