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The success of a controversial initiative drive - like the Idaho Citizens Alliance anti-gay proposition - always generates talk of making it tougher to put an issue on the ballot.

Still, even with the absence of restrictions on collecting the required signatures, the number of successes is far outweighed by the petition failures.It would seem a tribute to the thoughtfulness of Idaho voters, who seem unwilling to put their name behind a cause unless genuinely convinced the only way to solve a problem is to take it to the people.

The attitude may well come from watching a state Legislature that typically fiddles with an issue for three, four, maybe five years before it gives birth to a solution - final or not.

But for all that, there are some who believe restrictions may be in order now that Idaho has seen the first sign that grass-roots, broad-based citizen campaigns are giving way to professional signature gatherers often paid by the purveyors of special interest propositions.

It was one of the first things poll-watchers said when Beau Parent, the promoter of the far-reaching term-limits initiative, announced he had spent as much as $50,000, primarily from out-of-state supporters, to qualify the proposition for the November ballot. No one had ever spent that kind of cash to collect signatures before.

And there has been an active past - at least at trying to get signatures.

In the past three elections, 28 proposed initiatives have been filed, three have made the ballot. One was defeated and the jury is still out on the other two.

This year was a good example. While term limits and the anti-gay initiative made the ballot, Ron Rankin's ballyhooed Son of the One Percent property tax initiative fell several thousand votes short.

Undeterred, Rankin has already filed Grandson of the One Percent for 1996. After the initiative was drubbed by voters in 1992, some people are starting to wonder what part of "no" he doesn't understand.

Failing with Rankin was a limit on the growth of property tax-financed local government budgets, three proposals restricting political campaign contributions, a change in the date property tax notices are sent out, a new deadline for county budget preparation, authority for voters to repeal single items in the county budget, inclusion of farm workers in the workers' compensation system and a second term-limits proposition.

The failure comes with minimal requirements. Initiatives need registered voter signatures equal to 10 percent of the votes cast for governor in the past election. That is much lower than if it was pegged to the vote for president. This year, it was just 32,061 in a state with a voting-age population of more than 800,000.

And unlike other states, there is no requirement that signatures have to come from various parts of the state. The entire 10 percent can be gathered in Ada County, although one property tax group tried that this year and failed miserably.

What seems to make it tough is finding people who have the time to cajole all those people into signing. Most volunteers have lives to live.

But that is just what may turn Idaho's now-stingy initiative system into a highway to the ballot - if the experience of other states is a guide.

In Oregon, where more than 80,000 valid signatures were needed to get an issue on the ballot, voters are facing 15 propositions, maybe 16 if a court agrees. Special interests reportedly spent hundreds of thousand of dollars for a crack at the voters after a judge undermined the ban on paid signature gatherers.

Shortening the period for collecting signatures, as some have suggested, or pegging the signature count to the presidential vote, as others propose, might make it more expensive but not prohibitive.

But if out-of-state interests are willing to pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state economy to have their day at the Idaho polls, it could make more sense letting them than paying 105 legislators each $12,000 a year to make the same decisions.

For the anti-big-government crowd, it might make sense. In the past five elections, petitions put four issues on the ballot. Only one passed - the 1986 lottery initiative - and the courts threw it out.

The Legislature enacted more than 450 laws this past winter.