Apr 30 2011

Going after it every which way

Published by at 1:13 pm under Idaho

You can’t say Idahoans opposed to the public schools overhaul bills passed this legislative session aren’t going after them aggressively: They’re running down just about every avenue of challenge available.

They’re trying to recall the Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna who is principally behind them. They’re trying to recall a couple of the legislators who voted for them. They’re trying to place the measures on the ballot as a referendum, to possibly throw them out by voter action. And they’re challenging their constitutionality in court, with a lawsuit filed by leaders of the Idaho Education Association on April 27.

Any options they’ve missed?

Of course, they’re not all equally likely to succeed. The one with the best chance, though not necessarily a probability of success, is the referendum. There, the bar to ballot placement is not massively high, and if the negative public attitude really is as strong as it often seemed in recent months, and if it remains negative after more than a year of implementation (the election would be in November 2012), then the prospects for overturn are reasonable. Which is not to say it would be easy.

The recall efforts are very difficult, especially the statewide for the superintendent. And there, the greater problem isn’t even getting the recall to the ballot, so much as gathering enough votes in a special election against Luna to surpass the votes he got (in a near-landslide win) in a general election. A win there would be an extraordinary achievement.

The new lawsuit looks to fall somewhere in between. On their face, the substance of the three bills at issue don’t seem to violate the constitution. The most interesting argument for an overturn would be the “too many subjects” argument. Idaho laws are supposed to be limited to a single subject, and the argument is that at least one of the bills covered so much territory it violated that requirement. That could be so; in recent years, the Idaho Supreme Court has killed other legislation on just such grounds.

In any event, from a strategic view, there’s this: If you try everything, the odds improve that something will stick.

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