The special legislative committee charged with developing specific alternatives to Idaho’s existing three-member commission to govern counties intends to focus on the governing options already used elsewhere, its cochairman says.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” said state Sen. Ralph Wheeler, R-American Falls. “A lot of these things have been done in other states.”
Wheeler’s committee begins hearings next month on governing alternatives to carry out the intent of the 1994 constitutional amendment allowing county voters to adopt optional forms of government.
And the problems of county government are not unknown to Wheeler, who served 12 years on the Power County commission between his first stint in the Legislature in the mid-1970s and his return in 1994.
“I think there’s a great need,” Wheeler said. “It’s just amazing the number of problems that pop up.”
The constitutional amendment, approved by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, also would allow voters to modify, consolidate or eliminate various countywide offices such as treasurers or prosecutors.
Wheeler said one governing option likely to be recommended by the special panel will be the hiring or election of a full-time county manager that he said could provide “some daily oversight of administrative functions attended to, particularly in smaller counties.”
He said the committee also will consider expanding county commissions to five or seven members and consolidating the offices of elected officials.
Other ideas include allowing commissioners to contract with neighboring counties for financial or law enforcement services.
There has even been talk of allowing the commission to be replaced by a board made up of all the other countywide elected officials.
But Wheeler was leery of that approach, fearing it might lead to “an awful lot of back scratching. That one bothers me a bit.”