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Measures weigh on Idaho

U.S. Congress

1st Congressional District

In the contest for North Idaho’s congressional seat this year, one-term incumbent GOP Rep. Raul Labrador faces a challenge from first-time candidate and Democratic challenger Jimmy Farris, a former NFL football player and Lewiston native.

Also in the race are Libertarian candidate Rob Oates, of Caldwell, and Pro-Life, an independent candidate formerly known as Marvin Richardson.

Labrador, a former state lawmaker and attorney, has made a name for himself in his first term as a tea party favorite and hard-line conservative; he’s frequently appeared on national TV, and has been prominent in helping GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney court Hispanic votes around the country. But this is a congressional seat whose last two occupants each served just one term: Former Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick, and former GOP Rep. Bill Sali.

Representatives serve two-year terms; their salary is $174,000 a year, plus health care benefits.

RAUL LABRADOR, 43, Republican from the Boise suburb of Eagle; incumbent congressman.

Key promises: Opposes “any and all efforts to increase taxes.” Wants to repeal health care reform law and replace it with “patient-centered, free-market-driven reforms.” Opposes abortion rights; co-sponsored legislation declaring that life begins at conception with full constitutional rights. Wants to reduce regulation and downsize government.

Notable: Two-term state representative; immigration attorney; law degree, University of Washington; bachelor’s degree, Brigham Young University. Born in Puerto Rico. Beat a better-funded candidate, Iraq veteran Vaughn Ward, in the GOP primary in 2010; faced only token opposition in this year’s primary. First member of Congress to call for resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder over the “Fast and Furious” gun scandal.

JIMMY FARRIS, 34, Democrat from Lewiston; retired NFL football player, former sports broadcaster.

Key promises: Pledges an approach of teamwork, compromise and collaboration. Wants to invest in education to spur creation of more good-paying jobs. Supports the Simpson-Bowles Commission’s recommendations for deficit reduction, including both cuts and revenue increases, because “it’s a bipartisan solution where members of both sides were brought to the table.” Opposes additional restrictions on abortion rights; says decisions should be left to women, not government.

Notable: Football standout at Lewiston High, while also named MVP in basketball as a senior; star football player for University of Montana, where he earned degree in marketing and management. Signed by San Francisco 49ers in 2001 as undrafted free agent. Played for New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins; donated nearly a quarter of his income to charity during peak of NFL career. Worked two years in sports broadcasting after retiring from NFL.

Also on the ballot

Rob Oates, 56, airport manager and two-term Caldwell City Council member; Pro-Life, 71, organic farmer and anti-abortion activist.

State Legislature

Each legislative district includes one seat in the state Senate and two seats in the state House. All positions come with two-year terms. Idaho legislators are paid $16,116 per year, plus $122 per day for legislators who establish a second residence in Boise, and $49 per day if no second residence is established.

2nd Legislative District

This district covers northern Kootenai County and includes a mix of rural lands and fast-growing communities such as Hayden.

• Senate: State Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, is seeking a second term, after knocking off three-term Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, two years ago. Vick is a close ally of controversial Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, but Hart’s not running this time; he lost in the primary. Vick turned back a comeback attempt from Jorgenson in the May primary and now faces Democratic challenger Shirley McFaddan in the November election.

STEVE VICK, 56, Republican from Dalton Gardens; incumbent state senator, home renovation company owner.

Key promises: “My main focus is to keep government limited and efficient.” Plans to try again with his failed legislation from this year to amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds vote for any tax or fee increase or removing any tax break.

Notable: Served four terms in Montana state House. Worked for 2  1/2 years for the Montana Public Service Commission. Bachelor’s degree in engineering.

SHIRLEY McFADDAN, 58, Democrat from Athol area; retired from Verizon after 29 years.

Key promises: Wants higher standards for education, support for small businesses, and for people to feel they have a voice in state government. Supports reviewing existing tax exemptions. “I would hope that if we can get the government more balanced in the state Capitol, that people will start talking to one another and stop just pushing a party agenda or a personal agenda.”

