Bill Description: House Bill 8 requires that ballot questions regarding bonds and levies include certain disclosures and forgo any ancillary and potentially confusing information.
Analyst Note: House Bill 8 is similar to House Bill 2, but it removes the automatic nullification and $10,000 fine levied against the office of the county clerk in cases where the statutory requirements are violated.
Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency or accountability? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency or accountability?
House Bill 8 amends Sections 34-439 and 34-439A, Idaho Code, to say that ballot questions to authorize a bond or levy after July 1, 2021, "must include the information and language required by this section in order to be binding."
It also instructs that "the ballot question may not include other information or language regarding any other bond, levy, or matter, whether previous, current, or proposed."
Unlike House Bill 2, House Bill 8 puts the responsibility for enforcement on aggrieved voters. The bill provides that "within thirty (30) days following the election, a registered elector residing within the taxing district that presented the ballot question to authorize a levy may challenge the taxing district's failure to comply with this section by filing a complaint with a court of competent jurisdiction."
Additional added language says that "upon a determination by the court that the taxing district failed to comply with the provisions of this section, the court must declare the outcome of the ballot question nullified and, in addition, must order the taxing district to reimburse the court clerk for the election costs associated with the ballot question and award court costs and fees to the complainant."
It should be noted that, if the court does not determine that the taxing district failed to comply with the provisions of this section, such costs will be borne by the complainant. These changes transfer the responsibility for enforcement to voters even as they create a financial disincentive for voters to challenge problematic ballot questions.
The purpose of House Bill 8 is to make sure that voters have clear and accurate information about the costs of the bond or levy they are being asked to approve. It also does away with the common trick of claiming that new bonds or levies are merely replacing older, expiring bonds or levies, which may confuse some people into believing that a new bond or levy is merely an extension of an existing one.
Even though the enforcement provisions of this bill fall short, the net effect is still an increase in transparency for Idaho voters.
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