LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL'S STATEMENTS FOR THE PROPOSED AMENDMENT
1. Sections 17 and 27, Article V of the state constitution do not reflect the current structure of the judicial branch of government. Since these provisions were written, the Court of Appeals and Magistrate Courts have been added to the Idaho judiciary. The state constitution should reflect these changes. In addition, the base salaries set in these sections have been changed by legislative actions over the subsequent years. As the state constitution now reads, these obsolete base salaries are confusing.
2. Idaho's constitution should give clear direction on how the affairs of the state should be conducted. Section 17, Article V of the constitution provides a $3,000 salary for Supreme Court justices and judges of the District Court. This salary was reasonable only during the early years of statehood. These salaries have ceased to be relevant.
3. Idaho's constitution should be a vital and living document. Section 27, Article V names two offices, the commissioner of immigration and labor and district attorneys, that no longer exist. The amendments would eliminate these obsolete references. Also, the amendments would clarify that the Idaho Legislature may periodically adjust, by passage of a statute, the compensation of Supreme Court justices and District Court judges as is reasonable and appropriate.
4. Section 27, Article V of the constitution allows the Idaho Legislature to adjust salary levels of the judiciary by statute and is the section of the constitution that has been followed in setting the salaries of Supreme Court justices and District Court judges. The Legislature also sets the salaries of judges of the Court of Appeals and Magistrate Court judges. This amendment adds all judges whose salaries are set by the Idaho Legislature and would modernize the state constitution.
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL'S STATEMENTS AGAINST THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS
1. The proposed amendments are intended to update two sections of the state constitution so they are consistent with modern governmental structure. However, the existing language of Sections 17 and 27, Article V of the state constitution has not generated any litigation or serious misunderstanding. The state constitution is the organic document for all government in Idaho. In addition to being a legal blueprint, it is a historical document. It should not be amended just to provide clarification where none is necessary.
2. Constitutional language must be precise, concise and timeless so that it is flexible enough to allow adjustments to state law by statute. The two sections that would be amended by these constitutional amendments contain specific salaries and positions that became obsolete after state judicial reform occurred approximately 25 years ago. The language in the proposed amendments should apply to any additional positions that might become necessary in the future, and thereby meet the test of being precise, concise and timeless.
3. The original language of the state constitution should not be deleted simply because other words seem preferable in 1998. There are other parts of the state constitution that could be clarified or improved to some degree. This is archaic language but it is harmless. There is no need to change it.
4. The proposed amendment may needlessly wipe out case law of the Idaho Supreme Court that has been instrumental in the administration of state government. Although it is uncertain, the proposed amendments might change the state of existing constitutional law to prohibit any change of salary during the term of the judge or justice. This was not the intent of the sponsors of the amendments.