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Emergency clause bills clear House over bipartisan opposition

Two bills to tack emergency clauses onto the already-signed school reform bills, SB 1108 on teacher contracts and SB 1110 on teacher merit pay, have passed the House and now head to the Senate. The first, HB 335, passed on a 58-10 vote with no debate. On the second, HB 336, Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, asked the sponsor, Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, about the reason for the emergency clause. Nonini said it's to keep a stay from being issued to block the bill from taking effect if a referendum aimed at overturning it qualifies for the 2012 ballot, and said that would restore the “balance of power.”

Rusche said, “I think it's interesting that by restricting the public's ability to effect through referendum it restores the balance of power. We've had significant, significant adverse testimony, both sides of the Capitol, here on these education bills, and I think it's reprehensible to try and stifle the voice of the people through referendum in this way.” Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, added, “I don't think there's an emergency. If the emergency is that we're not going to let the usual referendum process take its course, then apparently any time that there is a desire to inhibit the ability of the people to overturn legislation that this body passes, there is an emergency. I don't think that's what emergency clauses are intended for. … It's inconsistent with our Constitution and statutes.”

Nonini said, “People get a chance to overturn it in 2012, but until then this legislation gets a chance to move forward.” He noted, “There's precedent for doing this,” in that a 1986 Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the Right to Work law wasn't stayed in advance of a referendum vote because it contained an emergency clause. HB 336 then passed the House on a 47-22 vote, with nine Republicans joining the 13 House Democrats in opposing it, including Majority Leader Mike Moyle, State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, Health & Welfare Chairwoman Janice McGeachin, Transportation Chairman Leon Smith and Appropriations Vice-Chairman Darrell Bolz. Also voting no were GOP Reps. Rich Wills, Lynn Luker and Julie Ellsworth.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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