Dorothy Moon, why vote yes on S1159?
You voted for a measure that would restrict our rights. I’d like to know why.
In the spring of 2017, the McCall-Donnelly High School U.S. Government class made a trip to the capitol to tour the capitol and meet with our legislators to gain a better understanding of state government. If I remember correctly, neither Senator Thayn nor Representative Gestrin met with our class. However, you did come to talk with our high school class and for that I would like to thank you. I asked you why Idaho consistently ranks near the bottom in K-12 and post-secondary achievement as well as education spending, and why you were not working toward expanding funding for education through your position on the education committee when educational spending provides large and reliable long term benefits through higher incomes and reduced poverty rates that provide the ancillary benefit of reducing reliance on government assistance. You responded by telling me that there wasn’t enough money to fund education and that repairing roads was a more pressing issue because there’s no point in having acceptably good schools if students can’t get to them. Yet, the benefits of increased education spending are so strong that every dollar invested by the state in education results in a two dollar return on that investment. I had thought that you, a retired educator, would recognize the value of improving Idaho’s education system from abysmal to almost acceptable or even to mediocre. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Come March 2019, I was disappointed, but not surprised when you voted yea on both H296 and S1159, bills that would have effectively removed Idahoan’s right to place an initiative on the ballot. As these bills were both introduced mere months after 61% of Idahoans voted to expand Medicaid in the state, they were clearly a response to that initiative’s success. They were designed to eliminate the possibility of legislation by initiative. Why did you vote for these measures? I would genuinely like to know what possible reasoning you could have to undermine the democratic process enshrined in our state’s constitution.
In discussions about initiatives and restrictions on them, it’s almost always pointed out that our state and country is a constitutional republic rather than a democracy. However, I cannot accept that as a valid justification for a vote in favor of S1159 and H296. A constitutional republic is premised on the primacy of its constitution. In our case, article three, section one of the Idaho Constitution enshrines the people’s right to the initiative and referendum such that they may hold legislators accountable and act when politicians refuse to do so. As such, attempting to effectively revoke Idaho’s constitutional right to the initiative through an act of the legislature, rather than a constitutional amendment, demonstrates a blatant disregard and disrespect of the constitution and the republican values it stands for. Our government is based on the rule of laws whose legitimacy is premised solely on the social contract embodied by our state’s constitution; in attempting to circumvent the constitution, the legislature has broken, or at least severely compromised, that social contract. Second, a constitutional republic requires that the representatives elected by the people act in their constituents’ best interest, which at a bare minimum includes not infringing on constitutional rights.
Representative Moon, with what I’ve written here in mind, please tell me why you would vote for these bills when they so clearly run contrary to the most basic constitutional republican values. Please explain to me how voting to restrict the rights of your constituency is in their best interest. Please show me how these bills aren’t an attempt to force regressive positions on an evolving state. If you cannot do these things, if you cannot justify your decision and these bills, then please don’t vote to restrict our rights as citizens.
Thank you for your time,
 “Idaho Earns a D-Plus on State Report Card, Ranks 48th in Nation,” Education Week, December 30, 2016, https://www.edweek.org/ew/qc/2017/state-highlights/2017/01/04/idaho-state-highlights-report-page.html; “The Benefits of Increased School Spending” (Northwestern University Institute for Policy Research, March 2017), https://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/publications/policy-briefs/school-spending-policy-research-brief-Jackson.pdf.
 “The Benefits of Increased School Spending.”
 “Constitution of the State of Idaho,” The Official Website of the Idaho Legislature, 2018, https://legislature.idaho.gov/statutesrules/idconst/artiii/sect1/.
 S1159 would have increased the signature threshold to 10% of the state’s population, increased the number of districts in which the 10% threshold must be reached to 32, and reduced the timeframe for signature collection to 6 months. These changes would make placing an initiative on the ballot 5–10 times more difficult in a state that already has one of the most restrictive initiative laws in the United States, effectively removing the people’s right to the initiative.