Monthly Archives: February 2019

Idaho State Legislature– Week 7

Week 7 started with a Lincoln Tribute on President’s Day and included the public schools budget and a rejection of bills to repeal the Medicaid expansion initiative passed into law by voters last November.

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(Idaho Public Radio file photo)

February 18 was a holiday for many, but state lawmakers were at work; the work day include a Lincoln Tribute.

“Our 16th president of the United States embodies our Democratic values of equality, justice, and government accountability,” House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding said in his weekly newsletter.

Also this past week: Legislators met with 4-H students from across the state at the Know Your Government Conference, held very year during President’s Day Weekend in Boise. The theme of this year’s conference was, “Oh, the places you’ll go.”

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(Cheyenna McCurry photo)

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Feb. 18 approved Idaho’s K-12 budget in a series of unanimous, 20-0 votes.

The public schools budget for next year was set at about $1.89 billion in state general funds. That’s an increase of 6.1% over the current year. Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra had requested an 8% increase. The total budget is about $2.26 billion.

“We set the K through 12 first,” Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy said at a Moscow community event on Feb. 23. “I think there’s a lot of us that are saying, if this is the most important thing, then let’s make it the most important thing and put that out there first and get it done.”

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(Cheyenna McCurry photo)

On Monday, The House Health & Welfare heard public testimony on HB 109 that would create a maternal mortality review committee in attempt to decrease Idaho’s maternal death rate of 27.1. HB 109 passed with do-pass recommendation, with only one ‘no’ vote from Rep. Christensen. By the end of the week, the full House passed the bill by one vote.

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(Cheyenna McCurry photo)

Some of the other news:

The Idaho House Education Committee on Friday voted against holding a public hearing on the School Readiness Act, a proposed pre-kindergarten program.

HB 141, making changes to Idaho’s mining laws, cleared the House Resources & Conservation Committee on Thursday.

On Friday, JFAC approved about $107.6 million in total funding for the Behavioral Health Division, including about $63.5 million from general funds.

Idaho SB 1028, the bill identifying PTSD as an occupational injury affecting first responders, is now before the House. The House Commerce Committee gave the bill a ‘do-pass’ recommendation on Thursday.

The Idaho House rejected HB 85, the bill to exempt Idaho from Daylight Saving Time. The vote was 15-55.

The Idaho Senate passed SB 1045, on the inmate labor program and creating workplace training opportunities. It is now in the House Judiciary Committee.

JFAC set the Dept. of Correction budget at about $246.4 million in general funds. There’s no new prison in the budget.

Legislation to designate Highway 20 in southern Idaho as the Idaho Medal of Honor Highway passed the House.

The Senate State Affairs Committee voted to hold a bill intended to make the list of donations to candidates and political causes in Idaho more public.

HB 150, from Rep. Bill Goesling, was sent to the floor with a do-pass recommendation. It would allow school boards with two vacancies to enter an Executive Session by roll-call vote for emergent circumstances.

A bill to allow historic theaters to sell beer and wine at community events passed on the House floor Thursday and now heads to the Senate.

The Idaho House Judiciary Committee sent a bill to the House that would allow peace officers to place a person who has threatened violence at schools into custody for evaluation.

And finally–

The Idaho House Health & Welfare Committee rejected two proposed bills aimed at repealing Medicaid expansion. The proposals– one from Rep. John Green (R-Post Falls) and one from Green and Rep. Julianne Young (R-Blackfoot)– failed in committee.

Week 8 of the Idaho State Legislature gets underway on Monday, February 25th.

Reporters Cheyenna McCurry and Glenn Mosley contributed to this story)

Posted February 24, 2019

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District 5 Coffee — February 23

by Glenn Mosley

Idaho Public Radio

Medicaid expansion, prison population, education funding were the among the topics Saturday when District 5 State Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy spoke with constituents at the latest ‘Coffee with District 5 Legislators’ event hosted by the Moscow Chamber of Commerce.

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District 5’s other representatives to the Idaho State Legislature, Rep. Bill Goesling and Sen. David Nelson, had commitments and couldn’t attend. That left the stage to Troy, who spoke and fielded questions for about an hour.