Notable: Former teacher; worked on family farm in Southern Idaho for three years; born in Grangeville. Started with Verizon in Moscow when it was General Telephone, working as a telephone operator. First run for office.

House position A: Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, has made a name for himself in his first House term as a leading advocate of state nullification of federal laws, an opponent of most government regulation and an ally of tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, who recruited him to run.

As he seeks a second term, he’s facing a challenge from Democrat Cheryl Stransky, a retired longtime school counselor and first-time candidate who’s been involved in the community, from 4-H to youth soccer, for 35 years.

But it’s a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since 1994; none has even run in the past decade.

VITO BARBIERI, 60, Republican from Dalton Gardens; incumbent state representative; small business owner.

Key promises: “Remain true to the conservative ideology, and that is to somehow shrink government … shrink the regulations that are stifling businesses.” Wants to deregulate driver training businesses in Idaho; and to look into a way to charge the federal government for destruction of Idaho wildlife by wolves. Backs tax credits for private schools; supports “Students Come First” school reform laws.

Notable: Unsuccessfully pushed legislation to “nullify” federal health care reform law. Chairman of the board, Open Arms Pregnancy Care Center and Real Choices Clinic, Coeur d’Alene. Practiced law in California for 20 years.

CHERYL STRANSKY, declined to give age, Democrat from Dalton Gardens; retired school counselor.

Key promises: “I sense that people are ready for a reasoned representative.” Wants to focus on education quality and tax fairness. Opposes “Students Come First” school reform laws; supports expansion of Medicaid. “State mandates that single out women with respect to their medical procedures and decisions are an unacceptable intrusion into the lives of private citizens.”

Notable: Holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology. Counselor at Coeur d’Alene High School for 23 years; then at Woodland Middle School until 2010 retirement. Served as president of the North Idaho Counseling Association.

House position B: This is the legislative seat that was held for the last four terms by Rep. Phil Hart, but Hart was defeated in the primary by GOP challenger Ed Morse. Now the contest for this seat is between Morse, a longtime area businessman, and Dan English, a longtime area nonprofit head and local elected official who for years was the only elected Democrat in Kootenai County government.

DAN ENGLISH, 61, Democrat from Twin Lakes; resident manager, Twin Lakes Friends Camp.

Key promises: Favors Medicaid expansion because “it makes fiscal sense and … it’s the morally right thing to do.” Wants party precinct officials removed from public primary election ballot to save county taxpayers money. Opposes closed primaries because “right now all of the taxpayers are paying for the elections, and they are very expensive, and yet so many of them are closed out of the process.”

Notable: Served as elected Kootenai County clerk, Coeur d’Alene city councilman, and on Coeur d’Alene school board. Served as national standards board chair, U.S. Election Commission, and president, Idaho county clerks association. Former juvenile detective, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department. Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Founded Anchor House home for troubled teens and North Idaho Youth for Christ. Licensed professional counselor. Former Lewis-Clark State College adjunct faculty in justice studies and social work.

ED MORSE, 62, Republican from Hayden; real estate appraiser and consultant.

Key promises: Create jobs through economic development. “Protect property rights, reduce regulatory burdens, and create an environment to attract new business.” He also wants “more ethics oversight for legislators,” saying, “The current House rules lack adequate disclosures and prevent complaints by average citizens.”

Notable: Thirty-nine years in the real estate appraisal business in Hayden; MBA, University of Idaho; law degree, Gonzaga University; board member, Kootenai County Reagan Republicans; past board member, Coeur d’Alene Library Foundation; member, Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. Served on state and national professional boards.

3rd Legislative District

This district encompasses much of western Kootenai County.

• Senate: Longtime Republican state Rep. Bob Nonini is running for the Senate, but his actions in the primary – pouring thousands into the campaigns of unsuccessful challengers to several sitting GOP lawmakers, including three senators – could make him an unpopular arrival there.

