SPOTLIGHT: The Constitutional Amendment On The Ballot In Idaho, Explained

Oct 19, 2016

Credit Betsy Russell

When voters in Idaho go to the polls on November 8 they'll be asked to change the state's constitution. H.J.R. 5 comes from legislators, who want to take a power they already have and make it stronger, by enshrining it into the constitutional framework.

Each year after legislators make new laws, it’s up to state agencies to make rules that put those laws into effect. Betsy Russell, a reporter with the Spokesman Review newspaper, says right now, lawmakers get to decide if those rules are actually what they had in mind when they wrote the law.

“These are such basic things as what fees should you pay for a particular government program, if the Legislature didn’t specify,” says Russell.

Every year, the Idaho Legislature sits down for several weeks and wades through thousands of pages of rules and regulations created by state agencies. Legislators say yes to the vast majority of the rules, but occasionally object to ones they don’t like. Currently, lawmakers have the power to veto those rules. If the amendment passes, that power would become more difficult to take away.

Russell says even though lawmakers already have this power, some fear a future court ruling could take it away from them.

“What H.J.R. 5 will do is write into the constitution the current system where the Legislature can review administrative rules that are enacted by the Executive Branch in response to bills passed by the Legislature,” says Russell.

Russell says an almost identical amendment, H.J.R. 2, was rejected by voters two years ago.

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