On bills in the Idaho Legislature

March 13, 2012

The bills in the Legislature have started to flow like spring runoff on a 75-degree day in early March. It has been common to have 30 or more bills on the third reading calendar with more being introduced every day. Here are a few that might be of interest.

• H561 is the wind-moratorium bill. It calls for a two-year “time out” from wind energy development and will be a lively debate if and when it happens. I sense other energy bills like H554 (a bill requiring early disclosure by utilities on costs and rate impacts caused by major projects) may be dictating the timing of H561.

• H632 is the concussion bill, with the main objective being to protect our middle, junior, and high school students from the effects of sports related concussions. The bill calls for education and awareness on the part of parents, athletes, coaches, referees, schools, etc. Schools would develop protocols for identifying and dealing with athletes showing concussion symptoms. This would apply to practice and game situations and provides for certain guidelines that would have to be met before a player would be allowed back in a game. I supported this bill, which passed the House on Monday.

• H518 is known as the RYO or “Roll Your Own” bill. This bill was needed to stay in compliance with the Master Settlement Agreement or MSA. The MSA is the tobacco settlement agreement from which Idaho receives around $25 million annually.

The law was being somewhat circumvented and without the passage of H518 those settlement dollars could be placed in jeopardy.

It seems that in some cases, high-tech RYO machines that can roll several hundred cigarettes per hour have been using pipe instead of RYO tobacco to make cigarettes. The problem is that pipe tobacco is taxed at about $2.50 per pound and RYO tobacco is taxed at nearly $25 per pound. The disparity was clear and it passed committee and the House floor with little opposition.

• H486 is the bill seeking to ban tanning by youth. There is strong opinion among the medical community and others that too much tanning, especially by minors, can cause cancer. The bill has had a colorful existence, being sent to general orders, then to the floor, then back to committee, and now back to general orders. I support the education and parental awareness components of the bill, but continue to take exception to the language that bans tanning for those under 16. I am further concerned that tanning shop owners were not contacted or asked for feedback as this legislation was drafted.

• H581 is the bill that would have put in motion efforts to collect sales tax on online sales. As I understand this bill, remittance of this tax would have been on a voluntary basis. After considerable testimony, debate, and three different motions, the bill died in committee. I have been told the sponsors will try again next year.

• H473, the driver’s license bill and H469, the elevator bill, are bills I worked on and both been signed by the governor. H473 will allow renewals at 18 and 21 years of age to be done up to 25 months prior to expiration. This will help our youth who are temporarily out on state for education, religious, military, or humanitarian opportunities. It will also ease the burden of re-testing for a driver’s license expired 25 months or less. H469 helps mitigate some onerous elevator upgrades that are financially not feasible in older buildings.

• I had anticipated that health exchange legislation would be a focal point of the session. In terms of discussion and political posturing, you might say it has been. However, with the pending lawsuit and anticipation over what changes fall elections might bring, there seems to be a lack of consensus on what to do with exchanges. Only time will tell if this particular inaction ends up a home run or strike-out.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve in the House and welcome your feedback. Word is that the legislative snowpack will be melted and gone by March 23 or at the latest March 30. Let’s hope the weatherman’s right.

Idaho State Journal 3/13/2012