“I’m getting back-door support from moderate Republicans,” said his Democratic challenger, Kristy Reed Johnson. “Mr. Nonini has left the center of the party.” Nonini acknowledges he’s got some “bridge-building to do.”

KRISTY REED JOHNSON, 65, Democrat from Post Falls; works in corporate payment solutions at U.S. Bank.

Key promises: Bring more balance to Legislature; “There’s no compromise, there’s no discussion, there’s no governing, just bullying – that’s not healthy for democracy.” Opposes school reform laws, says they’re “designed to do two things: Destroy organized labor and to privatize education.” Wants improvements to state’s infrastructure, including broadband Internet expansion into rural areas.

Notable: Worked 31 years as flight service manager and flight attendant for TWA, flying internationally. Co-owned Accent Interiors in Spokane, 1997-1999. Active with Community Volunteers, Post Falls Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters, and other groups; homeowners association president, 1997-2011. Flew Cambodian airlifts in 1972-’73, bringing refugees to the United States on military air charters.

BOB NONINI, 58, Republican from Coeur d’Alene; state legislator, insurance/annuities broker.

Key promises: Backs eliminating Idaho’s corporate income tax by phasing it out over three years. Supports eliminating personal property tax on business equipment, but opposes state making up lost revenue to counties. Wants to see school reforms through and make state’s tax structure more business-friendly.

Notable: Fourth-term state representative; three terms as House Education chairman; lead House sponsor of “Students Come First” school reforms. Also sponsored STAR financing bill for Post Falls freeway interchange, aquifer protection legislation and bill to increase number of charter schools. Kootenai County GOP chairman, 1998-2004. Past president, Coeur d’Alene Rotary, Spokane River Association, Idaho Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers. Founding member, North Idaho Pachyderm Club. Wallace native.

House position A: This seat, formerly held by four-term GOP Rep. Bob Nonini, is up for grabs this year, and there’s a stark contrast between the two candidates vying for it.

Republican Ron Mendive says, “I think the time has come for states to stand up for states’ rights.” Mendive sees “a plan to lock people out of the woods and lock the resources in” in local Forest Service land management planning, among other threats.

Democratic candidate David Larsen calls himself a “radical moderate,” and makes education and compromise his top issues. “While good ideas come from both sides of the aisle, we need to recognize that the middle connects the two sides,” he said.

DAVID LARSEN, 72, Democrat from Coeur d’Alene; retired high school math teacher and coach, adjunct math instructor at North Idaho College.

Key promises: Wants to “fight to keep public education well-funded and working well,” and to review existing sales tax exemptions to see which have outlived their need. Wants to work toward more civility and compromise.

Notable: Fourth run for the Legislature. Bachelor’s degree in math education, master’s in educational administration. Teacher and coach for 30 years. NIC instructor since 2002. Volunteer for Art on the Green, other community events; was active with Panhandle Coalition. Avid skier and golfer.

RON MENDIVE, 62, Republican from Coeur d’Alene; self-employed, excavation and construction business.

Key promises: “My main things are to try to preserve liberty.” Favors pushing back against federal government on Forest Service land management plans, EPA regulation, wolves and health care reform. Favors more school choice: “Be it public, charter, private or home school, it is a parent’s decision.”

Notable: Kootenai County GOP precinct committeeman for two years; chairman of elections subcommittee. Has worked in mining, logging and construction. Avid sportsman.

House position B: Incumbent Republican state Rep. Frank Henderson’s bid for a fifth term is being challenged by Democrat Ronald K. Johnson, a retired airline pilot and first-time candidate who says it’s “not good for the state to have just the one-party government.”

Henderson also is a former Kootenai County commissioner, former Post Falls mayor and retired newspaper publisher. “I’m an experienced legislator, I’m experienced in local government, and I’m experienced in budgeting,” Henderson said.

