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Crashing Prop 2?

Not to go too far out on a limb here, but there seem to be some growing indications that Idaho voters may turn down Proposition 2.

Yes, it has had winning margins in past polls, but then Idahoans have changed their minds on ballot issues before during the course of a campaign. We’re making no specific predictions, but we would suggest the ingredients for such a shift are in place.

Prop 2 is the land use ballot issue proposed chiefly by activist Laird Maxwell and several out of state interests who are funding him. (Yes, there is some in-state support, but it would not be on the ballot but a New York businessman named Howard Rich.) The measure has two parts, one blocking eminent domain proceedings intended to seize from one private owner to give to another, the other a rewrite of Oregon’s Measure 37, intended to freeze land use regulation retroactive to the time of a property’s purchase. The first is an empty shell, since the Idaho Legislature already has done the same thing. It was put there to cover the Measure 37 rewrite, which is intended to weaken local land use planning and throw a whole lot of decisions into courts, as has happened in Oregon (where the land use system is so different as to be beyond easy comparison).

The whole is being sold under the concept “protect your property rights.” A lot of voters never investigate further than the nearest handy slogan, and the big-buck backers of the measure have been happy to pay for the advertising which has slammed out that slogan over and over. This accounts for the early poll results.

Opposition from people with credibility on the conservative side of the land use debate, however, may be taking its toll. Newspapers and Democrats arguing against it, as they have, is one thing. But there’s more. Chamber of Commerce and the state’s top business lobby, the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry, have come out against. Governor Jim Risch, who ought to have good credibility on this, has released his concerns.

But the capper on this is Mr. anti-Regulation himself, Republican gubernatorial candidate C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Otter took a while to announce his position on Prop 2, did so only after some media pressure, and appeared to struggle with it a bit. But here’s what he now says:

“The Idaho Legislature did a good job of addressing the eminent domain concerns raised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo vs. New London, Connecticut. While Proposition 2 essentially restates the Legislature’s solution, the issue at the ballot measure’s heart is protecting private property from regulatory takings. I fully understand and even share many of its supporters’ concerns. Private property rights is one of my core values. Yet there are almost as many opinions about what Proposition 2 will actually do as there are people voicing those opinions. That seems like a recipe for lots of lawsuits, which makes it tough for me to recommend it. So I will vote against Proposition 2. My commitment to the measure’s supporters is that if problems such as they foresee do arise in Idaho, I will be front and center to see that those problems are addressed by whatever means necessary and in an equitable and constitutional manner.”

If it does what it has the potential to do to Prop 2, that statement may make more practical difference for the state than anything said by an Idaho candidate this year.

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