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BOISE -- Getting citizen initiatives on the ballot is set to get tougher, according to a bill that cleared a House panel.

House State Affairs Committee Republicans backed the measure on Monday, with Democrats leading opposition.

The bill, pushed by the Idaho Farm Bureau, requires signatures be gathered from 6 percent of registered voters in 18 of Idaho's 35 legislative districts to qualify an initiative for the ballot.

Currently, Idaho requires signatures from 6 percent of voters statewide, without a geographic requirement.

Farm Bureau lobbyist Russ Hendricks argues it makes sense to broaden initiative requirements, so signature gathers can't merely concentrate on populated areas to get issues before voters.

Former Senate Majority Leader Rod Beck panned the bill, however, saying it will actually make it tougher for rural residents to be heard.

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