Johnson says he wants to provide voters a choice. He’s also part of a rare husband-wife ticket in District 3; his wife, Kristy, is the Democratic candidate for the district’s Senate seat.

FRANK HENDERSON, 89, Republican from Post Falls; incumbent state lawmaker, retired marketing executive and newspaper publisher.

Key promises: Continue his emphasis on economic development. Supports legislation to promote a competitive marketplace for health insurance; backs phase-out of the personal property tax on business equipment. Will work toward Idaho taking primacy on wastewater permitting, giving the state Department of Environmental Quality the lead role, rather than the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Notable: Serving fourth two-year term in House. Former Kootenai County commissioner, 1983-’91; former mayor of Post Falls, 1980-’83; World War II veteran, U.S. Army; consultant on public administration and economic development in eastern Europe, 1993-2003; former member of legislative joint budget committee; current vice-chair of House Business Committee.

RONALD K. JOHNSON, 76, Democrat from Coeur d’Alene; retired commercial airline and military pilot.

Key promises: “I’d take on the lobbyists – I think they destroy our system.” Will take no campaign contributions to avoid “owing anybody anything.” Opposes allowing for-profit firms to influence education policy; favors school improvements. “I think Idaho’s in danger of becoming a Third World country with education.”

Notable: First run for office. Degree in aeronautical engineering; 30 years flying commercially for TWA; 10 years flying Air Force fighter aircraft. Former court-appointed special advocate for children through CASA program. Active Democrat and community volunteer.

4th Legislative District

This district encompasses much of eastern Kootenai County.

• Senate: Idaho’s controversial “Students Come First” school reform laws are closely associated with incumbent Republican state Sen. John Goedde, the Senate education chairman and the laws’ lead legislative sponsor.

Goedde, who is seeking a seventh term in the Senate, says he’d like to see those reforms through, including some “tweaking,” and help the state capitalize on them.

Goedde faces two challengers this year, Democrat and first-time candidate Warren Ducote Jr., a retired teacher and military veteran who opposes the reforms; and Jeremy Boggess, an independent who’s challenged Goedde unsuccessfully three times before.

Ducote calls Goedde “a great example of reasons that we might consider term limits in the future.”

JOHN GOEDDE, 63, Republican from Coeur d’Alene; incumbent state lawmaker, insurance broker.

Key promises: Wants to see through education reforms he sponsored. Through his seat on IGEM council, wants to work to turn university research into employment opportunities for Idahoans. Working on legislation to make some changes in workers’ compensation that will “make Idaho a better state for business.”

Notable: Serving sixth term in Senate; chairs the Education Committee. Former school board member. Past president, Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. Eight years on steering committee for education at National Conference of State Legislatures, the last two as co-chair.

WARREN DUCOTE JR., 64, Democrat from Coeur d’Alene; military retiree, retired teacher.

Key promises: Wants to strengthen economy by working for jobs with “livable wages,” saying economy can only grow “if people have the money, the income to be able to buy things.” Wants more teacher and parent input into education reforms. Favors creating an independent ethics commission; opposes prison privatization; supports veterans programs.

Notable: First run for office. Worked in education for 33 years, including 11 years in student services at North Idaho College after middle-school teaching career. Retired from Washington Air National Guard with rank of major in 1996 after 11 years in active reserve and four years active duty.

JEREMY BOGGESS, 41, independent from Coeur d’Alene; provides in-home care for people who are elderly or disabled.

Key promises: Wants to work to expand manufacturing in North Idaho. Supports expansion of renewable energy development.

Notable: Fourth run against Goedde as an independent. Bachelor’s degree in business from Lewis-Clark State College Coeur d’Alene center. Buys used items at auctions and elsewhere and sells them online, as in the TV show “Storage Wars.”

House position A: Three candidates are vying for this House seat, which became open after four-term GOP Rep. Marge Chadderdon announced her retirement.

