The Idaho Legislature has introduced over 350 pieces of legislation so far this session. Here are some of the highlights of bills introduced over the last week:
Rank choice voting
Rep. Dale Hawkins introduced a bill prohibiting rank-choice voting in Idaho. Rank-choice voting allows voters to rank candidates for elections in order of preference.
Tabulating rank-choice votes comes in two stages.
During the first stage, everyone’s first choices are counted. If one person earns more than 50% of the votes, that person gets elected. However, if no one gets a majority, the person with the fewest votes is eliminated. Votes for the disqualified candidates are reassigned based on each voter’s second choice.
According to the bill’s statement of purpose, “Our purpose is to preserve a fair and transparent electoral process in Idaho. We support the prohibition of ranked-choice voting and instant runoff voting in any local, statewide, or federal election held in the state to ensure every vote is counted accurately and the candidate with the most votes is elected. This approach will simplify the voting process and maintain consistency in the electoral process.”
No TikTok on state-issued devices
This bill would prevent the presence of TikTok on any state-government-issued device or network under state control or funded by state appropriations in order to protect private data from being collected by foreign governments.
Governor Brad Little issued a similar executive order in December.
“The communist Chinese government can use TikTok to collect critical information from our state and federal government, and we are taking this step to protect Idahoans and Americans from the sinister motives of a foreign government that does not share our values and seeks to weaken and manipulate our country,” Little said in a press release about the executive order. “This new ban to eliminate TikTok from state-issued devices and networks will help protect national security and Idahoans’ data.”
If someone violates this rule, they would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Protecting religious freedom
Rep. Barbara Ehardt from Idaho Falls presented a bill to allow school employees to engage in prayer. The law derives from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District in June 2022, which ruled the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect individuals engaging in personal religious observance from government punishment.
According to the bill’s statement of purpose, “This (Kennedy v. Bremerton School District ruling) ended over 50 years of stifling the First Amendment and our religious freedoms. Though this was a Supreme Court decision, in order to make certain there was no question as to its application to the great State of Idaho, it was determined that Idaho would strengthen our state’s standing with a ‘belt & suspenders’ approach. This bill protects our First Amendment right to freedom of religion and the ability to exercise our individual expression without fear of repercussion at a public college, school district or charter school.”
Coach Kennedy’s Law states that an employee of a public college, school district or charter school may pray at any time he is otherwise free to engage in personal conversations or other personal conduct. The bill also says public colleges, public school districts and charter schools can’t discriminate or punish those who refuse to participate in these prayers.
“Nothing in this section shall be construed to in any way limit the free exercise of religion,” the bill said.
Bringing back the firing squad
The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee will hold a public hearing on a bill to bring back the firing squad as a means of execution when lethal injection is unavailable.
After a death warrant has been arrested, the director of the Idaho Department of Corrections has five days to determine if lethal injection is available. If it is, the method of execution shall be lethal injection. If it is not available, the method of execution shall be a firing squad.
If a court holds that lethal injection is unconstitutional or rules that the firing squad is a constitutionally required method of execution, the method of execution shall be the firing squad.
“The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that the State of Idaho can carry out timely, lawfully ordered executions now and in the future,” said the bill’s statement of purpose.
Rep. Bruce Skaug said in an Idaho Capital Sun article he believed this method to be a more humane method of execution.
Electing State Board of Education
Currently, the only elected office on the State Board of Education is the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Rep. Joe Alfieri introduced legislation hoping to change that.
His bill establishes that members of the State Board of Education be elected by region rather than appointed by the Governor. It also makes the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction the Chair of the State Board of Education.
Elections would be held every two years in even-numbered years. Each member of the board would be elected from one of the seven zones correlating to voting districts in Idaho. For example, legislative districts 31-35 would fall under zone seven.
In order to run for state board of education, candidates must:
— Be at least 25 years old
— Be a citizen of the United States
— Possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university,
— Reside within the state for at least two years.
Idaho would become the eighth state to choose its State Board of Education this way, joining states like Utah and Alabama.
Restricting absentee ballots
Over 30% of Idahoans voted using an absentee ballot during the 2022 election cycle.
“Though the use of absentee ballots has been expanded in recent years, largely because of the Covid-19 scare, its original intent was to provide access to voters who were physically unable to vote for reasons beyond their control,” Alfieri said. “Its use was never intended as a convenience, which is what it has most recently become.”
Alfieri’s legislation would eliminate “no-excuse” absentee ballots. Voters would have to provide one of the following reasons to request an absentee ballot:
— Active service in the military
— Illness, disability or hospitalization
— Work or attending a university out-of-state
— On a religious mission;
— Occupying a second home or residence outside of his or her home county.
While proponents of the bill say this would increase the efficiency of county clerks counting ballots and decrease voter fraud, critics of the bill say it will increase voter suppression and decrease voter turnout in the state.
Hearing abortion cases
The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, turning the issue of abortion back to the states.
A House joint memorial introduced last week requests that Congress limit the jurisdiction of the lower federal courts from hearing cases regarding state abortion laws, as this is under the jurisdiction of state legislatures and state courts.
If passed, the Secretary of the Senate would mail copies of this Concurrent Resolution to:
— Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch
— Representatives Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher
— Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy
— President pro tempore Patty Murray.