Reclaim Idaho volunteers received the go-ahead from the state to begin collecting signatures on a new education funding initiative they hope to get on Idaho voters’ ballots in 2022.
The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office presented Reclaim Idaho officials with the official ballot titles for the Quality Education Act, Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.
That gave Reclaim the official green light to start collecting signatures for the initiative, which seeks to raise more than $200 million annually for K-12 education by increasing income taxes.
But there is a catch. Reclaim Idaho is suing the state hoping to overturn a new law, Senate Bill 1110, which they say makes It nearly impossible to bring a people’s ballot initiative or referendum forward.
Senate Bill 1110 requires organizers to gather signatures from 6% of voters in all 35 legislative districts, up from the previous requirement of 18 districts.
The Idaho Supreme Court will hear arguments on the case June 29.
The outcome of the lawsuit is likely to affect Reclaim Idaho’s strategy moving forward.
“There is some amount of uncertainty as we await our Supreme Court hearing. We don’t know yet what the signature gathering rules are going to be for the 2022 election cycle,” Mayville said Thursday.
Mayville expressed optimism that the Idaho Supreme Court would expedite the case and issue a decision quickly.
If Reclaim wins its suit, volunteers would move ahead at full speed trying to gather signatures to get the education initiative on the November 2022 ballot, where it would need support from a majority of voters to pass.
Reclaim has until May 1, 2022, to gather the signatures, Mayville said.
If Reclaim loses its suit, volunteers would consider putting the education initiative on hold and moving forward with a different initiative, the Initiative Rights Act. The group filed the Initiative Rights Act in April. It is designed to restore the signature gathering requirements that existed in 2012, where organizers only needed to collect signatures from 6% of registered voters statewide, regardless of what district they live in.
Mayville and other opponents of Senate Bill 1110 say the requirement to gather signatures from all 35 legislative districts forces organizers to travel to the most remote, isolated parts of the state to gather signatures. Mayville, based on previous ballot initiatives, has speculated that only well-funded professional signature gathering efforts — as opposed to grassroots volunteer efforts — could meet the new requirements from Senate Bill 1110.
Supporters of Senate Bill 1110 said it is necessary to ensure Idahoans from all corners of the state play a role in the initiative process.
As for the education initiative, Mayville said Reclaim Idaho is focusing now on developing small, volunteer teams in communities across the state to begin gathering signatures. He said about 500 Idahoans have already signed up for a local team and he encouraged anyone interested in reading the petition to visit Reclaim Idaho’s website.
The education initiative would raise income taxes only for individuals making more than $250,000 and for married couples earning more than $500,000. The money raised could go to reducing class sizes, hiring teachers, launching full-day kindergarten or supporting career-technical education, arts, music, drama or English Language Learner programs and more.
Mayville said Reclaim Idaho will wait to launch large-scale, kickoff signature gathering events until after the Idaho Supreme Court issues its ruling.
Reclaim Idaho is the volunteer-based group that spearheaded the 2018 Medicaid Expansion vote initiative in Idaho, which passed with 60.6% support from voters.