Author Archives: idahopublicradio2014

Idaho State Legislature– Week 6

On February 11, 1920, Idaho Governor D.W. Davis delivered a speech calling for the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Here’s a look at a copy of the speech, photographed at the Governor’s Ceremonial Office while on display at the Idaho State Capitol:

History

(State of Idaho photo)

The Idaho Legislature celebrated 100 years of women’s suffrage. In 1896, Idaho paved the way for women to become the fourth state in the nation to grant women the right to vote. On February 11, 1920, Idaho ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

District 5 State Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy spoke in the House Chamber about the suffrage movement.

Women’s suffrage has been celebrated outside of the Idaho State Capitol, as well.

Public presentations that mark the century since the ratification of the 19th Amendment – granting women the right to vote – have been ongoing in Moscow since last September as part of a lecture series hosted by the University of Idaho, Latah County Historical Society and Moscow League of Women Voters.

The Seeking Suffrage Lecture Series featured historian Rebecca Mead in January. Meade discussed “How the Vote Was Won: Women’s Suffrage in the U.S. West,” examining the factors that resulted in nearly all western women being granted the right to vote by 1914, while few women in the eastern United States voted until after the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

The Seeking Suffrage Lecture Series is hosted by the Latah County Historical Society, Moscow League of Women’s Voters, U of I’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, Honors Program and Women’s Center, with support from the Idaho Humanities Council.

More lectures, scheduled in March and April 2020, will focus on the women’s suffrage movement in Idaho and Latah County.

One other note on this history, from our story archives, as produced by our State Capitol Bureau:

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(File photo: Sen. Michelle Stennett, Rep. Wendy Horman, First Lady Teresa Little, Gov. Brad Little, Janet Gallimore, executive director of Idaho State Historical Society, and Sen. Yvonne McCoy celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage in Idaho. Photo by reporter Cheyenna McCurry, 2019)

Last year, reporter Cheyenna McCurry reported on the Idaho Women 100 Campaign (pictured, above), established to honor the state’s “courageous past, unlimited future” through statewide celebrations of women’s suffrage and success.

Over the past year, that campaign has indeed been involved in events all over the state. Head here for more information:  https://www.idahowomen100.com/

On to some of the other news from the Idaho State Legislature:

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Idaho District 5 lawmakers will be back for another discussion with local constituents on February 22 at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce. The last get-together was lively and well-attended (above).

Elsewhere in our coverage from the Idaho State Capitol, we have reported to you extensively in the past week on the latest debates on school content standards, taxes, and agriculture issues. Check the menu on the right-hand side of this page for those stories. A few other items of interest:

  • SCR 126 is a resolution supporting the establishment of a three-branches of government collaboration to develop and implement a statewide strategic plan to improve the behavioral health system in Idaho.
  • H 356 says that operations choosing to use certain nutrient management planners are consenting to allow such plans to be housed with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
  • S 1250 would treat the use of certain electronic devices behind-the-wheel as an infraction.
  • S 1308 would bring Idaho Statute into compliance with the new federal regulation changing the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 years old to 21 years old.

There are hundreds of bills in the Idaho State Legislature still awaiting work. Leadership hopes the Legislature will adjourn by March 20, 2020.

Week 7 begins Monday, February 17, 2020.

(Reporters Cheyenna McCurry, Riley Haun, Madison Hardy, Logan Finney, and Glenn Mosley contributed to the information in this report)

Posted February 15, 2020

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Idaho House Mulls Tax Freeze and More

City and County Officials Detail Budget Woes to Lawmakers

by Logan Finney

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

After three days of hearings and hours of testimony by county and city officials, an Idaho House panel has approved a bill that would temporarily freeze the portions of local government budgets funded by property taxes.

House Bill 409 by House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, would freeze those property tax budgets for one year. The House Revenue and Taxation Committee sent the bill to the full House with a do pass recommendation Thursday on a 12-3 party-line vote.

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Property taxes make up 54% of county revenues according to the Idaho Association of Counties, and Moyle said that cities fund about 20% of their budgets with property taxes.

The bill prohibits local governments—excluding school districts—from certifying a property tax budget or levy in 2020 that exceeds the amount budgeted in 2019.

“Property taxes have been an issue in the state of Idaho for a long time,” Moyle told the committee. “In 1978, around the same time, the state of California passed Prop 13, the state of Idaho passed what was called the One Percent Initiative.