Luke Malek is an up-and-coming Republican whom Chadderdon endorsed; he won a two-way GOP primary with 65 percent of the vote, but his GOP opponent did little campaigning. Janet Callen, the Democratic candidate, says she was motivated to run by this year’s legislative session. “I did not like their actions against women,” she said.

Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz is making his third run for the Legislature.

LUKE MALEK, 30, Republican from Coeur d’Alene; business consultant for community health centers, with Community Link Consulting.

Key promises: “Every decision I make, I’m going to run through my philosophical lens of … should government be involved in this, or is this better left to individuals?” Says jobs will be his main focus. Supports “Students Come First” school reforms.

Notable: Former Kootenai County deputy prosecutor; former communications director, Dirne Community Health Center; North Idaho regional director for then-Gov. Jim Risch; former executive director, Post Falls Urban Renewal Agency. Helped found the Kootenai County Young Professionals in 2007.

JANET CALLEN, declined to give age but said she’s “over 65,” Democrat from Coeur d’Alene; retired certified public accountant.

Key promises: “I haven’t promised anything, except that I will listen to people.” Favors investing in infrastructure to create jobs, instead of granting tax breaks to the wealthy like this year’s $35 million tax cut for top earners. Opposes school reform laws, saying money for laptops and online learning goes out of state. Opposes legislative intrusions on women’s rights.

Notable: Worked her way through college at age 50 to become a CPA, after raising three children. Owned H&R Block franchise in Grangeville. Worked as an IRS revenue agent for 15 years. Forty-two-year Idaho resident, including 19 years in Coeur d’Alene. Active member of Coeur d’Alene Audubon Society. First-time candidate.

RAY WRITZ, 61, Coeur d’Alene; driver/dispatcher for contractor at BNSF depot; also operates janitorial business.

Key promises: Supports school reform laws; supports tax breaks for those who home-school or use private rather than public schools. Wants to eliminate property and state income taxes and replace with a sales tax, while reducing both regulation and spending. Promises to “tell the federal government to go take a hike.”

Notable: Has worked in a variety of jobs, from construction to selling cellphones; has some business and electronics training. Does his own taxes for janitorial business of 25 years, and says, “I read the tax laws – that’s why we need new tax laws.” Born-again Christian. Says with his longtime involvement in janitorial business, “I’m used to cleaning up other people’s messes.”

House position B: Idaho state Rep. Kathy Sims, a local car dealer and former county GOP chair, was a high-profile advocate of this year’s failed Coeur d’Alene City Council recall attempt and has been a leading critic of the state’s urban renewal laws and of the local redevelopment agency.

As she seeks a second term in the House this year, she’s being challenged by Anne Nesse, a Democrat and first-time candidate who’s a retired teacher and nurse, and who promises a more “positive” approach.

KATHY SIMS, 70, Republican from Coeur d’Alene; auto and motorcycle dealer, Coeur d’Alene Honda.

Key promises: Keep government efficient and tax-friendly for businesses. Review land-use planning laws to ensure private property rights aren’t eroded. Support school reforms. Make sure “Idaho sticks to a budget.”

Notable: Incumbent; also served one term in the House after being appointed in 2001. Served on Idaho Human Rights Commission; National Auto Dealers Board of Directors; was Kootenai County GOP chair for eight years. In business for 44 years. Former 4-H motorcycle instructor; still rides a scooter.

ANNE NESSE, declined to give age, Democrat from Coeur d’Alene; retired nurse, teacher and small business owner.

Key promises: Supports health care system changes in which physicians would be paid to keep people well. Favors a “fairer tax code”; opposes this year’s $35 million tax cut for corporations and top earners. Backs increased school funding. “You kind of get what you pay for.”

Notable: Degrees in nursing and psychology. Eighteen years in Coeur d’Alene. Worked eight years as a nurse before returning to school to study education. Married to an active family practice doctor, which she said helps her be informed about current health care issues. Recently learned grandmother was first female law grad at University of California Berkeley and opened practice in 1915.

