Idaho Municipal Electric Bonds, HJR 7 (2010)
The Idaho Municipal Electric Bonds Amendment, also known as House Joint Resolution 7, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Idaho as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it as approved. The measure allowed power producing cities in the state to reserve bonds in order to increase power capacity. Expansion of power capacity would not have to be approved by voters every year. The measure was one of three proposed amendments on the ballot that would help clear up confusion about when local governments can fund projects if taxpayer money wasn't used to reimburse a debt.
According to State Representative Erik Simpson (R-32B), who introduced the bill, "...it's very important to add some surety to utility prices, but it's also important to allow the city of Idaho Falls to plan for the future for economic development beyond ten years. Which as far as for the infrastructure of a city, is critical." Idaho Falls, at the time, was the largest of 14 power producing cities in the state. Although 14 cities were considered power producing, the measure would apply to 11 of those cities.
- See Energy policy in Idaho for a full explanation of energy policy across the state.
|Idaho HJR 7 (2010)|
Election results via: Idaho Secretary of State
Text of measure
The ballot title read as follows:
|“||"Shall Article VIII, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a New Section 3D to provide that any city owning a municipal electric system may:
The summary of the proposed amendment read:
|“||"This proposed amendment has two parts. The first part will allow any city owning a municipal electric system to acquire, construct, install and equip electrical generating, transmission and distribution facilities for the purpose of supplying electricity to customers within its service area. The city will be authorized to issue revenue bonds to pay for such facilities, with the assent of a majority of the qualified voters, provided that these bonds are paid for by the electrical system rates and charges, or revenues derived from the municipal electric system, and not with tax dollars.
|Section 3D. Power Capacity Debt|
(a) acquire, construct, install and equip electric generating, transmission and distribution facilities for the purpose of supplying electricity to customers located within the service area of each system established by law and for the purpose of paying the cost thereof, may issue revenue bonds with the assent of a majority of the qualified electors voting at an election held as provided by law; and (b) incur indebtedness or liability under agreements to purchase, share, exchange or transmit wholesale electricity for the use and benefit of customers located within such service area; provided that any revenue bonds, indebtedness or liability shall be payable solely from the rates, charges or revenues derived from the municipal electric system and shall not be secured by the full faith and credit or the taxing power of the city, the state or any political subdivision
- Governor of Idaho Butch Otter stated his support for the amendment.
- State Representative Wendy Jaquet stated her support for the measure, arguing, "As you know, most power agreements are long-term and financed by the rates that we pay for the power. This amendment will allow the power cities to enter into long-term agreements for power generated outside their own system, as well as construct projects, without a vote of the people provided that the revenues are from the rate payers and not the property-tax payers."
- The Rupert City Council voted unanimously on October 26, 2010 to support the amendment. Councilman James Bowers made the motion to approve the resolution.
- Amendment helps to ensure that citizens have low-cost electric utility rates.
- Amendment allows a city owning a municipal electric system to responsibly upgrade electricity-related facilities.
- Provides that revenue bonds approved by residents will be payable only from the revenues received from the municipal electric system.
- 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?"
- State constitutional requirement mandating a two-thirds assent of the voters before a city owning an electric system can enter debt is an important safeguard for state residents.
- Amendment requires only a majority of the voters to approve bonds to finance electric generating facilities.
- 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."
- See also: Polls, 2010 ballot measures
- In an online poll conducted by KIDK.com, voters in the state that took the poll showed support for the measure. Since the measure was an online poll, there was no indication of how many people were surveyed, or if they were likely voters. The poll was ongoing at the time, and the results shown below were the results obtained by Ballotpedia on October 27, 2010.
|Date of Poll||Pollster||In favor||Opposed||Undecided||Number polled|
|October 27, 2010||KIDK.com||54%||37%||9%||Unknown|
During the week of July 9, 2010, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the Idaho Falls could not purchase power without the consent of its voters. This proposed constitutional amendment changed that, according to reports out of the state. Mayors across the state tried to inform voters on the measure.
Path to the ballot
On February 22, 2010, the State Affairs Committee stated support for the constitutional amendment, leaving the House and the Senate to decide on the issue. The House approved the measure, and 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.
- 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
- Local News 8, "Legislators Push to Lift Airport Expansion Restrictions," February 15, 2010
- Bloomberg Business Week, "Idaho House panel backs amendment to help cities," February 22, 2010
- Local News 8, "State Representative Erik Simpson discusses Power Bill," February 15, 2010
- Idaho Secretary of State, "2010 Proposed Constitutional Amendments"
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Idaho Secretary of State, "2010 Proposed Constitutional Amendments"
- Idaho Legislature, "HJR007"
- LocalNews8.com, "Otter Weighs In Partially, Backs 1 Amendment," October 7, 2010
- Idaho Mountain Express, "Constitutional amendments are sensible," October 22, 2010
- Magic Valley.com, "Rupert backs constitutional amendment," October 28, 2010
- Magic Valley Times-News, "Voters to decide if long-term debt needs a vote," September 2, 2010
- Daily Record, "Boise, Idaho activist on personal crusade to kill amendments," October 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
- KIDK.com, "Poll Results," accessed October 27, 2010
- KPVI.com, "City Leaders Disappointed by Idaho Supreme Court Decision Regarding Power Contracts," July 13, 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
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