The 1978 voter initiative limited property taxes to one percent of market value alongside other tax limitation measures. The proposal qualified for the ballot alongside a wave of virtually identical initiatives passed in states that year.

“We basically whited out ‘California’ and typed in ‘Idaho,’” tax reduction advocate Grover Norquist told the Spokesman-Review in 2013.

Unlike in California, however, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled the voter initiative unconstitutional. As a compromise, the Legislature froze property-tax-funded budgets at 1978 levels rather than modifying the taxes directly.

Today, Idaho counties, cities and other taxing districts are allowed to increase that property tax amount of their budgets by three percent every year, in addition to new value generated by new construction or land annexation.

“The Legislature [in 1979] said let’s take a step back,” Moyle said. “They froze the property tax portions of the budget for a year. They had an interim committee where they sat down to discuss the issue to find out a solution that would address the concerns of the citizens.”

Last year lawmakers created a ten-member interim Property Tax Working Group, which Moyle described as more of a learning group.

“There were no solutions talked about,” he said. “As legislators and as citizens, we don’t understand property taxes. A lot of the time was spent on learning how they work, learning the numbers, seeing who was spending what where and when.”

Moyle called for a larger interim committee to continue the work of the study group in partnership with cities, counties and school districts. He intends for this one-year budget freeze to mimic the one four decades ago, as an incentive for local governments to collaborate with the state on more comprehensive plans.

He warned that the state government could lose control of the situation if the problem is not addressed soon.

“If the Legislature does not act, the people will act,” Moyle said. “This is one of those issues that is near and dear to every Idahoan citizen. They will get an initiative on the ballot just like they did in 1978.”

Many of those who testified in favor of the bill were homeowners who have seen dramatic increases in their property taxes. Darryl Ford, a resident of Caldwell, told the committee that new neighborhoods springing up in his formerly rural area were doubling property values—and in turn, taxes.

“I’m on a fixed income now and I’m afraid they’re going to tax us right out of our house. We paid for the house, it’s ours,” he told them. “We’re not going to be able to live those golden years the way you think the golden years should be.”

“I’m even having trouble feeding my horses now,” said Ford.

Also speaking in favor of the bill was Fred Birnbaum of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. “We need to hit the pause button,” he told lawmakers.

A long line of county commissioners and city officials testified before the committee, urging them to vote against a freeze to their budgets.

“This is not a pause or a slow down,” said Commissioner Brent Mendenhall of Madison County. “House Bill 409 is slamming on the brakes on an ice-covered road.”

Mendenhall said his county is struggling to fund enough EMTs and adequate snow plowing. He also had concerns with state plans to appropriate Medicaid Expansion savings that counties had anticipated going to their budgets.

Bill Lewis, Oneida County Commissioner, told legislators about struggles to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act in his county. He says they’ve failed for twenty years to pass the bonds necessary to fund building upgrades. Lewis described attempts to save small budget amounts here and there to devote to the issue. He said a budget freeze could risk further lawsuits against Oneida County.

“Even after a one-million-dollar judgment against the elementary school this past year, the next bond attempt still failed,” he said. “We carried—I saw it personally, this—we carried two individuals up our stairs into our courtroom because of ADA compliance issues. One of whom was the person who sued the elementary school.”

In information about property taxes and budgets provided to the committee, the Idaho Association of Counties says that 44% of county expenditures are for justice and public safety.

“I need to hire three more prosecuting attorneys,” said Bannock County Commissioner Terrel Tovey. He said a freeze would force his county to eliminate county employees that provide state

functions. “How would I do that? I’m going to get rid of the fair, I’m going to get rid of the fair board, I’m going to get rid of 4-H.”

Commissioner Wayne Butts of Custer County said that the vast majority of land in his area is untaxable, which limits their budget across the board.

“We have seriously had the conversation in our county in the last year,” he told them, “that there’s a possibility that we’re going to have to look at dissolving our county. As a county commissioner, do you know how that makes me feel?”

Urban city officials face the opposite problem of sparsely populated rural counties. The unprecedented growth they’re experiencing has come with a different downside—unprecedented strain on their public services.

“A one-year freeze is a one-year problem with a multi-year impact for us,” said Doug Racine, Nampa Director of Finance. His city is struggling with maintaining infrastructure and staffing their police and fire departments. “Growth brings cost. If I do not have revenues associated with the cost of the growth that means we have to cut services.”