Kootenai County Sheriff

Voters in Kootenai County will elect their first new sheriff in 13 years with the retirement of Sheriff Rocky Watson. Four candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot are vying for the job of the county’s top law enforcement officer. The sheriff serves a four-year term. The salary is $84,873, not including benefits. Jail overcrowding, retention of deputies and the department budget are top issues in the race.

JOE BODMAN, 54, independent; Spokane County sheriff’s deputy.

Key promises: Won’t turn to taxpayers to solve jail crowding. Will work to stop turnover within the department. Will work with county commissioner to solve budget problems.

Notable: 27 years in law enforcement, including 12 years with Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department. Post Falls City Council, 1998-2009; helped build new police headquarters and City Hall in Post Falls without raising taxes.

TOM DICKSON, 77, independent; rancher.

Key promises: “The sheriff’s department is fragmented, bifurcated and in a state of disarray. The ‘good ol’ boy’ system prevails.” Will build bridge between sheriff’s office and the public.

Notable: 35 years in law enforcement and teaching; former Kootenai County Jail commander; held various positions with Los Angeles Police Department.

BOB FOSTER, 66, independent; code enforcement officer, Coeur d’Alene Police Department.

Key promises: Eliminate waste in budget, especially relating to use of staff. Improve performance appraisal process and clarify employee purpose and expectations. Redefine the department’s mission, values and ethics to regain and improve community confidence.

Notable: 40 years in law enforcement and public safety administration, including 17 years as police chief at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., and in Willits, Calif. Law enforcement ethics instructor; FBI National Academy Graduate.

BENTON E. “BEN” WOLFINGER, 51, Republican; Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department major.

Key promises: Look at unique ways to provide adequate and compliant jail space, such as private jails; address root causes for offenders to reduce recidivism. Be competitive in the job market and work with commissioners to set priorities for levels of required and optional service. Use education and community partnerships to suppress property crime.

Notable: Has worked in, supervised or managed every aspect of the Sheriff’s Department over 29 years. Coeur d’Alene City Council, 2000-2005. Distinguished Citizen of the Year, 2005.

NIC Board of Trustees

The chairman and vice chairman of the North Idaho College board of trustees face challengers in the Nov. 6 general election, while six candidates are vying for an open seat on the community college’s governing board.

Chairman Michael “Mic” Armon, of Coeur d’Alene, is seeking a third term in Position B. He is challenged by Todd Banducci, of Coeur d’Alene.

Vice chair Judy Meyer, of Hayden, is seeking a fourth term in Position A. Paul Matthews, of Rathdrum, is running against her.

Trustee Ron Vieselmeyer chose not to run again for Position C. That prompted six candidates to file for the open seat. They are Dean Haagenson, of Hayden; Fritz Wiedenhoff, of Rathdrum; Vickie Ambrosetti, of Post Falls; and Ron Nilson, James “Jim” Ruch and Gary Coffman, all of Coeur d’Alene.

The five members of the NIC board are elected at large from within Kootenai County for four-year terms. The board determines the broad general policies that govern the operation of the college district; appoint the college president; and approve annual budgets.

Ballot measures

School reform

Whether to repeal Idaho’s controversial new school reform laws is the hottest election issue in the state this year, with three referendums on the ballot.

A “yes” vote on Propositions 1, 2 and 3 would keep the “Students Come First” laws proposed by state schools Superintendent Tom Luna in place; a “no” vote would repeal them.

Here’s what the three measures do:

Proposition 1: This rolls back most collective bargaining rights for teachers; caps labor contracts at one-year terms; limits contract negotiations to salary and benefits only; requires those negotiations to be conducted in open meetings; and prohibits considering seniority when laying off teachers. It also eliminates an early retirement incentive program for teachers; requires parent input and student achievement to be factored into teacher evaluations; and eliminates the “99 percent” funding protection that school districts previously had when they lost large numbers of students from one year to the next, which previously held their state funding at 99 percent of the previous year’s to avoid sudden cutbacks including teacher layoffs. Requires information on liability insurance providers to be distributed to all teachers; in the past, many teachers have purchased such insurance through teachers unions.

