White Paper Explains Constitutional Challenge To Voter Rights
Tuesday, August 31st
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.
A Boise GUARDIAN White Paper
There are three proposed amendments to the Idaho Constitution on the November 2 ballot and all seek to deny electors the existing constitutional right to approve municipal debt.
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 Boise citizen 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 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.
In 2010 at the urging of municipalities the legislature passed three proposed constitutional amendments dealing with AIRPORTS, PUBLIC HOSPITALS, and POWER GENERATING CITIES.
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.”