Local governments said that increasing the circuit breaker program and homeowner’s exemption would help shift those taxes to more equitable levels. Moyle argued the opposite.

Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto said that time would be better spent on a comprehensive tax system overhaul. “We’re just freezing the budget, and a bunch of people are going to see their taxes increase, and we’re all going to look stupid,” he said.

Opponents of the bill also questioned the freeze after both sides acknowledged it won’t limit property taxes for all homeowners.

Moyle and Treasure Valley officials alike explained that due to rising market values and tax burdens shifting between classes of property, most of their homeowners would still see an increase in next year’s property taxes in spite of the freeze. Democrats asked why the committee should pursue a freeze if the approach was not guaranteed to help taxpayers.

“We’ve heard a lot of testimony about this not helping with people’s property taxes. I know we’ve had a lot of discussion also about the need for local governments to survive a freeze,” said Rep. Rob Mason, D-Boise. “These are two different conversations.”

The most obvious effects of changes made in response to the 1978 initiative were decreased property taxes. However, Education Week reported in 1982, along with tax relief came dramatic cuts to school budgets that required withdrawals from the general fund and an immediate uptick in supplemental levies.

“With cuts, the schools will never be as good again as they are now,” then-State Board of Education President Cheryl Hymas told the 1982 Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “We’ve lost so much by not doing timely maintenance, by not making timely purchases, and by letting the morale of our teachers drop, that even with immediate full funding, it would be decades before we could catch up.”

Moyle had introduced a draft of the bill earlier in the session, then introduced this version—HB409—last week. That bill passed by the committee excludes school district budgets from the

one-year freeze. It also prevents taxing districts from claiming a foregone property tax balance from the year.

If a local government increases its property tax budget by less than the three percent maximum, the State Tax Commission keeps track of the difference. These balances accumulate year after year, and local governments have the right to go back and collect those unclaimed taxes in subsequent budget years.

A bill from Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, that reverses that arrangement passed the House last week and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate. If passed into law, local governments would have to designate a specific dollar amount to keep available for future budgets and notify the public, rather than the state tax commission quietly reserving increases by default.

The taxation committee has not yet scheduled a hearing for another proposal from Moyle, which would require the tax values from new construction and annexation to be included in the three percent maximum instead of being added on top. He did reference the proposal in the hearing, listing a number of scenarios that would account for unlawful, reckless spending.

“Who’s checking to make sure these property taxes are applied correctly?” he asked. “Who’s checking to make sure that the new construction number wasn’t fudged? Who’s checking to make sure that this is all legit? Nobody!”

This drew a laugh from the local government crowd. An audience member stated, “The State Tax Commission.”

“Now, I’ve asked the tax commission to do it,” Moyle said. “Nobody’s looking at it.”

The Idaho Association of Counties and the Idaho Association of Cities both support the reforms to foregone tax balances. Both organizations oppose both of Moyle’s property tax budget bills.

Posted February 15, 2020

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Senate Education Panel Keeps Education Standards, What Now?

by Madison Hardy

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

The Senate Education Committee rejected the House repeal of the Idaho Content Standards in a mere 30 minutes during Wednesday’s meeting. After over a month of public testimony and lawmaker deliberation, the standards are right back where they started.

Idaho’s Content Standards of English language arts, Math, and Science loomed over the House Education Committee for the better part of three weeks eventually resulting in a vote to repeal the standards in their entirety.

On Monday Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) proposed a resolution that would create an interim committee to study the standards and potentially recommended replacements. Instead of the overhauling repeal, Sen. Mortimer suggested a process that allows the standards and testing to undergo the usual process of public hearings, agency revisions, and input from content experts.

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(Sen. Dean Mortimer. State of Idaho photo)

The resolution was sent to the floor that afternoon and passed the Senate on Wednesday.

“The legislature needs to come together and develop a process, a timeline, and a direction for the creation and implementation of new content standards that all Idaho can get behind,” said Mortimer on the Senate floor. “A foundation that will promote advanced learning, that will challenge our students and parents, that will encourage their participation and acceptance of their responsibilities.”

Interim committees provide a forum for in-depth discussions of issues that can arise in upcoming sessions. These committees are created by a legislative council, including both House and Senate minority and majority leaders. For some lawmakers, Mortimer’s proposed interim committee proposed does not provide a foreseeable solution.

