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Bill would eliminate March and August school elections

Idaho

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Wendy Horman | IdahoEdNews.org

March and August school bond and levy elections would be a thing of the past, under a bill unveiled Monday morning.

The House State Affairs Committee introduced, or printed, a proposal to force school districts to run ballot measures in May or November.

Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, said her goal is to increase voter turnout for school elections. She said she floated the idea with some of her constituents — older voters who want to vote in local elections, but don’t always know when their school district is running an election.

Under current law, school districts can run bond or levy elections on four dates: in March, May, August and November. In recent years, March has been the election date of choice for many school districts — and two larger districts, Nampa and Cassia County, have supplemental levies on the ballot for March 10. But Horman said the obscure March and August election dates allow only a few hundred voters to make multimillion-dollar decisions affecting thousands of property owners.

While Horman discussed her bill with constituents, she didn’t discuss the idea with the Statehouse’s most prominent education lobbying groups: the Idaho Association of School Administrators, the Idaho Education Association and the Idaho School Boards Association. Horman is a former Bonneville School District trustee and board member of ISBA, which represents trustees and charter board members from across the state.

“We’ll put it out in print and get the discussion going,” said Horman, in response to a question from Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise.

Two ISBA lobbyists attended the brief House State Affairs Committee hearing on the election bill, but did not testify. Typically, committees do not take public testimony at introductory or “print” hearings. Once a bill is printed, it is likely to come back to committee for a full public hearing.

House State Affairs introduced the bill on a voice vote, but at least two committee Democrats voted against the proposal.

Co-sponsored by Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, the election date bill is the second piece of legislation this session that could have a profound effect on school elections.

On Thursday, the House passed a bill to require taxing districts to wait at least 11 months before rerunning a failed bond issue. Sponsored by Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, that bill now heads to the Senate, where similar legislation stalled in 2018.

Originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on February 3, 2020

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