Monthly Archives: January 2018

Idaho Lawmakers Introduce $200 Million Tax Cut Bill

by Kyle Pfannenstiel

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

 

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s $200 million tax cut bill was approved for consideration on a party-line vote by a House panel January 30.

“Arguably, this bill is the biggest tax reduction bill that we have seen here in the years that we have been in the legislature, and maybe in Idaho history,” House Majority Leader Mike Moyle said.

Idaho State Capitol

The bill, H 463, would conform to federal tax code for fiscal 2018, implementing a .475 percent income tax cut for individuals and corporations.

Individuals are expected to pay roughly $100 million more when changes to all changes to exemptions and deductions are factored in if Idaho lawmakers don’t pass tax relief.

The estimated reduction to Idaho’s General Fund revenue is $104.5 million. 2018’s General Fund is expected to be nearly $3.63 billion, according to state projections released two weeks ago.

The tax cut bill offers a $130 child tax credit for children; Otter’s original proposal was an $85 credit that Democratic leaders said would hurt families.

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding asked, “Is it common to run a conformity bill with this many change in the actual code… it just seems to me that this is a really big bill built on some speculation for the next year.”

In response, Moyle said, “This lets the taxpayer know what’s coming this coming tax year in regard to their federal taxes and it also lets them know what’s going to happen in regard to their state taxes. So, you kind of need them together to make it work.”

The committee’s two Democratic lawmakers voted against it.

H 463 must still go before a public hearing.

You can read the bill and its fiscal impact here: https://legislature.idaho.gov/sessioninfo/2018/legislation/H0463/

 

Posted January 31, 2018

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Otter Signs First Bill of the 2018 Session

by Kyle Pfannenstiel

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

 

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed an unemployment insurance tax reduction bill into law, the first legislation signed this session.

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Employers are expected to save $115 over the next three years. The bill would reduce the unemployment fund size multiplier and reduce the employer’s taxable wage rate for unemployment insurance taxes.

H 335 passed the House and the Senate unanimously last week.

“I congratulate and thank the Legislature for accepting my challenge to make this commonsense tax relief ‘Job One’ for the 2018 session” Otter said. “Idaho’s job creators, large and small, will benefit from this needed adjustment, and our already booming economy will get another boost.”

“We will have one of the best reserves of all fifty states as a result of this. On top of the fact that we don’t have any debt in Idaho,” said Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who is running for governor.

In answer to a question about future tax bills this session, Otter said, “We’re going to see a lot of things come down. I’ll just say that.”

Posted January 31, 2018

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Genesee is ‘Capital for a Day’

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and other state officials made Genesee the state’s ‘Capital for a Day’ on Tuesday. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley spoke with Otter about the long running program. (:60)

Listen:

The format of the ‘Capital for a Day’ program is straightforward– Governor Otter and other state officials meet with local residents in a town hall style format, taking questions and talking about the issues.

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Otter told us that over the years the meetings have not only helped to alert officials to problems around the state, but having the state agencies actually in attendance has helped the agencies work together to address those problems:

Gov. Butch Otter:  “They learn from each other, and so then they’re able to respond– well, here’s the agency that can help you, instead of, geez, I don’t know where to go to tell you where to go to surrender.  I see an awful lot of interaction between the cabinet members.”

Otter said it’s been great over the years to hear directly from local residents, as well.

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The stop in Genesee was the 98th such ‘Capital for a Day’ program Otter has hosted, and the third time the program has been held in Latah County.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Posted January 30, 2018

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Idaho House Panel Introduces ‘Stand Your Ground’ Legislation

by Kyle Pfannenstiel

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

 

A bill to revise Idaho self-defense laws, known as “stand your ground” legislation, was approved for consideration by an Idaho House panel Monday.

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The legislation, from Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, was drafted in consultation with gun rights organizations like the National Rifle Association; it would protect those using deadly force against those invading their homes or workplace in certain circumstances by creating criminal immunity for self-defense and by removing the existing exemption for self-defense in Idaho’s justifiable homicide statutes.

Members of the House State Affairs Committee questioned some of the wording, as a draft of the bill states the person using deadly force is justified “if he reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, to prevent the commission of a violent felony or when attempting to apprehend a person for any felony committed.”

“My concern is that we’re making a distinction, where in other legislation we typically use different language,” Rep. Jason Monks, R-Nampa, said.

“Might be more appropriate to modify the language to be more objective,” Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, said.

Another area of contention in the bill’s print hearing was the lack of a definition for workplace, which a second amendment rights attorney said is “best left to the courts.”

Alexandria Kincaid, legal counsel for the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, told the committee the legislation was prompted by Idaho being ranked in the bottom 10 states for gun rights by the Guns and Ammo magazine.

“The ranking in a magazine is not a good reason to change our laws as opposed to problems with the law in the state of Idaho,” Monks said.

When asked about specific examples of Idaho’s current self-defense statutes presenting problems for defendants, Kincaid said she would give examples of cases in a future public hearing.

The bill also would provide repayment to law enforcement officers who use deadly force while acting under “official duties” and are found not guilty of crimes.

After over 40-minutes of debate, the committee voted 14-1 to introduce the bill. Rep. Elaine Smith voted no.

Posted January 20, 2018

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Idaho Legislature– Week Three

The third week of the 2018 Idaho State Legislature was “Education Week” at the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Idaho Sup. of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra asked JFAC for a 6.8% increase in funding for public schools. She pushed for raising teacher salaries, asking for $46.6 million for salaries.