“What you don’t realize in the legislature is that there’s the House side and the Senate side, and right now we’re very focused on what’s going on in the House,” Troy said in an opening statement. “We’re mostly listening to House bills. We’re holding all the Senate bills as they come across because there’s a date that’s called a transmittal date and we have to have all of our legislation done in time for that transmittal date, and that’s when the majority of our legislation is supposed to be transmitted from the House to the Senate, and they have that same kind of rule to transfer it over to us.”

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Topics varied when the Q & A started, starting with Medicaid expansion and whether lawmakers would impose sideboards on the new state law. Troy told the group two such bills were rejected in committee this week.

In terms of funding the law, Troy, a member of the state’s budget panel, said, “We’re trying to shuffle every penny we can together to cover Medicaid expansion.”

On prisons and criminal justice reform, Troy said, “There have been a lot of conversations and several pieces of legislation that have come forward. One that is still in play is from Reps. Zollinger and Ilana Rubel  to change the mandatory minimum.”

On the proposed school funding formula that lawmakers are looking at, Troy said, “I just can’t support something that takes away money from every single school district in my district.”

Asked about the public school budget set by JFAC this year, an increase of about 7% over last year, Troy said, “There still needs to be more work,” she said. “But I think we’re trying to go in the right direction, and trying to give local school districts more flexibility.”

Troy was asked if there has been any tax cut proposals this session.

“I don’t believe so,” she said. ” I do think there is some interest at some point in doing something with the grocery tax, but I just don’t feel that we can afford it right now. Especially right now– we’ve got to let the Medicaid expansion work its way through the system, we’ve got to let education, and this new funding formula for education, work its way through the system, I think, and kind of get some sense on what that’s going to look like.”

The Moscow Chamber of Commerce committed to hosting these events during this legislative session as a way to try to open up more dialogue on public policy issues. The next ‘Coffee with District 5 Legislators’ events are scheduled for March 9 and March 23.

Posted February 24, 2019

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Idaho Lawmakers Push for Hemp Legalization

by Cheyenna McCurry

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

A House Bill that would legalize hemp in Idaho had a hearing in the House Agricultural Affairs Committee on February 18.

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(Cheyenna McCurry photo, February 18, 2019)

Representatives Caroline Nilsson Troy (R-Genesee) and Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley), and Senator Abby Lee (R-Fruitland) are sponsoring H 122, also known as the Hemp Research and Development Act, that would legalize the research and production of hemp in Idaho.

“This is a big day for me because this has been a long time coming,” Rep. Troy said at the beginning of the hearing.

The bill follows the signing into law of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill, removing hemp from the controlled substance list and making it legal under federal law.

“Idaho can decide not to legalize hemp…but we need to deal with hemp. It’s an opportunity for good public policy. I have growers that are calling me and saying, ‘Senator I would like the opportunity to grow hemp,’” Senator Lee said in an interview.

This bill would align with the 2018 Farm Bill including the definition of “hemp” and the ability to produce, sell and transport it.

The language in H 122 says “hemp” is any part of the plant Cannabis sativa L. including the seeds, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, and salts of isomers, containing no more than 0.3% of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). More than 0.3% THC content would legally not be considered hemp and therefore illegal.

Idaho is one of three states yet to legalize hemp and would become the 48th state to do so, if this bill becomes law.

“We’re a little bit behind,” Rep. Moon said in an interview. “I do know the other two states, Nebraska and South Dakota, that they’re both moving legislation through too, so it’ll be interesting to see which is the last state…”

Years ago, the federal government passed the Agricultural Act of 2014 that allowed for industrial hemp research. Rep. Troy drafted legislation the last four legislative sessions in attempts to give Idahoans the opportunity to conduct research on hemp. All attempts failed.

Now, Rep. Troy along with Rep. Moon and Senator Lee believe this attempt to legalize hemp will be a success and offer all Idahoans a spot in the hemp industry.

The Agricultural Affairs Committee heard several testimonies in support for the bill, focused on the advantages of hemp including its versatility and durability.

Phil Haunschild of the Idaho Freedom Foundation spoke in support of the bill as hemp would provide more reasons for Idahoans to stay.

“We believe that as this market opens up with the Federal Farm Bill, it really gives our farmers a boost, gives them another choice, gives them a new crop that they can grow,” Haunschild said during his testimony.

