Statehouse roundup, 2.9.17: Electioneering, and school elections

Rep. Jason Monks doesn’t want school districts and other government agencies campaigning for ballot measures on the taxpayers’ dime.

The House State Affairs Committee sided with the Nampa Republican — at least Thursday. The committee voted unanimously to introduce his bill, which he called the “Government Non-Interference in Elections Act.”

The bill would prohibit governments from using public dollars to affect elections on ballot measures.

Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, quizzed Monks during Thursday’s brief initial hearing. Smith worked for 25 years at the Pocatello School District, and said administrators went to great lengths to avoid advocating for bond issues or levies.

Monks didn’t dispute her point. “That is probably the case in the vast majority of situations.”

However, Monks said he has heard anecdotal evidence of election “improprieties,” and pledged to discuss details at a full committee hearing.

House State Affairs’ vote sets the stage for such a hearing, at a later date.

Reducing the ‘supermajority’

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding wants to make it a little bit easier for local governments to pass a bond issue.

Erpelding, D-Boise, has drafted a constitutional amendment that would roll back the two-thirds supermajority threshold to pass a bond issue. The amendment would reset the bar at 60 percent.

No state has a higher threshold to pass a bond issue than Idaho.

The school bond supermajority has long been a point of contention. The Idaho School Boards Association’s membership supports reducing the supermajority, and has for about a decade.

The House Local Government Committee voted to introduce Erpelding’s amendment Wednesday. But from here, it faces a long and arduous process.

Even if the amendment gets out of committee, it faces its own supermajority obstacle. Proposed constitutional amendments must pass the House and the Senate with two-thirds support. Then voters must ratify an amendment, with a simple majority vote.

Student data bill passes Senate

Without debate or dissent, the Senate passed a bill that addresses student data security.

By and large, Senate Bill 1033 makes technical corrections to existing data security law. But the bill contains one substantive change. SB 1033 would clamp down on multiple public records requests that, when taken together, would divulge data that identify individual students.

The State Board of Education is pushing for the bill. State Board spokesman Blake Youde says the bill is not a response to any problems in Idaho, but a response to records issues that have arisen in other states.

With the Senate’s 34-0 vote, this bill goes to the House.



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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