There was a time when then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne told a joint session of the Legislature, in his State of the State speech, that he wanted them to pass a constitutional amendment to lower the two-thirds supermajority now required to pass a school construction bond - and he wanted them to do it unanimously. It went nowhere. Now, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna is taking on the issue, and told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News that it'll be the first piece of legislation he'll propose next year - to lower the supermajority from two-thirds to 60 percent. Lawmakers already passed legislation this year to limit school bond elections to just four dates per year, as part of sweeping election consolidation legislation, rather than letting them be scheduled on any date. Constitutional amendments need two-thirds approval in each house of the Legislature, plus majority approval from voters at the next general election to pass. Click below to read the full report from the AP.
Luna to propose school facilities bond bill
MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna wants to eliminate a constitutional mandate requiring school districts to secure a two-thirds majority of voters in bond elections to raise money for facilities.
Luna says the first piece of legislation he will introduce during the next legislative session would lower the majority requirement from 66 percent of voters to 60 percent. School districts could previously choose any date for a levy or bond election. Lawmakers changed that in the 2009 Legislature, limiting districts to four dates a year beginning in 2011.
Idaho Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, said he had previously introduced legislation to amend the state constitution and lower the majority requirement, but there has never been enough support among lawmakers.
Education officials acknowledge they face an uphill battle, but say it's a necessary step to fund school facilities.
"For 20 years we've been trying to get something done," Genesee Superintendent Dave Neumann told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. "We know the process doesn't work, and certainly the supermajority is the biggest impediment."
The consolidation means, theoretically, that voters will turn out in greater numbers, allowing more of the voting population to be represented.
"I really don't see this as being a real contentious type of debate, but it will be a healthy debate," Luna said. "... Because we have a larger sampling of the electorate I think it's fair then to ask to have the supermajority lowered."
First Luna will have to get the bill past a supermajority of the Legislature — in an election year. If the Legislature signs off, the measure would go to the voters.
School funding elections take many forms, from levies that put the funding burden on property owners to bonds that authorize districts to borrow or bond the money needed to pay for a capital improvement project. The debts are then paid off over a period of years by taxes collected from district patrons.
Levies can be approved by simple majorities, but bonds — which incur debt to the district — require approval from at least two-thirds of voters.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.