Proposition 2: This sets up a new merit-pay bonus program for teachers. Initially, teachers could get bonuses if they teach in a school in which student test scores rise and if student achievement improves by other school district-selected measures. Later, they also could get bonuses for taking on leadership roles or working in hard-to-fill positions. This measure doesn’t fund the bonuses, however; the funding is contained in Proposition 3.

Proposition 3: Rewrites Idaho’s school funding formulas to direct funds within the public school budget to the reform programs, including merit-pay bonuses, a new program to provide technology boosts including a laptop computer for every Idaho high school student and teacher, and a new focus on online learning.

Redirects a portion of existing state funding for schools to online course providers. Reduces state funding for Idaho Digital Learning Academy, a state-operated online course provider, with the idea that it could tap into the same formula as other providers if students choose its classes.

Directs state Board of Education to determine the number of online classes to be required for high school graduation. Funds dual-credit courses, for both college and high school credit, for students completing high school graduation requirements before their senior year. Shifts $14.8 million a year from teacher salary funds to help pay for the new programs. Directs funds within the school budget to math and science boosts to meet a new graduation requirement. Permits public colleges to run charter high schools.

Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Idaho voters will be asked to decide on Nov. 6 whether to amend the state’s constitution to guarantee a right to hunt, fish and trap – a measure that led to tortured debates during this year’s legislative session as five previous versions of the amendment failed, before HJR 2aa finally passed both houses by two-thirds votes.

Few lawmakers objected to guaranteeing rights to hunt and fish; 13 states have done that, all but one of them in the last 15 years (though only five added in trapping). But the details of the wording in the amendment provoked big concerns about inadvertently limiting Fish and Game hunting and fishing regulations; affecting water rights or private property rights; or possibly even opening the door to allowing future lawmakers to ban the very rights the amendment sought to protect.

Five separate versions of the measure failed before the sixth finally passed.

A second proposed constitutional amendment, SJR 102, also is before Idaho voters; it adds one word, “felony,” to the section on management of adult probation in the state, to reflect current practice and clarify that counties manage misdemeanor probation, while the state Corrections Department handles felony cases. Each amendment needs a majority vote to take effect.

Kootenai County government

Kootenai County voters this fall are being asked if they want to make a big change in the structure of county government.

Under the proposed county commissioner- manager form of government, voters no longer would elect the county assessor, clerk, treasurer and coroner. Instead, those positions would be appointed by and report to a county manager, a new position.

The county manager would assume the administrative duties of the three commissioners, who would focus on setting policy and adopting ordinances. The commissioners would continue to be elected, as would the sheriff and prosecutor.

Two commissioners, Dan Green and Todd Tondee, voted to refer the measure to the Nov. 6 ballot.

Proponents of the change say it will streamline county government. The assessor, clerk, treasurer and coroner, each elected to four-year terms, “are rarely opposed and are almost never removed from office,” states a mailer sent to voters from a group supporting the measure. “It is like getting a lifelong appointment.”

The group also argues that the change will put county government on a diet. The four elected officials targeted in the measure “have little or no motivation or even the ability to consolidate government functions, conserve resources and reduce staff to save money.”

Opponents, including the four elected officials whose offices would be brought under the supervision of the commissioners, counter that appointing a county manager adds another layer to county government and additional cost.

“It will also reduce the accountability of county governance by taking away the voters’ right to choose who they want to represent them,” they said in a joint statement.

The present form of county government was designed “to be directly accountable to our citizens, with safeguards in place to protect the integrity of the system,” they said.

They also contend that consolidating all county budget and fund distribution responsibilities under one manager removes all independent review of the budget, which exceeds $79 million.

Commissioners are paid $70,000 a year plus benefits. Green said commissioner pay cannot be set in a ballot measure, but he added that his goal will be to cut commissioner salaries in half if voters approve the measure.



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