Effort to Quash Electioneering on School Bonds Moving Forward at Idaho Statehouse 

But ACLU says the bill "raises constitutional concerns and restriction of free speech."

A Nampa lawmaker wants to get the government out of school bond elections.

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A Nampa lawmaker wants to get the government out of school bond elections.

In spite of stiff opposition from the Ada County clerk's office, school boards throughout Idaho and the ACLU, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee has moved forward with a bill that would impose new restrictions on what it called "governmental interference" in school bond and levy elections.

"It's very apparent that there's a problem. You have a stack of examples in front of you," said bill sponsor Rep. Jason Monks (R-Nampa), pointing to flyers and mailers promoting past and upcoming bond elections. "Look at this one. It's a packet handed out to school children to take home. It talks about when the election is or what's on the ballot. No problem. But to include an application for an absentee ballot or why the school needs the bond? That doesn't seem appropriate."

Monks said his proposal would restrict the use of public resources to advocate for a bond or levy, unless the same resources were available to any member of the public opposing the measure.

The debate in front of the State Affairs Committee stretched into two full mornings of public testimony, including from Ada County Clerk Chris Rich, who questioned the bill's ambiguity; Idaho School Board Association Executive Director Karen Echeverria, who argued the legislation "conflicted with existing law"; and ACLU-Idaho Policy Director Kathy Griesmyer, who said the bill "raises constitutional concerns and restriction of free speech."

Fred Birnbaum, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, argued in favor of the bill, saying a recent College of Western Idaho marketing campaign prior to a CWI bond measure, was "fundamentally unfair, taking money out of taxpayers' pockets," to push for a "yes" vote.

Ultimately, the committee voted to send HB 189 to general orders for some tweaking, but agreed that the measure should head to the full House for its consideration.

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