Matthew Mead, a Blaine County resident and owner of Hempitecture, demonstrated the sustainable advantages of hemp used in construction materials. In 2017, Hempitecture built the first commercial hempcrete building in the U.S. in Idaho’s Custer County. Hempcrete is a composite used for installation and absorbs carbon dioxide in addition to being fire-proof, resistant to mold and non-toxic, according to Mead.

Many believe, however, that the legalization of hemp would make it difficult to control drug trafficking and inevitably lead to the legalization of marijuana.

One testimony in opposition of the bill was Kendall Nagy, a Boise resident.

“I believe it is far too risky for the public health and the children in the state of Idaho…I think that if we remain a state that sticks with the current laws related to cannabis, we can be different and we can be leaders in a different way,” Nagy said during her testimony.

Rep. Gary Marshall (R-Idaho Falls) expressed his opposition during the hearing and believes the legalization of hemp is a “marketing ploy” and “a big gamble for farmers”.

If H 122 passes, however, Idahoans won’t be able to start growing hemp immediately. The bill would simply make hemp legal under Idaho law and begin preparation for a state-wide plan.

“…it’s not going to be a hemp free-for-all out there,” Rep. Troy said. “There are going to be some specific regulations associated with it.”

If the bill becomes law, the Idaho Department of Agriculture must create a plan in collaboration with the Governor and the Chief Law Enforcement Officer to be approved by the United States Department of Ag.

The committee did not take a vote on the bill as members are negotiating with Idaho State Police and prosecutors. But the bill sponsors are hopeful that the bill will move forward.

“[Hemp] has an unique opportunity to bring communities together in a way other commodities don’t,” Rep. Troy said during an interview.

Posted February 24, 2019.

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Idaho State Legislature– Week 6

Medicaid expansion, redistricting, and budget setting were all part of the activity during the sixth week of the Idaho legislative session.

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JFAC started setting budgets on February 15 after taking testimony for the first several weeks of the session. Committee chairs came before JFAC before budget-setting began this week to lay-out their priorities.

JFAC approved a budget for the Idaho Division of Veterans Services totaling about $78.5 million; it includes funding for a veterans home in Post Falls. Other budgets set include those for the Office of Drug Policy, the Department of Finance, and the Public Health Districts.

Public school support comes before JFAC on Monday, February 18.

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(Hunter K. Funk photo)

On Monday, the Idaho House sent a bill that would have added a seventh member to the state’s redistricting commission back to committee. Democrats described it as “a constitutional amendment that would allow political gerrymandering.” Republicans had said it was needed to ease gridlock and litigation.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee introduced a bill that would add sideboards to Medicaid expansion. The vote was 5-4.

HB 62, a bill that would expand property tax breaks for low-income Idaho residents, passed the Senate. It had already passed the House and now goes to Governor Brad Little.

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In some of the other news:

The Idaho House passed HB 58, on expanding the scope of prescription drug donations in the state.

The Idaho House Transportation and Defense Committee has given a ‘do-pass’ recommendation to a bill proposed by Rep. Joe Palmer, the committee chair, to double the $15 million of state general funds being shifted to road work under a law passed in 2017.

A bill that would add to Idaho law on electric-assisted bicycles is now before the House.

Lawmakers in the Idaho House have approved legislation to compensate farmers and ranchers for damage caused by wildlife. HB 80 is now in the Senate.

The Idaho House passed the pet-friendly license plate bill. It goes to the Senate.

The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee approved HJM 1, on “requesting the support of Idaho’s congressional delegation to secure the proposed 611 National Suicide Hotline.” It goes to the full Senate.

The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee agreed to introduce a proposal to extend the surplus eliminator while putting a five year sunset in place and a $100 million cap.

The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee gave a ‘do-pass’ recommendation to HB 64, on abortion complication reporting.

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(Cheyenna McCurry photo)

Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a bill from Rep. Fred Wood into law that will allow all “health professionals licensed or registered” to dispense or prescribe opioid antagonists, making it easier to establish naloxone outreach programs.

In the week ahead, look for public hearings on the hemp research and development bill from Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy;  on a bill from Rep. Mat Erpelding that would allow historic theaters in Idaho to sell beer and wine at community events; and on a bill from Rep. Ilana Rubel on solar panel installations.

Week 7 of the Idaho State Legislature begins Monday, February 18.

