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HB 1094 Passes Senate 19-13, Criminalizes Free Speech in Support of Ballot Measures

The Senate yesterday passed an amended version of House Bill 1094, the latest monkey wrench Republicans want to throw in to the initiative and referendum process to prevent citizens from checking the Legislature’s bad policies.

Senator Lee Schoenbeck made one amendment on the floor, putting the petition circulator registry behind a paywall. That’s a disturbing precedent for public records: given the faulty analogy HB 1094 supporters make to the paid-lobbyist registry, we must worry that next the state will hide the names and employers of lobbyists behind a paywall, making the smoke-filled rooms in the Capitol even smokier.

But the main point is that the state should not be requiring volunteer petitioners to register their names in the first place. The circulator registry is prior restraint: HB 1094 says I can’t grab an approved petition and collect signatures from my neighbors until the Secretary of State gives me permission and delivers my official badge.

HB 1094 also retains the problematic language that includes among “circulators” who must register and wear badges anyone who “solicits petition signatures from members of the public for the purpose of placing ballot measures on any statewide election ballot.” As I pointed out last month, that definition would include you when you sign a petition and then call to your buddies across the street to come sign. It would include folks who write letters to the editor urging citizens to support my People Power Petition or any other petition that hits the streets this year. If we encourage people to sign a ballot question petition and we’re not wearing the HB 1094 badge, we commit a Class 2 misdemeanor.

HB 1094 thus criminalizes free speech… but only for people who support ballot measures. The GOP spin blogger can discourage people from signing initiative and referendum petitions all he wants. The Koch Brothers can hire people to jam circulators of Medicaid-expansion petitions or other measures they don’t like. HB 1094 uniquely discriminates against people who support ballot measures, subjecting them to criminal penalty, while leaving their opponents’ free speech unhindered.

HB 1094 has the state cruising for another First Amendment lawsuit. It barely passed the Senate, 19–13. Let’s hope that, after conference committee, a couple more Senators see the light, flip, and kill this unnecessary and discriminatory legislation.


  1. leslie 2019-03-05 11:42

    Water boy lee, now working for this governor so he can get a $129k paycheck from the state

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-03-05 12:24

    I don’t think Lee Schoenbeck is working for Governor Noem, not on this bill. I don’t think Governor Noem has any fingerprints on HB 1094 or any of the amendments.

  3. leslie 2019-03-05 12:51

    Like Dutch economist Bregemann said to Davos, then Tucker Carlson only to be f bombed off the air, it doesn’t work that directly. Youtube. You have millionaires working for billionaires to stifle free speech. Just wait until SD REPUBLICAN’s state collection agency starts coming down on petitioners circulators protesters and minorities with natural resources.

  4. Debbo 2019-03-05 16:10

    GOP in Idaho is going after their citizens too. They’ve proposed laws to make initiatives and referenda more difficult. In 2018 citizens handily passed Medicaid expansion, which really torqued the GOP legislature. This is the essence of the new bill:

    “Under current law, an initiative or referendum qualifies for the ballot if the sponsors gather signatures from 6 percent of registered voters statewide, as well as 6 percent of registered voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.

    “Grow [GOP bill sponsor] wants to raise that threshold to 10 percent statewide, plus 10 percent in 32 of the 35 districts.

    “His bill also restricts ballot measures to a single subject and requires a fiscal note; if they propose an expenditure of money, a funding source would need to be identified as well.”

    Thanks, ALEC School of How to Take Your Legislature Away From the Citizens.

    From the Lewiston Tribune. (There is a paywall, but you get a couple freebies first.)

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger 2019-03-05 18:30

    We appear to have scared the Legislature away from raising the actual signature count in 2015. Our Republican legislators have chosen to focus instead on gradually increasing the cost of each signature to practical impossibility.

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