Capitol Letters: House rejects ballot question on school vouchers

By Ryan Suppe, State Politics Reporter

As Idaho lawmakers debate various school voucher proposals, a Lewiston Republican suggested gauging voters’ support on whether taxpayer funds should subsidize private school tuition.

The House rejected the idea yesterday, after calling the language of the proposed question biased and claiming a ballot question would invite influence from lobbying groups.

Rep. Lori McCann, R-Lewiston, proposed the question on the November 2024 ballot. The advisory question would have no legal weight but would serve as a tool for lawmakers to gauge voter interest.

The proposed question would have asked whether the state should direct “public tax dollars to private K-12 schools, including private religious schools, and for-profit schools.”

“This is to say to the people, ‘Are you comfortable with this? Do you want this or do you not want this?’” McCann told the House.

Other House Republicans said the language was misleading because it didn’t include information about specific proposals, “school choice,” or the detail that education savings accounts allow funding to “follow the student.”

“It doesn’t mention parents. It doesn’t mention choice,” said Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, who earlier this month sponsored an unsuccessful bill directing about $6,800 annually to private school families. “I’m concerned that this doesn’t offer a fair, reasonable question, even if we thought it was important to ask the question.”

Read my full story here.

Push to ban voting affidavits stumbles in House

House lawmakers yesterday narrowly rejected a bill that would have eliminated affidavits, or provisional ballots, the method that allows voters without an ID at the polls to sign a form swearing to their identity.

The bill, from Rep. Joe Alfieri, R-Coeur d’Alene, fell two votes short, after Republicans and Democrats argued that Idaho law already deters voter fraud, and many eligible voters don’t have driver’s licenses. It’s a felony to intentionally falsify information on an affidavit.

“I haven’t heard from a single prosecutor, I haven’t heard from a single clerk that we need this kind of legislation to secure our voting process,” said Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise.

The House also passed yesterday a bill that would direct the Idaho Department of Transportation to offer voting ID cards at no cost.

Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane, who is the subject of a lawsuit over a new law banning student IDs at the polls, pushed lawmakers to pass the free ID bill as an alternative to student IDs

What else happened?

  • The Senate advanced a budget bill directing more than $350 million to four-year universities, despite calls from conservative Republicans to cut funding as punishment for diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

  • The House cleared a bill that would clarify that the Legislature can intervene in lawsuits, led by the attorney general’s office, challenging laws enacted by lawmakers.

  • A bill that would allow judges to shield their addresses and phone numbers from public disclosure cleared the House.

  • Idaho Gov. Brad Little vetoed a bill that would have made parents qualified to provide driver’s education for their children. The House yesterday held a veto override vote but failed to garner a necessary two-thirds majority.

What to expect today

  • 9 a.m. House Education. The committee will host a public hearing on a bill that would expand a grant program to make private school tuition an eligible expense.

  • 1 p.m. Senate Resources and Environment. The committee will consider two resolutions, one supporting delisting grizzly bears as an endangered species. The other opposes a wind turbine project near the Minidoka historic site, where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II, about 20 miles from Twin Falls.

Find the full list of committee meetings and agendas for the House here, and for the Senate here.

Interview with Idaho solicitor general

By Scott McIntosh, Opinion Editor

Idaho Solicitor General Theo Wold took the Idaho bar exam at the end of February and is awaiting results.

Until then, though, he’s unable to be the signing attorney on legal documents or argue cases in court on behalf of the state of Idaho.

Wold said that he wants to assure the public that, even though he doesn’t have his license in Idaho yet, he isn’t “just sitting in a corner” not doing any work.

The issue of whether Wold has a license to practice law in Idaho has been floating around the Capitol ever since he was appointed solicitor general in November. Wold was first admitted to practice law in early 2013 and remains in good standing in California, with which Idaho does not have a reciprocity agreement.

The issue of Wold’s license to practice law in Idaho rose to the surface last week, when Rep. Ned Burns, D-Bellevue, raised the issue on the House floor, where representatives sent the attorney general’s office’s budget back for revisions.

You can read my full interview with Wold here.

Track other bills

Keep track of high-profile bills as they go through the legislative process. You can find yesterday’s updates here.

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