Key issues being dealt with in 2013 Legislature

March 11, 2013

We are more than 60 days into the session and the legislative printing press is working overtime on bills being reworked, rewritten, or introduced for the first time. Following is a summary of some of the lawmaking activity I sense there is considerable interest in.

Personal Property Tax
More anticipated than the unveiling of a new iPhone, we finally have a personal property tax bill; actually make that two. H 272 is a bill being brought by cities and counties and would exempt the first $100,000 of business personal property from taxation. It also offers future exemption on items costing $1500 or less. The lost revenue price tag for local taxing districts of 19 million would be replaced by the state in perpetuity.

The selling points are that this totally relieves almost 90 percent of businesses from this onerous tax. The downside is that 4 percent of the businesses in Idaho employ 50 percent of those with jobs. H 272 offers little relief to the large employers. Another bill just introduced today is H 276.

This legislation is being brought by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry or (IACI). The ink is still not dry enough on this bill to even be posted on the web site so I can only speculate on its contents.

I understand it will provide for a total phase out over 7 years with full replacement to local taxing districts. The price is rumored to be from 120 to 140 million.

One thing seems clear. Because these are competing bills only one will come out of the House. I have heard the public hearings for both bills will be the same day in order to expedite the process of “picking a winner.”

Heavy Trucks
S 1117 which would allow for the expansion of new heavy truck routes passed out of the Senate on a 22-13 vote. It was a tough vote for me but I did vote against the legislation. I understand the potential for economic gain but was unable to reconcile that against the fact it could take heavy trucks off the Interstates (our safest, best built road system in the state) and put them on county and state highways.

I could not get past the safety and road degradation issues I believe this will cause. If more than 80,000 pound loads are too much for the Interstate, I see 129,000 pounds as way too much weight for our other road systems.

Health Exchange
S 1042 and H 179 were merged along with a few other ingredients into H 248. It had a public hearing in House Health and Welfare on Thursday and passed out of committee on a 10-1 vote. This is by far the most contentious issue in my 3 years in Boise and the fire seems to burn hotter every day. I am yet to be convinced that doing nothing in hopes this all goes away is something reasonable leaders do. As such I will continue on the path to best protect Idaho’s position by supporting the development of a state based exchange.

Guns
There continues to be several gun bills introduced. I believe some are reasonable and some are not. We need to aggressively protect Second Amendment rights with thoughtful, realistic legislation. On the other hand legislation that leads us down the path of rebellion and makes us feel good today only compromises our position tomorrow. I see it as a simple case of boy crying wolf. This issue is too important to make that mistake.

Education
I have received many emails reminding me that the “Students Come First” laws were repealed in November. Right now there are more education bills coming forward than anyone cares to count. I appreciate those who have provided me with the bill numbers of legislation they have the greatest concerns with. It helps sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak. It does appear that there will be some positive things for education but I would be a little premature is speaking to them right now.

There are many more issues to discuss, but I suspect your tolerance for listening is probably waning. Thanks for your input. I realize we will not always agree but your opinion is important to me. Until next time …