Idaho House passes bill limiting repeat bond issues

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Heather Scott

BOISE — The Idaho House passed a bill Thursday to force school districts to wait to run a “repeat” bond issue.

Sponsoring Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, said House Bill 639 would limit “aggressive” taxation tactics from school districts that turn around and run a new bond issue right after voters reject one. HB 639 states, in part, “in the event that a bond election fails to be approved by the electors of the district, no subsequent bond question of the same type or subject shall be submitted to the electors of the same district for a period of 11 months from the date of the election that failed to approve the issuance of bonds.”

“This is a very aggressive tactic, and the voice of the voter appears to be almost ignored,” Scott said. “If it’s the exact same (bonding) question being asked over and over, the intent of this bill is to stop that.”

Idaho law requires school districts to win two-thirds voter support for a bond issue to go into debt for long-term projects, such as construction of new schools. Several districts, including east Idaho’s Bonneville Joint School District, have had to run multiple bonds to reach the supermajority threshold.

The House was divided on the issue, with some representatives saying the bill may do serious harm to districts facing an emergency, such as a collapsed roof, unsafe facilities or a fire.

“It concerns me there is no tie back to emergencies here at all,” said New Plymouth Republican Rep. Ryan Kerby, whose district struggled to pass a bond after a school burned down.

Others said the bill goes against local control.

“I’m concerned we’re losing faith in our elected officials at the local level,” said Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene. “I’m also worrying we’re starting to question the will of voters.”

But supporters said the bill is intended to honor voter will.

“If voters have spoken, maybe the school board needs to listen to that, rework the thing, take a breath, cool off and come up with a better solution — maybe in the next year, not two months later,” said Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg.

The bill passed by a thin 37-32 margin. HB 639 next heads to the Senate, where it could be assigned to the State Affairs Committee.

This article was originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on March 1. It is used here with permission.

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