Idaho officials must decide on education funding initiative by Friday

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Idaho officials to decide by Friday afternoon whether to put an education funding initiative on the November ballot or allow an additional seven weeks for electronic signature gathering.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued the order after granting a preliminary injunction to Reclaim Idaho, a group that backs citizen initiatives, to temporarily alter the state’s laws for signature gathering.

The education funding initiative seeks to raise $170 million for K-12 education by raising Idaho’s corporate tax rate and increasing taxes on individuals making $250,000 a year or higher.

Reclaim Idaho in a lawsuit filed earlier this month said that Republican Gov. Brad Little’s statewide stay-at-home order in late March due to the coronavirus pandemic didn’t include exceptions for ballot initiative signature gathering – violating the First Amendment-protected process of signature gathering, a form of political speech.

Winmill in granting the injunction said Reclaim Idaho was likely to win the case and, except for the pandemic, likely would have gathered enough signatures for the initiative to appear on the November ballot.

Under Winmill’s ruling, if Idaho doesn’t agree to put the initiative on the November ballot, it will have to extend signature gathering another seven weeks and allow electronic signatures, something never before allowed for ballot initiatives. (AP)

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