“Interim committees don’t really seem to accomplish a whole lot,” said Representative Judy Boyle (R-Midvale), a member of the House Education Committee. “It’s pretty restrictive being on an interim committee, I’ve been on a lot of them and I’ve always thought this is a complete waste of time. I’m not voting for that interim committee when it comes over.”

First elected to the legislature in 2008, Boyle saw the initial introduction of Common Core in the early 2010s. Rep. Boyle made the original motion in the House committee to repeal the

standards, she claims that the standards were not the saving grace that the state thought it would be.

“I have heard through the years how awful these are for kids, for parents, for grandparents, for teachers,” said Boyle. “We need to look at something different, this is a failure absolutely, it was never nationally benchmarked like we were told, it was never just piloted, it was just lock, stock and barrel.”

While the Senate committee vote affirms the standards, it was not an indication committee members support the current language. The content standards go beyond the daily classroom lesson, they guide teachers’ overall goals, influence curriculum choices, and are used to measure student achievement scores through national assessments. For many lawmakers the fear that the standards could be thrown out without a replacement plan could cause chaos throughout the state.

“It’s important that we have continuity for not only our students but our educators. In order to repeal something, you have to have something to replace it. That’s not something that can be done in a short time frame.” said Sen. Mortimer. “From the action that we took on Wednesday, I think it’s clear that we felt like it was important to keep our current Idaho Content Standards in place until we can come to an agreement and develop new content standards, new testing, and new curriculum.”

Mortimer said he couldn’t take full credit for the resolution, and that the idea initially came from the House. According to Mortimer, a resolution calling for an interim committee had been previously drafted by the Chairman of the House Education Committee Lance Clow (R-Twin Falls), among other House committee members. After visiting with Rep. Clow for several weeks prior to the House decision, Sen. Mortimer felt it was best to present the resolution.

“I was very concerned with the House action because I don’t believe that it was as thoughtful from the standpoint of keeping a process in place for our education students and our professionals,” said Mortimer. “In my opinion…the recommendations need to be a joint effort not only between the Senate and the House but also all of the educational stakeholders.”

In the Senate Education meeting, committee members were quick to point out their awareness of contrasting perspectives around the content standards. Legislators such as Senator Steven Thayn (R-Emmett), Senator Ward-Engelking (D-Boise), Senator Lent (R-Idaho Falls), and Senator Den Hartog (R-Meridian) said their decision was not intended to ignore the voices of the Idaho people who disagreed with the standards. According to Senator Thayn, the Senate Education Committee only had three choices; do nothing and allow the rules to go back into place, agree completely with the House, or adopt the current standards and move forward with the review.

“I appreciate what the House has done, however, they only did the first part of the process, they identified some of the issues they wanted to address,” said Senator Thayn. “They didn’t put into place a process to get this done, and that’s what I would like to see.

This process is what Mortimer hopes to stimulate through the resolution. To create a fluid transition from one set of standards to the next giving lawmakers, state agencies, educators, and citizens the ability to collectively create new standards.

“The best way to get something done is to begin, let’s begin,” said Mortimer.

Posted February 15, 2020

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Bill would make it easier for counties to share ambulance districts

Crabtree proposes independent ambulance boards, taxing districts to address rural problems

by Riley Haun

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

 

A bill paving the way for shared ambulance districts across county boundaries will make its way to the Senate floor after the Local Government and Taxation Committee voted to approve it Thursday.

Senate Bill 1332’s sponsor, Sen. Carl Crabtree (R-Grangeville), told the committee the bill would help solve problems common in rural, remote ambulance districts. Current Idaho law has county commissioners also serve as commissioners of that county’s ambulance district. Since commissioners have no authority outside their own counties, providing ambulance service across county lines is difficult and taxes for that service can become “unworkable” and confusing, Crabtree said.

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(Sen. Carl Crabtree. State of Idaho photo)

Crabtree’s proposal would offer counties the option of forming independent ambulance districts across county lines, mirroring the code currently used for fire districts in Idaho. County residents could petition commissioners for a new district, triggering a public hearing. If commissioners approve the plan after hearings, county residents would then vote on the formation of the new district. Any cities within the proposed district boundaries would have to pass a resolution in support for the proposal to succeed.

The newly formed ambulance district could then elect a board of commissioners independent from the county, allowing communities to share a district across county lines. The bill would also allow those commissioners to create a taxing district coextensive with the new ambulance district, eliminating confusion when one district incorporates multiple counties.

