Idaho Hospital Debt, HJR 4 (2010)
The Idaho Hospital Debt Amendment, also known as House Joint Resolution, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Idaho as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The measure allowed public medical facilities, including hospitals, to enter debt in order to upgrade facilities, including buying new technological equipment, acquiring new property for enhanced medical care and constructing improved resources. The measure was sponsored by Representative Fred Wood (R-27B). 
|Idaho HJR 4 (2010)|
Election results via: Idaho Secretary of State
Text of measure
The ballot title read as:
|“||"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?"||”|
The summary of the proposed amendment read:
|“||"This proposed amendment will allow public hospitals to acquire facilities, equipment, technology and real property through a variety of means that aid the public hospital operations, as long as the acquisitions are paid for solely from charges, rents or payments derived from the existing or financed facilities and are not funded by property taxes. Under current Idaho constitutional provisions, public hospitals, as subdivisions of the state of Idaho, have limited ability to incur debt without the approval of a two-thirds vote at an election held for that purpose. This proposed amendment will provide a limited alternative to that two-thirds vote requirement. The use of tax dollars to finance these kinds of investments is prohibited."||”|
|Section 3C. Hospitals and Health Services Authorized - Activities and Financing|
- Toni Lawson, Idaho Hospital Association vice president of governmental relations, along with the Boise Airport Commission Chair, Paul Cunningham, supported the measure. According to Lawson, "If no taxpayer dollars are being used, it makes no sense...to jump through an election. However, your dollars will be used every time we have to organize and election to buy an MRI machine.”
- According to Cunningham, "We have a lot of capital needs at the airport, to meet the growing demand. We think that revenue bonds are a proven, safe means of funding capital projects. It's used by all of our neighboring states, and frankly, it puts Idaho at a competitive disadvantage."
- State Representative Wendy Jaquet stated her support for the measure, arguing, "Currently, a public hospital cannot buy an expensive piece of X-ray equipment, even though the revenues from user fees (your getting an X-ray and paying for it) are projected to fund it. Obviously, if a purchase is to be funded by property taxes, a vote of the people is required."
- Amendment allows state's hospitals to invest in new medical equipment to improve the health care needs of their communities, strengthening the state's health care.
- Amendment helps give public hospitals resources to attract top medical personnel.
- Amendment keeps in place the safeguards given in state constitution. No tax dollars can be used to finance investments. Amendment prohibits obligating taxpayers or any governmental entity with these investments.
Campaigning, rallies and events
- Television advertisements aired by the Idaho Hospital Association were televised in the state claiming that if the three debt amendments were rejected by voters, the state's health care system would be vulnerable to the federal government's meddling in the system. According to Hospital Association director Steve Millard, the amendments would allow hospitals that were publicly owned to flexibly react to federal mandates that require large investments. Millard stated, "That's why we're doing the hard-hitting ads. If it gets people to the website so they can get educated, we think we've accomplished part of our goal. Our main goal is to get it passed."
- David Frazier, an Idaho resident, had concerns about the measure, because it removed a court decision back in 2006; a court decision that Frazier was apart of. The requirement to get voter approval for long-term debt originated from a ruling made by the Idaho Supreme Court in the case of Frazier vs. City of Boise. The ruling, according to reports, stated that the government could no longer take on multi-year debt for certain projects. The case was brought up in court when Frazier argued that the city's plans for a $27, million parking garage and a $19 million police station without voter approval should not happen. Frazier stated about the three debt measures that were on the November 2010 ballot, “The one thing they all have in common is to deny the citizens the constitutional right that they have to approve debt, public debt...Citizens did not come to the Legislature and say, ‘Hey, we’ve tired of voting and we’d like you to take our right to vote away.'”
- Larry Spencer, a Northern Idaho delegate, stated that the measure would allow local governments to begin pursuing unnecessary projects. Spencer argued, "Do you want to end up with everything around airports being government-owned and off the tax rolls, rather than privately owned and paying taxes?"
- The Constitutional requirement mandating two-thirds assent of the voters before a public hospital enter long-term debt is a safeguard for state residents.
- Amendment will limit the right of voters to approve certain debt entered by hospitals.
- Changes to the Constitution should be made only for major issues.
Three amendments on dialogue
On Idaho Public Television, the three debt amendments, HJR 4, HJR 5 and HJR 7 were discussed by Senator Joe Stegner, who sponsored all three measures, and Dave Frazier, who was against the measure. The dialogue included callers with questions about the measures and lasted for approximately half an hour:
- Twin Falls Times News said, "None of these amendments will add a nickel to your tax bill. And they’re a common sense investment in Idaho’s economic future."
- Idaho Statesman said, "They should vote yes on three complicated but important constitutional amendments to allow these public entities to finance projects and purchases without voter approval."
Path to the ballot
|Healthcare on the ballot in 2010|
The measure was approved by the House State Affairs Committee on February 17, 2010. On February 23, 2010, the Idaho House of Representatives voted 65-5 to approve the measure, sending the proposal to the Idaho State Senate. On March 10, 2010, the Senate State Affairs Committee approved the amendment, as well as the other two proposed debt measures, leaving the final step of a Senate vote to place it on the ballot.
The Idaho State Senate cleared the way for voters to decide on the measure, and the other two debt amendments on March 16, 2010. According to reports, vote on the measure was unanimous.
- Idaho 2010 ballot measures
- 2010 ballot measures
- List of Idaho ballot measures
- History of Initiative and Referendum in Idaho
- Idaho Secretary of State, "Idaho Constitutional Amendment History", accessed April 29, 2014]
- Idaho Secretary of State, "2010 General Election Proposed Constitutional Amendments", accessed April 29, 2014
- Idaho Legislature, "House Joint Resolution 4"
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Boise Weekly, "Debate gains steam over Idaho constitutional amendments," October 7, 2010
- KTVB.com, "Sides clash over proposed constitutional amendments," October 6, 2010
- Idaho Mountain Express, "Constitutional amendments are sensible," October 22, 2010
- Idaho Secretary of State, "2010 Proposed Constitutional Amendments"
- Daily Record, "Boise, Idaho activist on personal crusade to kill amendments," October 2, 2010
- Magic Valley Times-News, "Voters to decide if long-term debt needs a vote," September 2, 2010
- Magic Valley.com, "Three constitutional amendments make sense for Idaho's future," October 26, 2010
- Idaho Statesman, "Our View: Vote yes, four times on constitutional amendments," October 29, 2010
- Times-News Magic Valley, "Debt amendments clear the Senate Amendments to go to Idaho voters in November," March 17, 2010
- Idaho Reporter, "Constitutional amendments on debt face Senate vote," March 10, 2010
- Idaho Reporter, "House panel approves hospital debt plan," February 17, 2010
- KTVB.com, "House backs measure to help hospitals take on debt," February 23, 2010
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