BOISE – Idaho would change how its community college boards are elected, under legislation that passed the Idaho House Thursday after bitter debate, requiring candidates to run from designated geographic zones and booting out some current elected trustees in 2017 in favor of appointees from the new zones.
The bill, pushed by Caldwell GOP Rep. Greg Chaney, passed 55-15 with bipartisan opposition; it still must pass the Senate and receive the governor’s signature to become law.
The board of the College of Western Idaho, which is in Chaney’s district, opposed the bill; boards at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene and the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls hadn’t yet met to consider it before the bill was both introduced and passed in the House.
Chaney argued that residents of rural areas have gone unrepresented, because current elected trustees for Idaho’s three community colleges tend to come from the larger communities within their districts. “It’s the product of the population centers over time disenfranchising those rural areas, making them feel as if their vote and their voice didn’t count,” he said.
Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said, “I am very sympathetic to the idea of district elections; I think it improves representation.” But he objected to the boards themselves appointing new trustees in 2017 to replace those currently elected to serve. “That is not democracy, and I think that’s an affront to democracy,” he said.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, “I see continuation of the rural-urban infighting that we see in state government here, and it just makes me wonder if, when elections don’t give us the results that we want, we need to go and change the rules.”
Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, said, “This is an issue about fairness, this is an issue of taxation without representation.”
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