Crabtree said the bill would make ambulance access simpler for rural communities, especially in his Legislative District 7 which includes some of the most sparsely populated areas in the state. Crabtree developed the bill after a suggestion from Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt.

Two small towns in the district, Kooskia and Kamiah, have long expressed interest in creating a joint district to serve both communities. But a county boundary separating them means the two cities—eight miles apart, with a combined 1,700 people—must each find their own resources.

Crabtree said the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has held several meetings over the last year to assess problems in rural ambulance districts across the state. Most of them were attended by 10 to 15 people, Crabtree said—but in Idaho County, over 100 residents turned out with concerns, according to Crabtree.

“I think we have a bill here that will help rural Idaho, and Idaho County especially,” Crabtree said.

Sen. Todd Lakey (R-Nampa), a former Canyon County Commissioner, expressed concern for potential inefficiency under Crabtree’s plan. Lakey said serving as both a county and ambulance district commissioner took a toll on him during his tenure, but the joint function meant easier coordination and didn’t require two separate paid boards.

Crabtree said he thought those kinds of problems could be worked out during the public comment period before any voting takes place. If county commissioners or residents decide creating a district under the new code wouldn’t serve them any better, they can end the process there.

“This would put the decision-making that much closer to the taxpayers, and if it’s inefficient then they made the choice to be inefficient,” Crabtree said.

Ambulance districts existing before July 1, 2020 would be grandfathered into the new code.

Posted February 15, 2020

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Lawmaker Seeks to Remove Party Affiliation for Fish and Game Commission

by Logan Finney

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

State lawmakers have introduced a bill to remove partisan requirements for members of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Under existing law, no more than four members of the seven-person commission may belong to the same political party.

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The proposal brought by Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, would remove that limit, as well as the portion of the oath of office where commissioners must declare their political party. The bill leaves intact a ban on commissioners holding any other elected or political office during their term.

“The only thing that changes is you don’t have to declare your political affiliation,” Shepherd told the committee.

The Fish and Game Commission was created by Idaho’s first ballot initiative in 1938 to administer the state’s wildlife policies. Commissioners represent one of seven administrative regions, appointed to staggered four-year terms by the governor and approved by the state senate.

This proposed change in party requirements comes after newly appointed commissioner Bradley Melton of Lewiston resigned from his position last month. Melton informed Governor Brad Little that he had changed his party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated shortly before applying to the post in September, when the commission already had four Republican members.

“Transparency in government and public confidence in the Idaho Fish and Game Commission are paramount to me,” Little said in a press release. “Although Mr. Melton is qualified to fill the spot, he willingly stepped down so that I can appoint someone to the commission in accordance with the spirit of the law.”

The governor’s office is accepting applications for the vacant Clearwater Region seat until March 13. The region oversees wildlife in Latah, Nez Perce, Lewis, Clearwater, and Idaho counties north of the Salmon River.

Shepherd’s seat in Legislative District 7 represents Clearwater, Idaho and Shoshone counties and a portion of Bonner County.

The bill was printed on a party-line vote Thursday in the House Ways and Means Committee. Democrats on the panel fear that altering the requirements on the Fish and Game Commission could open the door to changing the partisan makeup of other state commissions as well.

“This opens up a Pandora’s box,” said House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise. “There are statutory protections for minority representation on our commissions. I think having that diversity on our commissions is critical.”

The bill must pass a full committee hearing, both chambers of the legislature, and be signed by Governor Brad Little before becoming law.

Posted February 14, 2020

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House Panel Introduces Bill on Transgender Athletes

by Madison Hardy

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

 

Gender equality is a contentious issue in the United States, even in factors as specific as school sport programs. In Wednesday’s House Education Committee meeting Republican Idaho Falls Representative Barbara Ehardt says there is a new challenge for sportswomen– transgender athletes.

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“You see opportunities continually taken away from girls and women, and you see girls and women being forced into an arena where it is not fair and they cannot compete in,” said Rep. Ehardt. “In some instances they are literally in danger.”

Ehardt says the proposed legislation will ensure fair athletic opportunities for girls and women by preventing male-to-female transgender students from competing in female sporting events.

“This bill will center on opportunities for girls and women because those opportunities for boys and men, they [male-to-female transgender students] still have them they just need to do it on that side,” said Ehardt.

