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Proposal to Lower Idaho's Super-Majority Bond Threshold Headed for Statehouse Hearing

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Idaho House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding (D-Boise) introduced a measure Wednesday afternoon that should have school districts and elected officials across the state buzzing in the coming weeks.

If approved, the measure would lower the threshold for local bond passage from 66.66 percent to 60 percent.

"It's still a sizable majority," said Erpelding, who introduced the measure to the House Local Government Committee. "Currently, Idaho is among the strictest—if not the strictest—state in the nation for passing bonds."

Erpelding referred to a number of rural school bond initiatives that went down to defeat by the slimmest of margins.

"In 2015, a Bonneville County bond failed because it had received 65.2 percent of the vote. When they tried a second time, it received 66.19 percent, failing again," said Erpelding. "Other areas of the state have also had difficulty in getting bonds passed—particularly for schools."

One of the highest-profile bond votes in the Treasure Valley was the $180 million bond proposed in November 2016 by the College of Western Idaho. Ada and Canyon county voters rejected the measure, which only received 57.2 percent of the vote. Next month, the Boise School District will put a $172.5 million bond in front of voters

Ultimately, the committee voted to move the proposal to a full public hearing, with Reps. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens), Mike Kingsley (R-Lewiston) and Lynn Luker (R-Boise) voting "no."

Erpelding said it will be an uphill fight to approve the bill, which would require a change to the Idaho Constitution.

"As you know, this will take a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate," he said.

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