State takes its case against Reclaim Idaho to appeals court

The state’s attorneys went to a federal appeals court Wednesday seeking to derail Reclaim Idaho’s $170 million K-12 funding initiative.

The latest — and nearly daily — development in the case came one day after U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ordered the state to allow Reclaim Idaho to gather electronic signatures, in a bid to get its “Invest in Idaho” initiative on the November ballot.

The state says there isn’t enough time to allow Reclaim Idaho to gather electronic signatures — a method that isn’t even allowed under state election laws. A 48-day signature-gathering period would place an undue burden on state and county officials planning for August and November elections “during a once-in-a-century pandemic,” deputy attorney general Robert Berry wrote.

“The district court order severely and unquestionably disrupts Idaho’s election,” Berry wrote in a motion filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals late Wednesday afternoon.

The state’s paperwork isn’t a full-blown appeal of Winmill’s orders. Instead, it’s a request that the Circuit Court put Winmill’s Tuesday order on hold pending an appeal. And in his motion, Berry said Idaho will go to the U.S. Supreme Court if the Circuit Court doesn’t grant the state’s motion.

Reclaim Idaho’s initiative would increase corporate tax rates and income tax rates for Idahoans making more than $250,000, raising some $170 million a year. The new taxes would go into a K-12 fund — which could go toward teacher pay raises, hiring additional teachers, offering all-day kindergarten or expanding career-technical education.

Reclaim Idaho suspended its face-to-face signature drive in March, days after Idaho reported its first coronavirus case. Group leaders say they wanted to continue pursuing its effort, but Gov. Brad Little and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney refused to work with them on an alternative to face-to-face petitioning. Winmill last week said the state’s inaction violated Reclaim Idaho’s First Amendment rights.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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