Language in the bill bases a student’s participation in school sports teams on their hormones, internal and external organs, and chromosome makeup. Originating from fairness for girls and women, it would encompass all transgender athletes to be defined by their birth given sex. The bill, also sponsored by Senator Mary Souza (R- Coeur d’Alene), would define a student’s gender in three ways– physiologically, chromosomally and hormonally.

Some democratic members of the committee, like Rep. Steve Berch (D – Boise) and Rep. John McCrostie (D – Garden City), openly did not support introducing the bill.

“I just think that this is an issue that is so far down the priority list that we have in this state facing education,” said Rep. Berch. “I just don’t think this is where we should be spending our time.”

Other members of the committee disagreed.

“I hardly think equality in sports is seen as an unimportant issue for this committee to be undertaking,” Rep. Gayann Demordaunt (R – Eagle) said.

The current policy in Idaho requires that a male-to-female transgender student athlete must complete one year of medically prescribed hormone teatment under a physician’s care related to the gender transition before competing on the female team. However they are permitted to participate on the male team without limitations.

“I think the most important thing to share is that this RS [bill] would actually promote the notion that trans-girls are not real girls and that trans-women are not real women,” said Rep. McCrostie. “I find it disappointing.”

Ehardt says the bill does not intend to discriminate LGBTQ students and she has said she personally supports transgender persons.

Idaho is not alone in discussing transgender athletes in school programs. Recently legislators in approximately five states proposed legislation that prevents athletes from competing in categories different from their biological sex. The states with introduced or pre-filed legislation are New Hampshire, Washington, Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The vote to introduce the bill was divided on party lines. Next stop would be a public hearing in an upcoming House Education Committee meeting.

Posted February 14, 2020

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House Committee Hears Resolution on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People

by Riley Haun

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

Resolution would create day of awareness for missing and murdered indigenous people

A resolution creating a day of remembrance in Idaho for missing and murdered indigenous persons was introduced unanimously by the House Health and Welfare committee Wednesday.

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Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy (R-Genesee) introduced the resolution, which aims to bring awareness to the high rates of violence and homicide against Native American populations. The bill would designate May 5 as a day of awareness for indigenous victims of these crimes and expresses support for existing efforts to investigate the issue and find solutions.

The resolution comes from a growing movement in recent years to step up efforts to solve the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Native people. Violence disproportionately impacts Native women and girls, according to the U.S. Department of Justice—indigenous women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average for other groups, and homicide is now the third leading cause of death among young Native women. Native men are 1.3 times more likely to experience violence than white men.

“It’s often thought now that Native women may be targeted and victimized simply because nothing happens,” Troy told the committee.

Troy’s bill says the Legislature “resolves to raise awareness and advocate for increased safety” in Native communities through avenues already open to lawmakers, including partnerships with state law enforcement, tribal governments and organizations focused on sexual and domestic violence. The Legislature would also provide recommendations as needed to further efforts by other agencies.

Eleven states, including Idaho neighbors Oregon, Montana, Nevada and Utah, were designated coordinators through U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative last November. Those coordinators work with U.S. attorneys to find and address problems in state legal systems, with the goal of better serving native communities and reducing crime rates. Idaho was not designated a coordinator through the program.

Many of those same states enacted legislation or executive orders in 2019 commissioning studies on crime rates and potential solutions or creating task forces of their own.

Tyrel Stevenson, legislative affairs director for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, told the House committee the timing was “not appropriate” right now for such legislation in Idaho. Instead, he said he hoped the resolution would encourage collaboration between Idaho agencies, the U.S Justice Department, and Idaho’s five federally recognized tribes to solve state-specific problems.

No Idaho tribes or state agencies have statistics on missing and murdered indigenous people in the state, the Idaho Statesman reported last December. Though many federal agencies and advocacy groups gather data of their own, a lack of local data means tribal and state authorities have no starting point for developing their own approaches to the crisis. 

Last year, the Legislature’s interim Council of Indian Affairs recommended Governor Brad Little take action to gather data on violence against indigenous people in Idaho. In response, Little directed the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victims Assistance to begin gathering information in partnership with tribal governments.

Little’s press secretary Marissa Morrison Hyer said the Governor’s Office continues to watch the matter closely while the report is in the works. “The Governor’s Office is currently evaluating the best path forward to address the issue,” Hyer said.

Posted February 14, 2020

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