Posted February 17, 2019.

(Reporters Cheyenna McCurry, Hunter Funk, and Glenn Mosley contributed to this report)

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Idaho House Education Cmte Gears Up For More Remote Testimony

by Cheyenna McCurry

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

The Idaho House Education Committee is preparing for the second remote testimony pilot project hearing that will offer Idahoans who live more than one hundred miles from the Idaho State Capitol the opportunity to testify on bill(s) chosen by the committee’s chairman.

Remote testimony is a piloted project developed by Representative Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, last legislative session after one of her constituents, Kathy Dawes of Moscow, wanted to give testimony on a bill but wasn’t able to afford to travel down to Boise.

Rep. Troy agreed to split the cost of a plane ticket to get Dawes to the Capitol and back to Moscow in the same day. However, the hearing for the bill was postponed several times, leaving Rep Troy and Dawes frustrated.

“It’s really difficult for folks very far away to come down have their voice heard. And for rural communities, it’s even more difficult because the distances are so far and roads aren’t always good, especially during this time of year,” Rep. Troy said in an interview.

Dawes later testified on a House Bill from KUID-TV in Moscow, one of the remote locations.

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(Kathy Dawes testified from a conference room at KUID-TV in Moscow on February 26, 2018. File photo by Glenn Mosley)

The project is being utilized in the House Education Committee and legislation for this year’s remote testimony will be decided by new Chairman Representative Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls.

Chairman Clow addressed committee members Friday morning about possible legislation and asked for any suggestions to improve the legislative’s remote testimony.

“Last year I thought it was a little bit weak in the way that we did it, but we didn’t have any, what I would describe as, bills that might have not attracted a lot of attention,” Chairman Clow said during Friday’s Committee meeting.

The potential bills are House Bill 120 from Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, that would give parents the opportunity to opt-in their children for sex education classes. The other is, House Bill 150 from Rep. Bill Goesling, R-Moscow, that would allow school boards with two vacancies to enter into an Executive Session with a majority roll-call vote. Senate bills aren’t available for this pilot project.

Chairman Clow hopes the two proposed bills will attract more testimonies as last year only three out of the six locations participated. Clow also thinks that the committee may be able to discuss both bills for the hearing, but it depends on response from the public.

The Committee is optimistic about this year’s remote testimony. Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, says he uses the same technology every week to talk to citizens from Idaho Falls.

“It works great. They can see us, we can see them. It’s a very nice process,” Rep. Marshall said during Friday’s committee meeting.

The date for the remote testimony hearing is yet to be determined as preparation is in its early stages. In addition, the committee must work around the House Revenue & Taxation Committee which meets at the same time. The room where Revenue & Taxation meets has video and audio capabilities while House Education’s room does not. It is known that the hearing won’t occur on a Monday.

When a date and legislation details are known, the committee will notify the public at least 72 hours before the date of hearing and citizens will be able to register up to 24 hours before hearing. If a location doesn’t have testimonies registered 24 hours in advance, the location will be closed and won’t be able to participant in the hearing.

There are six available locations for the remote testimony hearing:

* College of Southern Idaho (CSI) in Twin Falls

* Idaho Falls Research & Extension Center in Idaho Falls

* Idaho State University (ISU) in Pocatello

* KUID-University of Idaho in Moscow

* Nancy M. Cummings Extension Center, U of I in Carmen

* North Idaho College (NIC) in Coeur d’Alene

Additional information about remote testimony can be found on the Idaho Legislature’s website:

https://legislature.idaho.gov/remote-testimony/

Posted February 17, 2019

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“Our boys were no different than you all”

by Faith Evans

Idaho Public Radio

Last summer, four families who have lost their sons in hazing incidents came together with Greek Life organizations to fight it.

The families formed a partnership to spread their anti-hazing message and increase awareness that hazing should have no place in fraternity and sorority life on college campuses.The partnership focuses on strengthening state hazing laws and expanding education and training for high school and college-aged students.

Three of those parents– Evelyn Piazza, Rae Ann Gruver and Richard Braham– brought their message to the University of Idaho on February 12.

Their sons, Tim Piazza, Marquise Braham, and Max Gruver lost their lives in hazing incidents.

