The state is trying to stop a $170 million K-12 funding initiative in its tracks, attorneys for Reclaim Idaho argued Sunday.
In the latest installment in the fast-moving legal battle, Reclaim Idaho urged a federal appeals court to allow volunteers to begin online signature gathering.
“It is in the public interest to allow Idaho citizens an opportunity to engage in a robust debate on a matter of public importance such as funding for public schools,” Boise attorneys Craig Durham and Deborah Ferguson wrote in a brief submitted Sunday.
As the case proceeds to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, two issues are at play.
The big-picture question surrounds Reclaim Idaho’s First Amendment rights. In June, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said the state violated Reclaim Idaho’s rights by refusing to work with the group on an alternative means of gathering signatures during the coronavirus pandemic. Reclaim Idaho suspended its face-to-face petition drive in March, weeks short of the deadline to qualify its “Invest in Idaho” initiative for the November ballot.
The state’s attorneys contend Reclaim Idaho’s rights were not violated.
But while the Circuit Court considers this issue, there’s an important short-term question: What happens with the initiative in the meantime?
Last week, Winmill ordered the state to provide Reclaim Idaho with a 48-day window to gather electronic signatures, beginning July 9.
The state filed a motion July 1, urging the Circuit Court to put this process on hold pending an appeal, saying Winmill’s order “interferes with the state’s fundamental right to control its election.”
Durham and Ferguson rejected this argument.
“This case is not a broadside to Idaho’s election laws,” they wrote. “It was brought by one grassroots group, pursuing one initiative, seeking temporary accommodation to remedy the violation of its First Amendment rights for this election cycle only.”
The Reclaim Idaho initiative would increase corporate tax rates and income tax rates for Idahoans making more than $250,000. The new taxes, some $170 million a year, would go into a fund for K-12 initiatives — such as increasing teacher pay, hiring additional teachers, offering all-day kindergarten or expanding career-technical education.