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Every parent knows why the bond election rerun bill is good policy

Wayne Hoffman

Every parent knows why the bond election rerun bill is good policy

Children are usually great, but occasionally they’re horribly annoying.

Every parent has been here: You’ve just given your child a sweet treat. He gobbles it down, licks his lips, and sticks out his hand. He wants another. He asks again and again and again.

He ends up in his room without a treat.

Idaho lawmakers, thankfully, recognize the wisdom of putting kids — or in this case, local governments — in their respective rooms without a sweet treat.

Rep. Heather Scott, a Republican from North Idaho, is shepherding House Bill 347, a measure that would limit how often school boards and other taxing districts can rerun bonds that fail at the ballot box. Right now, local tax districts can put a bond before voters in March and again in May. And again in August. And November.

In the Magic Valley, the Minidoka School District put before voters a $21 million bond in March 2019. The bond proposal failed. The district turned around and put it in the May 2019 ballot.

That measure failed, too. Some speculated that the district opted against a third try because the second attempt received even less support than the first.

Filer School District pulled the same stunt last year, putting an $8 million bond before voters in March. When that measure failed, the district put it on the ballot again in September.

The Kellogg School District has followed suit and has rerun at least one failed bond.

The politicians and bureaucrats are begging. They have their hands out in hopes voters will hand them a popsicle, an ice cream cone, or a candy bar. The adults in the room must say “no.”

Scott’s legislation would force local taxing districts to wait a full 11 months before putting a failed bond back before voters. To its credit, the measure would allow local officials to put forth a bond measure in response to actual emergencies, such as those caused by fire or flood.

And no, fake political emergencies cooked up by sneaky local officials wouldn’t allow districts to bypass Scott’s bill.

This idea isn’t new. Several states have adopted such measures. Indiana and Kansas, for example, force districts to wait a year before rerunning a bond. Florida imposes a six-month waiting period. Virginia, an outlier, makes districts wait a full four years before rerunning a failed bond.

There’s supreme wisdom in House Bill 347. It would save taxpayers money, as constant bond rerun elections that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a year would come to an end.

Plus, the measure would restore, at least somewhat, the balance of power in Idaho. Too many people have come to believe that government’s needs outweigh individuals’ needs. That’s not true and never has been. This measure would help level the scales in favor of taxpayers and remind government officials that they work for Idahoans, not the other way around.

It remains to be seen if the measure will leave the legislative chambers unscathed. Senators have generally given taxing districts — particularly school districts — longer leashes than have House members. Plus, Gov. Brad Little said Friday that he can see both sides of the argument and he hasn’t formed a final opinion on the bill.

Just before the House passed the measure this week, Rep. Julianne Young shared her favorable testimony, which gave me the foundation for this column. Said Young: “I’m a parent. When my kids ask me the same question over, and over and over again, I get parent fatigue. Voters feel the same thing.”

She’s exactly right. Let’s hope senators and Little clamp down on bond reruns and protect taxpayers from aggressive taxing districts that don’t respect the will of voters.

Wayne Hoffman

Wayne Hoffman

Wayne Hoffman is the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a non-partisan educational research institute and government watchdog.

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