September 23, 2010

Constitutional Amendments

Marcia Franklin talks with a proponent and opponent of three constitutional amendments on the ballot. All three amendments modify Article VIII, Section 3 of the Idaho Constitution, which outlines limitations on county and municipal indebtedness.

Franklin's guests are Sen. Joe Stegner (R-Lewiston) and Dave Frazier, a Boise photojournalist and news blogger. Stegner was the floor sponsor in the Idaho Senate of the amendments, and Frazier opposes them.

In 2006, Frazier won a lawsuit against the city of Boise, when the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the city's desire to build a parking garage at the city-owned airport without a vote of the people was not "ordinary and necessary" as outlined in Article VIII, Section 3 of the Idaho Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that any long-term debt by a municipality that cannot be paid off within a fiscal year must be put on the ballot and pass by a 2/3rds vote.

In 2010, in response to the decision, the Idaho legislature passed H.J.R. 4, H.J.R. 5, and H.J.R. 7. The proposed constitutional amendments modify the Idaho constitution to allow for publicly-owned hospitals, airports and electric systems to enter into long-term debt as long as no ad valorem tax revenues are used for the activities, that any such bonds are payable solely from fees, charges, rents, payments, grants of other revenues, and that they are not secured by the full faith and credit or taxing power of any political subdivision.

Proponents say the amendments are needed so the entities can upgrade and modernize their facilities and will not involve increased taxes; opponents say any assumption of long-term debt by a municipality must go to a vote of the people.

A majority of the voters must approve the amendments for them to pass.