March 20, 1998 in Nation/World

Legislature Didn’t Ease Bond Supermajority Idaho Still Toughest State To Pass School Bonds, Bill’s Backers Say

Heather Lalley Laura Shireman Contri Staff writer
 

Some call it unjust; others say it’s the only way to protect minority opinions.

Whatever you think of the two-thirds supermajority requirement for passage of school bonds, it likely will be around for a while.

A state House panel killed a bill earlier this month that would have created a constitutional amendment to lower that requirement to 60 percent.

And that has some frustrated in Post Falls - a community where two school bonds narrowly have missed the required supermajority.

“We’re just so sad that happened,” said Bob Templin, community activist and founder of Templin’s Resort in Post Falls. “It’s just very unjust that the 66-2/3 requirement is passed on to our children. We do all the other important things with majority rule.”

The measure would have given school districts the option of holding bond elections on primary and general election dates and then needing only 60 percent to pass. The super-majority still would have applied to bond elections held on other days.

Sen. Gordon Crow, R-Hayden, didn’t have the opportunity to vote on the measure because it died in a House committee. But he said he would have supported lowering the supermajority requirement.

“Under the supermajority, every ‘no’ vote gets two votes,” Crow said.

“It reeks of an antiquated voting system where the few control the majority.”

But Don Morgan, a member of the Kootenai County Property Owners Association, said the constitutional amendment failed for a simple reason: It isn’t necessary.

“Wherever districts have needed to build schools, they’ve built the schools,” he said. “In order for the supermajority to go away, we’d have to have bonds fail time and again that were absolutely sensible and necessary. That’s not the record in Idaho. Sensible and necessary bonds pass.”

He called the proposed $21 million Post Falls bond excessive and said the school district needs to learn how to pinch its pennies.

Idaho is the only state to require a two-thirds vote for bonds and also force local taxpayers to foot the entire bill for school construction.

In Washington, only 60 percent of the voters must support a bond. But turnout must equal at least 40 percent of the number who voted in the most recent general election.

Post Falls held two school bond elections in 1996, with more than 62 percent of the voters supporting the bond each time.

“If this district were sitting across the border, we’d have a school built right now or we’d be opening this year,” Post Falls Superintendent Dick Harris said.

In October, Silver Valley voters approved a $6.6 million bond for the Kellogg School District by 73.5 percent. District officials say construction will begin on an elementary school in May.

In Boundary County, the Bonners Ferry School District will hold an election Tuesday for a $980,000 bond to be spread over two years.

Sens. John Hansen, R-Idaho Falls, and Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, are sponsoring a bill that calls for a committee to come up with a new supermajority rollback plan for the next legislative session to consider.

Earlier this month, the Senate approved a constitutional amendment to put the state’s guarantee behind local school bonds. Backers estimate that Idaho school districts could save $40 million on interest over the next two decades if the state’s outstanding Triple-A bond rating were passed on to schools.

Despite the previous school bond failures, Post Falls Mayor Gus Johnson said the supermajority won’t stop the bond from passing this time.

“Everybody knows it’s due,” Johnson said. “There’s no reason for the citizens not to pass this bond issue.”

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Heather Lalley Staff writer

Staff writer Laura Shireman contributed to this report.


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