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Idaho Legislative Council signs off on language for constitutional amendment

Idaho Democrats argue some language listed in the 'con' section of voter education information was not entirely approved by the 'con' side of the debate.

BOISE, Idaho — Primary Election season is behind us - but don’t worry politics fans - there is still the General Election coming up in November. One of the biggest items up for vote is asking Idahoans if they want to change the state Constitution to allow Idaho lawmakers to call themselves into session. Right now, only the governor has that power.

“If a majority of the people want to amend the Constitution, we'll do it and if they don't, we won't. So, that's just how it works,” Legislative Council member and House Speaker, Scott Bedke said.

Speaker Bedke is a part of the group, the Legislative Council, that finalized language to accompany the ballot question this fall. In Idaho, voters are sent some information to help them decide how to vote, Bedke explained.

“In Idaho, the Secretary of State puts out kind of a voter's guide and it does a pro and con of the question," Bedke said. "In this case, should the state Constitution be amended to allow the legislature under certain circumstances to call itself back into session."

Idaho Democrats have spoken out in recent months, arguing lawmakers calling themselves into session is a bad idea. To add to that, Democrats say the pro/con language approved this week, which is set to be sent to voters, is not authentic to both sides of the debate.

“Republicans want this amendment to the Constitution. They want to be able to call themselves back into session. The Democrats do not," House Minority Leader, Ilana Rubel said. "They basically suppressed the Democrats statement and what the Democrats wanted to have in the statement opposing that constitutional amendment and said, 'no, we are not going to let you have your preferred statement.'"

Rubel said there are clear differences between the draft Democrats wanted and the final version that will be sent to voters. There are some differences, for example, specifically with point one and the strong statement of “This constitutional amendment is not needed,” which is left out. 

There is a mirroring pro point included that says, “This constitutional amendment is needed.” Rubel said it is unfair to send out ‘con’ arguments that the ‘con’ side didn’t agree with publishing, possibly misleading voters.

RELATED: Idaho Senate OKs plan for lawmakers to call special sessions

“They would believe that, that is actually what the people opposing the statement think. They would not suspect that it is, in fact, has been stolen," Rubel said. "That this statement has, in fact, been crafted by the people who support the amendment."

Bedke said he thinks the language approved by the Legislative Council paints a full picture.

“I think it's all going to be OK. I think Idaho voters are going to be able to sort through it," Bedke said. "I think that they're going to understand the question and then and what you're seeing is our process in working when we don't amend our Constitution lightly and when I and when we do, there is this process."

In terms of process, the legislative council votes to approve draft language. That council has a Republican majority to reflect the majority split at the statehouse. Rubel believes the language being sent to voters is watered down while the ‘pro’ arguments include stronger language.

“To me, you know, that is a flagrant abuse of majority power, to use it to suppress debate and to use it to censor what your opponents are permitted to say, in defense of their own position," Rubel said. "So, the opposition statement that people are receiving is not, in fact, going to be the approved language of those who oppose the amendment. It is going to be a statement that effectively has been stolen and controlled by the proponents of the amendment.”

Bedke said ultimately, the decision is solely in the hands of Idaho voters.

“I think what you're seeing is your government process at work here. It doesn't happen often, but it happens every now and then," Bedke said. "There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue at the legislature, but the beauty of this process is that the people of Idaho will decide what their Constitution says."

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