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The presidents of the state’s colleges and universities also made their budget pitches to JFAC. UI President Chuck Staben said the university was growing and thriving; Lewis-Clark State College President Tony Fernandez talked about the college’s 125th anniversary this year and described LCSC and its students as tenacious.

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JFAC also heard budget presentations on other U-Idaho services, including Agricultural Outreach and Extension, the Forest Utilization Research program, and the WWAMI medical education program. Here is Dr. Mary Barinaga, Assistant Dean for Regional Affairs for the University of Washington School of Medicine, before JFAC on Jan. 24:

JFAC will hear budget presentations through the middle of February and then begin to set budgets for fiscal year 2019.

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In other legislative business, legislative committees agreed to introduce bills on speed limits on state highways, foreign influence over American courts, to allow use of a marijuana derivative, to allow the posting of legal notices online, to call for a convention to consider amending the U.S. Constitution, and to ban some public lobbying.

Lawmakers sent a bill to lower unemployment insurance taxes to Governor Otter, and the House passed a bill on tax conformity.

Week Four begins Monday, January 29.

(Reporters Nina Rydalch and Kyle Pfannenstiel contributed to this report)

Posted January 28, 2018.

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Idaho House Panel Introduces Voter Registration Requirements Legislation

by Kyle Pfannenstiel

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

 

A bill that would remove the requirement that Idaho voters specify sex on voter registration cards was approved for consideration by the House State Affairs Committee on January 22.

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(Kyle Pfannenstiel photo)

Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, made the motion to consider the bill proposal, which was approved by voice vote, with two dissenters. Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, and Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, R-Nampa, asked to be recorded as no votes.

Scott worried about the impact on voter data, and asked “why would you just remove that valuable information.” She asked whether it would be useful to include a third category, like ‘other.’

Crane wondered how prevalent the issue is in Idaho, “I haven’t read about this in the news here in the state of Idaho that it has been a big issue.”

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, asked if the issue could be solved by using the term gender instead of sex. Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst, who presented the proposal, responded that “sex and gender are used interchangeably.”

Hurst told the committee that the requirement to include sex on voter registration cards has caused issues in other states and said the bill is aimed at preventing issues in Idaho. He said it doesn’t necessarily have use for his office, and he does not know of organizations who use it.

“There’s no reason for that to be on the card to identify the person. It has created some problems with society now, so we’d just like to have that removed from the registration card…,” Hurst said. “We don’t generate any voting statistics by gender from our office, and I don’t know anyone in the state that does that. So, I don’t see the need for anyone to identify by sex.”

According to political science professor at Boise State University, Jeff Lyons, “There’s a relatively high number of states that don’t ask for it. As well as, I know there’s a number of states that are moving to additional options, like non-binary.”

Lyons, who specializes in public policy, said the data on sex or gender from voter registration often isn’t of use to researchers.

“To be honest, I don’t see any big downside for the research side of things, from a political science perspective. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of any research that uses the state of gender that comes from the registration files,” he said.

Researchers often rely on data from surveys or polling data for gender or sex, Lyons said, but it may be of use to political parties and campaigns.

Idaho Democratic Party Communications Director Shelby Scott said in an interview, “We use that information to study our culture and to see what rates men and women turn out to vote. If we can see that we can try to remove our democracy and maybe take away those barriers for people who maybe can’t come out to vote.”

Posted January 26, 2018

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North Idaho College Before JFAC

by Nina Rydalch

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

 

North Idaho College President Rick MacLennan presented the proposed NIC budget at the Idaho State Legislature Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on January 22, asking for more than $1 million increase in state funding.

 

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(File photo)

However, NIC’s requests, along with those of the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls and the College of Western Idaho near Boise, were not the governor’s priorities this year.

“He wanted those resources to be targeted toward those task force recommendations instead, so that was the emphasis, and that’s the reason why,” said David Hahn, one of Otter’s senior financial management analysts in the Division of Financial Management, when lawmakers asked why the governor didn’t recommend funding on multiple items.

In his pitch Monday, MacLennan talked primarily about expanding the college’s computer science program and adding a “pathfinders” program. The budget proposal also included a $302,900 “summer completion initiative” that would allow 2,000 students to enroll in three credits tuition-free in 2018, and a $174,500 program aimed at supporting at-risk students.

“We’re looking future-forward at North Idaho College,” MacLennan said. “We’re in the thick of an integrated institution-, community- wide planning process that is aligning all of our plans so all of the work we do is strategic and comprehensive as we make decisions about how we’re going to walk into the future to best serve our communities.”

The part of that walk into the future that most interested lawmakers was the expansion of the computer science program, which would cost $300,000. That would pay for additional hardware and another teacher, MacLennan said.

The legislators mentioned the importance of STEM programs and “employable degrees” multiple times throughout the presentations.

“I definitely see a demand,” said Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. “It’s probably the number one issue that I hear. Obviously education is the number one issue I hear from employers, but specifically having trained computer professionals.”

He said that demand is not exclusive to technology companies, but applies to all industries.

MacLennan also addressed the “pathfinders” program, a program that would station counselors in regional high schools. He said students often think of college as an “either-or” proposition. Either they go on to a four-year college, or they don’t go at all. He said this means they are missing out on other higher education possibilities.

“People are missing real opportunities, and we really can’t afford to leave anybody on the bench,” he said. “We truly need everyone in the game.”

Legislative budget writers will start setting the state budget, including colleges, in mid-February.

Posted January 26, 2018

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