Idaho House proposes firing squad to assist with executions

Members of the Idaho Legislature meet in the Idaho Capitol building in Boise. Photo credit: Ken Lund

Restricted driver’s license

A bill allowing Idaho residents without a social security number to obtain a limited driver’s license heads to the Senate floor for a vote. This license would only be used for driving, not for voting, purchasing a firearm, boarding an airplane or obtaining a passport. The license would also be vertical instead of horizontal.

Sen. Jim Guthrie, the sponsor of the bill, said the bill would provide a form of identification for undocumented immigrants living in the state.

Even though Guthrie complained about the federal government’s inaction in regulating immigration and deportation, he understands how undocumented workers contribute to American society.

“The U.S. Department of Labor survey reveals that 49% of the national agricultural labor force are undocumented workers,” Guthrie said. “Without the undocumented demographic in our labor force, I suppose we might be forced to import food … cut less timber, build fewer houses or deal with fewer people in our service industries.

Ballot initiatives

Ballot initiatives or ballot measures allow members of the public to put legislation on the ballot for the people to directly vote on.

The Senate passed a joint resolution changing the number of signatures required in order to put an initiative on the ballot. Currently, only six percent of registered voters in 18 legislative districts are needed for a ballot initiative to qualify for an election,

The joint resolution passed by the senate would up the requirement for six percent of registered in all 35 legislative districts in Idaho.

This is not the first time Idaho has tried to pass this law. In 2021, the Idaho legislature passed a similar bill that was signed into law by Governor Little. However, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled the bill unconstitutional, saying the bill unjustly restricted the right of the people to propose ballot initiatives.

Supporters of the bill such as Sen. Doug Okuniewicz said the new Senate Joint Resolution 101 is different because the new resolution is asking voters to increase the threshold themselves instead of the legislature imposing it on the people.

“It would not eliminate the initiative or referendum process,” Okuniewicz said while debating on the Senate floor. “It only makes it more inclusive for all parts of our state while making it harder for special interests to venue shop during that phase of the initiative process.”

Sen. James Ruchti, a Democratic senator from Pocatello, criticized the bill as the latest attempt of the Idaho Legislature to restrict these processes.

“When the people use their right, their direct legislative rights, which the constitution allows them, the Legislature doesn’t like it and responds by saying, ‘well let’s make it harder to use,’” Ruchti said on the Senate floor.

If the bill passes the house and receives the governor’s signature, the measure would be put on the ballot for Idahoans to vote on during the 2024 general election.

New firing squad

The Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill adding a firing squad as a potential method of execution if lethal injection is not available.

Idaho Department of Correction officials has struggled to receive the chemicals necessary to carry out lethal injections, which prompted legislators to try and find alternative methods for executions.

“The firing squad, in my opinion, is humane in part because it is certain,” said Rep. Bruce Skaug in an Idaho Capital Sun article. “There is no case saying it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.”

Critics of the bill cited potential conflict with the Eighth Amendment.

“This would open Idaho up to lengthy, expensive legal challenges related to the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment,” said House Assistant Minority Leader Lauren Necochea in a Tweet on Friday.

The Idaho Department of Correction would be responsible for developing policies and procedures in order to perform executions this way if the bill passes. If the bill passes, it will go into effect on July 1, 2023.