Absentee voters will receive their ballots soon and many may be surprised to see another Idaho State Constitutional amendment up for vote. The proposal’s language, approved earlier this year by 96 of 105 state legislators, asks voters to agree to have state administrative rules (executive branch regulations) reviewed and then either approved or rejected by legislators. An amendment to the Idaho Constitution would not only strengthen the legislative branch but also strengthen the voice of the people against executive branch overreach.
In Idaho, the governor’s cabinet consists of 39 different offices, departments and agencies. Each is allowed to develop its own operating procedures and enforcement rules, or more commonly known as regulations. The only check on these regulations occur yearly at the beginning of each legislative session by lawmakers per Idaho Code § 67-5291 which states:
“A concurrent resolution may be adopted approving the rule or rejecting the rule where it is determined that the rule violates the legislative intent of the statute under which the rule was made…”.
This authority has rested in the hands of locally elected legislators since 1969 and has been very effective at providing the necessary checks and balances on the executive branch’s regulations. An example of its effectiveness can be examined from a rule pushed down through the State Department of Education earlier this year. In its requested administrative rules, the State Department of Education included Common Core science standards that legislators believed were beyond the scope of their authority and so legislators voted to reject that section of their proposed rules.
Unfortunately, our United States Congress does not have the ability to unilaterally block federal regulatory actions – and we see the results. The President uses his executive authority to stifle production through millions of regulations that have the same full force and effect of law. Here in Idaho, legislative review is on shaky ground – the statute is losing strength.
The legislature has been diligently working to seal this statute into the state’s constitution, but it will take Idaho voters to ensure its success. Your ballot will ask you to answer this important question:
“Shall Article III, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a new Section 29, to provide that the Legislature may review any administrative rule to ensure it is consistent with the legislative intent of the statue that the rule was written to interpret, prescribe, implement or enforce; to provide that, after review, the Legislature may approve, reject, in whole or in part, any rule as provided by law; and to provide that legislative approval or rejection of a rule is not subject to gubernatorial veto under Section 10, Article IV, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho?”
Voters may remember that in 2014, a similar constitutional amendment was proposed on the ballot. It was poorly written and was not adequately presented to the public. As a result, it failed 205,949 to 201,174, a 1 percent margin. This year, voters need to understand the significance of this new proposal and vote in favor of it. I believe this bill is critical in maintaining the balance of powers in our form of government. If you have more specific questions about the amendment, please contact your elected officials.