House backs measure to help hospitals take on debt

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by Associated Press

KTVB.COM

Posted on February 23, 2010 at 1:27 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 24 at 12:43 AM

BOISE -- Voters are closer to weighing in on a constitutional amendment in November that would allow publicly owned hospitals to incur debt without voter approval.

The House voted 65-5 Tuesday to approve the resolution, clearing the two-thirds support requirement.

The measure now heads to the Senate.

For years, county or district hospitals were allowed to take on longterm debt to expand and renovate their facilities or buy equipment like costly MRI scanners, without being required to first ask residents of the region they serve.

However, in 2006, an Idaho Supreme Court decision cast doubt on the constitutionality of such longstanding practices.

Should Tuesday's measure make it to the ballot and win voter support, public hospitals could take on debt without a vote -- provided no ad valorem tax revenue is used to pay it off.

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