We’ve passed the majority of the budget bills, but there are still a few in the House that the Senate still needs to wait for and consider. The loss of the Transportation bill was also quite a setback from being able to Sine Die on Friday, so we will again meet tomorrow and the rest of the week if that’s what it takes to finalize a tax reduction bill and a transportation package for much needed maintenance and expansion projects required due to population growth. We are working on transferring existing General Funds to our multi-billion dollar transportation infrastructure and also enable a limited level of bonding to be able to build some badly needed projects that are very large and expensive. Some of the highlight bills are as follows:
S1142A (The Healthcare Assistance bill I’ve worked on for 6+ months for the Gap population) failed to pass the Senate Floor. The purpose was to provide primary healthcare assistance to 15,000 individuals, many of which are chronically ill. Some thought it would be better to use federal funding as well and have access to $90 million versus $10 million. Some thought it would be best to not use federal funding giving the State of Idaho more authority. Others felt it would be wisest to see what the final outcome of the federal healthcare program was before acting as a state.
H250 (Abortion relating Telehealth) passed the Senate Floor. The purpose of this legislation is to terminate the lawsuit between the State of Idaho and the United States District Court. It would repeal certain provision of the law regulating the performance of chemical abortions adopted by the legislature in 2015. Some felt we should continue to fight on principal. Most felt it was highly unlikely to win this particular lawsuit and it would be best to reframe the issue and fight another day.
H222 (Secure Facility for Violent Incompetent Individuals) passed the Senate Floor. The purpose of this legislation is to allow for a wing of the facility to have secured features protecting more vulnerable clients and the community from the violent individuals.
S1182 (In Regards to Faith Healing) failed to pass the Senate Floor. The purpose of this legislation was to provide a civil avenue to protect the life of the child and not criminalize a parent if they chose prayer or spiritual means of treatment for the child. In the context of treatment by spiritual means, a court could only take action under the Child Protection Act if the child was likely to suffer serious permanent injury or death and then was required to balance the constitutional interests involved. The court would also consider the desires of a child while weighing their age and maturity as in family law custody cases There were a variety of opinions in favor and against this bill. It was heavily yet respectfully debated.
S1194 (Appropriations to Permanent Building Fund) passed the Senate Floor. This legislation provided funding in the amount of $71,425,700 for several projects including the Idaho State University Gale Life Sciences Building, Psychiatric Hospital Transformation, Boise State University for Materials Science, Lewis-Clark State College Career-Technical Education Building, and University of Idaho Center for Agriculture.
The Senate adopted House Joint Memorial 8. The purpose of this Memorial is to request that the federal government appropriate $8 million of federal matching funding of the authorized $20 million allowed for fiscal year 2018 to the four Northwest States of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington for the purpose of combating the immediate threat of invasive quagga and zebra mussels.
H274aaS (Invasive Species) passed the Senate Floor. It would amend the Idaho Invasive Species Act by establishing in the Office of the Governor, an Administrator of invasive species policy and establish the Idaho Invasive Species Council. This legislation sets up duties of the Administrator and the Department of Agriculture and lays out the coordination of efforts between state agencies.
House Bill 67aaS (Grocery Tax) passed the Senate Floor with 25 ayes and 10 nays. This piece of legislation would repeal sales taxs on groceries, and also remove the grocery tax credit given back to taxpayers at income tax filing time. The Governor has indicated he is not a fan of this bill, so it it’s taken up in the House is anyone’s guess. An alternative is a 1/10th of a percent reduction at all levels of the income tax (i.e., reduce the top level of tax from 7.4% to 7.3%) that could be sent from the House to the Senate for consideration.
S1188a (Transportation Plan, Relating to GARVEE bonding) failed to pass the Senate Floor with 20 nays and 15 ayes. This legislation provided authorization for selling up to $300 million in GARVEE bonds issued by Idaho Housing and Finance Association for ITD to finance highway transportation projects around the state. Ninety two percent of the repayment amount on Garvee bonds are paid from the federal dollars received by ITD and the state is not liable if it does not receive sufficient federal funds to make the bind payments. This piece of legislation deals directly with I-84 from Nampa to Caldwell as well as many other priority expansion projects around the state. There has been a lot of good, diplomatic debate on both sides of this issue, although this bill failed, we are staying to try put a transportation package together before we Sine Die.
H301a (Oil and Gas) passed the Senate Floor unanimously. The purpose of this legislation is to protect private property owners, state endowment lands, and taxpayers. It would do so by updating the Idaho law in accordance with other Rocky Mountain States and it would improve processes, transparency, and reporting of oil and gas development.
We were shooting for finishing last Friday, but just couldn’t get consensus to finish some very tough bills. We will come together once again this week and try to finish our work. Again, thank you for allowing me to represent you in the Idaho Senate!