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(Photo by Faith Evans)

“Our boys were no different than you all,” Rae Ann Gruver told the large UI audience at the Bruce Pitman Center in Moscow. “They went away to college and they wanted to find a home away from home.  They wanted to find a brother when they couldn’t be with their own. They wanted a family when they couldn’t be with theirs. They wanted to feel safe.”

The parents have already spoken to hundreds of college students around the country.

“So, please take these words…back to your organizations and across your campus, and put an end to hazing,” Gruver told the UI audience. “Hazing has no place at the University of Idaho.

“Make something good out of something that’s been so horribly bad for us. Make this change happen,” Gruver said.

In forming the partnership, the parents joined with the North American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference, and other organizations, including HazingPrevention.Org, the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors and Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values, have committed support.

The organizations say they will continue to advocate at the federal level for passage of the REACH Act, which would require colleges and universities to report hazing incidents under the Clery Act.

Posted February 14, 2019.

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Idaho State Legislature– Week 5

It was a stormy finish to the fifth week of the 2019 Idaho State Legislature.

The future of the state’s redistricting commission was at issue.

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The Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted Friday to pass a proposed constitutional amendment to add a seventh member to the redistricting commission. Republicans said the measure is needed to reduce gridlock and litigation; the seventh member would be appointed by a panel of five state-wide office holders. The proposal was first introduced Wednesday.

Democrats on the committee walked out in protest, saying people should have more of a chance to testify.  “Idahoans have the right to participate in legislation, especially a constitutional amendment,” Rep. John Gannon said.

Democrats then called for full bill readings on the House floor on Friday, and business slowed as the bills were read.

House Joint Resolution 2, is a proposed constitutional amendment. To become law, it requires two-thirds approval in both the Idaho House and Senate and must then be passed by Idaho voters in the state’s next general election.

There was other business during Week 5. Here is some of the other news:

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(The Health and Welfare meeting. Cheyenna McCurry photo)

Medicaid expansion, health care, and child disability were among the issues raised during sometimes emotional public testimony Friday at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees. Lawmakers took testimony for an hour and a half on H & W topics.

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(The school funding formula meeting. Cheyenna McCurry photo)

School districts, superintendents, and other stakeholders had their say Thursday on proposed changes to the state’s school funding formula. The Idaho House and Senate Education Committees held a two hour listening session in the Lincoln Auditorium at the Idaho State Capitol.

An interim committee worked on the formula for nearly three years; a piece of draft legislation was recently made available. Concerns include the fear expressed by some school districts that they will lose funding while others gain funding.

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At the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee, budget hearings are winding down. The budget writing committee will start setting FY 2020 budgets on February 15.

Included in budget testimony this past week was Idaho Parks and Recreation, asking for a 2.7% increase over last year, and the Idaho Department of Correction, which had requested an increase of 15.2%, but Governor Little recommended a 3.6% increase.

The budget hearings were held against the backdrop of news in the January 2019 General Fund Revenue Report that state tax collections are down about $128 million over what was anticipated at this time in the fiscal year.

JFAC also approved a series of supplemental appropriation bills, including $45,000 for a GIS system that will be needed for redistricting work in the future.

In the week ahead, JFAC will wrap up Health and Welfare hearings and take testimony from committee chairs as to the priorities of those committees in the coming year.

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(Hunter Funk photo)

Also:

The Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee voted Thursday to introduce legislation to create a commission to look at maternal deaths.

The Idaho House Agricultural Affairs Committee voted to introduce a proposal to legalize hemp in Idaho.

The Idaho House Judiciary Committee approved public hearings on a series of bills, including a proposal from Dist. 5 Rep. Bill Goesling that would allow police to place a person who threatens violence at a school into custody for evaluation; A proposal from Rep. Caroline Troy that would increase fines for crimes of attempted rape and attempted murder; and a proposal from Rep. Melissa Wintrow to test all sexual assault evidence kits with only rare exceptions.

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Finally– District 5 legislators returned home over the weekend and again meet with local constituents at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce on Saturday. It was the latest in a series of such Q & A forums being hosted by the Chamber this session.

Week 6 of the Idaho State Legislature begins Monday, February 11, 2019.

(Reporters Cheyenna McCurry, Hunter Funk, and Glenn Mosley contributed to this story)

Posted February 10, 2019.

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