This is the first in what we expect to be many discussions of three constitutional amendments before Idaho voters on November 2. The GUARDIAN will be crusading like an old time newspaper editor to preserve our voting rights, defending the Idaho constitution and the rights of citizens to hold the “power of the purse” when it comes to public debt. The issue is one of “right vs power-hungry politicos” rather than any particular project.
By DAVID R. FRAZIER, editor
Boise GUARDIAN (www.boiseguardian.com)
Bowing to the pressure of local government lobbyists, more than 2/3 of the 2010 legislature passed three proposed constitutional amendments dealing with AIRPORTS, PUBLIC HOSPITALS, and POWER GENERATING CITIES.
All three seek to deny citizens their existing rights to vote on public financing of these facilities.
Not a single citizen or group of citizens came to the legislature begging to be relieved of their right to vote. Elected officials statewide don’t trust the judgement of voters to make the right choices.
It’s absurd to ask citizens to go to the polls and vote to deny themselves the right to vote and that’s exactly what HJR5 does. As a nation we have fought wars around the globe to insure that people have the right to vote, not deny them that right with deceptive wording on the ballot.
Each of the three proposed amendments to the Idaho Constitution on the November 2 ballot seeks to deny electors their existing constitutional right to approve municipal debt…and the shameful part is that NONE of the measures reveals that citizens rights are being trampled.
Instead of saying “WITHOUT PERMISSION OF VOTERS,” the craftily worded proposals relating to airports–HJR5–and Power Cities–HJR7–say bonds (public debt) “shall not be secured by the full faith and credit or the taxing power of the subdivision or regional airport authority”. Deceitful at best!
The one relating to hospitals–HJR4– simply ignores the issue of voter approval that currently is mandated by the constitution.
Article 8, section 3 of the constitution gives municipalities (cities and counties) certain spending authority, but in each case those local governments must obtain, “ASSENT OF THE ELECTORS.”
For years, local governments routinely went around the will of the people to finance pet projects by invoking the “ordinary and necessary” provision, which allowed municipalities to seek “judicial confirmation” from a district court judge that a project was legal.
That all changed when David R. Frazier challenged the city of Boise’s plans to build a $19 million police station and later a $27 million parking garage–without seeking permission from the voters.
The airport parking garage issue went to the Idaho Supreme Court. The court issued the landmark FRAZIER decision in 2006 which carved in stone the fact municipalities MUST seek voter permission to spend funds that exceed a single year’s revenues. In short: DEBT that requires either bonds or other long term obligations to spend citizen’s money. And for the record, ALL money collected by government–regardless of the revenue source–is public money.
The court also defined “ordinary and necessary” to be unforeseen expenses of an emergency nature involving public safety or mandated by a court order that couldn’t wait until the next election for voter approval. That put the brakes on wild local spending and prompted numerous attempts at legislation–including constitutional amendments.
None of the ballot measures tell voters in plain English the rights they currently hold will be eliminated, but all three measures quietly eliminate the key phrase “with assent of the voters.” The proposals need a simple majority at the polls to alter the constitution following the 2/3 vote of the legislature which put them on the ballot.
The issue is CITIZEN APPROVAL of debt rather than the merits of any particular project. In Idaho the citizens hold the “power of the purse.”
EDITORS PLEASE NOTE–
The official ballot language is provided below for your convenience and reference.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TEXT 2010
HJR 5 AIRPORTS
“Shall Article VIII, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a New Section 3E, to provide for the issuance of revenue and special facility bonds by political subdivisions of the state and regional airport authorities as defined by law, if operating an airport to acquire, construct, install, and equip land, facilities, buildings, projects or other property, which are hereby deemed to be for a public purpose, to be financed for, or to be leased, sold or otherwise disposed of to persons, associations or corporations, or to be held by the subdivision or regional airport authority, and may in the manner prescribed by law issue revenue and special facility bonds to finance the costs thereof; provided that any such bonds shall be payable solely from fees, charges, rents, payments, grants, or any other revenues derived from the airport or any of its facilities, structures, systems, or projects, or from any land, facilities, buildings, projects or other property financed by such bonds, and shall not be secured by the full faith and credit or the taxing power of the subdivision or regional airport authority?”.
HJR 4 HOSPITALS
“Shall Section 3C, Article VIII, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended to authorize public hospitals, ancillary to their operations and in furtherance of health care needs in their service areas, to incur indebtedness or liability to purchase, contract, lease or construct or otherwise acquire facilities, equipment, technology and real property for health care operations, provided that no ad valorem tax revenues shall be used for such activities?”
HJR7 POWER CITIES
“Shall Article VIII, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a New Section 3D to provide that any city owning a municipal electric system may:
(a) acquire, construct, install and equip electric generating, transmission and distribution facilities for the purpose of supplying electricity to customers located within the service area of each system established by law and for the purpose of paying the cost thereof, may issue revenue bonds with the assent of a majority of the qualified electors voting at an election held as provided by law; and
(b) incur indebtedness or liability under agreements to purchase, share, exchange or transmit wholesale electricity for the use and benefit of customers located within such service area; provided that any revenue bonds, indebtedness or liability shall be payable solely from the rates, charges or revenues derived from the municipal electric system and shall not be secured by the full faith and creditor the taxing power of the city, the state or any political subdivision?” .
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