Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, argues for her proposed amendments to a Senate-passed city elections bill, which would add provisions moving all city elections to even-numbered years. Currently, non-partisan city elections are in odd-numbered years, while partisan elections for local, state and federal offices are in even-numbered years.

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In a contentious General Orders session in the House that just concluded, two bills were altered from their original thrust: SB 1061, regarding election deadlines, which earlier passed the Senate unanimously, was amended into a new version of the bill to eliminate the August school levy election, which earlier was killed in a Senate committee. And SB 1111, a consensus bill adjusting rules for by-district elections in Idaho's largest cities that lawmakers enacted last year, was transformed into a bill to move all non-partisan city elections in Idaho from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, along with all partisan elections, from the Legislature to president.

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, pushed the amendment to SB 1061. "This is another attempt to eliminate the August election," Barbieri told the House. "We did visit this issue earlier."

Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, declared "Here we go again." School districts and school boards across the state strongly opposed the earlier bill, HB 106, saying due to their budget schedules, the August election is the only time the full impact of potential cuts can be quantified for voters as they decide whether to approve levies before the school year starts.

Barbieri's amendment carried on a divided vote in the House.

The same was true of Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt's amendments to SB 1111, which make a long series of changes in the lengths of city council members' elected terms in each of the next several years to transition them all to even-year elections. A separate bill just making that change, HB 319, is currently pending on the House 3rd Reading Calendar.

Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, speaking against DeMordaunt's amendments, said, "This is must-pass legislation negotiated in good faith. The city wants to work through the legislation that we passed last year, but what this amendment does is it takes must-pass, well-negotiated legislation and it creates a contentious big policy change that’s going to inject partisanship into our existing city elections. We have another bill pending to deal with this."

DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, defended her amendments, saying, “They’re very straightforward, they have been crafted with the sponsor of 1111. This would be seen very much as a friendly amendment.” She said backers have “worked tirelessly” with the supporters of last year’s city-district election bill and their attorneys on the amendments.

Both amended bills now will go back on the calendar for House consideration as amended.

The House also amended Rep. Karey Hanks' bill prohibiting mask mandates, HB 339. Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, said his amendment simply adds a penalty provision for violations. It, too, passed on a divided vote.

Meanwhile, the Senate is locked in a lengthy debate on HB 135a, the House-passed, Senate-amended emergency powers bill. Prior to starting that debate, the Senate voted 28-7 to approve SB 1136aa, the Senate emergency powers bill; it had to return to the Senate for concurrence in House amendments before heading to the governor's desk.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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