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Capitol Reflections: 2021 Session Issue 13

By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs
Published in Legislative on  April 30, 2021


“Today government touches everything in America and harms almost everything it touches. Federal, state, and local governments together spend 42 out of every 100 dollars we earn. Those who do the taxing and spending have long since ceased to work for the people as a whole. Rather, they work for themselves and for their clients-the education industry, the welfare culture, public-employee unions, etc.”  Malcolm Wallop




Legislature Still Going!

BOISE - Just like the Energizer bunny, the legislative session this year keeps going, and going, and going . . . . . It is not clear when they will end as there are several items that are keeping them here much longer than expected.   It is widely anticipated that this will be the longest session in History before they adjourn.

One issue that has taken additional time is education budgets.  The House defeated a couple of versions of the education budgets due to disagreements over some of the subject matter that is being taught in K-12 schools, as well as Idaho Universities.  The legislature sent a message to education last year that they need to stop indoctrinating students with anti-American ideology, but it appears the message was not received, and nothing has changed.  Now the Legislature is sending a stronger message by cutting budgets.  It appears there is a path forward on this issue, however, they cannot adjourn until they have passed these remaining budgets.

COVID-19 has caused a historically unusual pause in legislative activities this year.  Since the House and Senate recessed in March for 18 days after several House members were diagnosed with COVID, that delayed their work and has pushed things back.  A recess has very seldom been used in the 100 plus years of the Idaho legislature.  This year they have had at least three, with possibly more to come.  Hopefully, this is not a sign that this will become an accepted practice in the future.

Next, President Biden and the Democratically Controlled Congress have showered money on states and local governments in the $2 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  Idaho stands to receive nearly $5 billion, most of which does not have to be allocated this year.  However, millions do expire if it is not spent this year, so the Legislature is working on a plan that will allocate that money this year, while preserving its ability to allocate the remaining money over the next few years.

In addition, the House has been embroiled in an ethics committee investigation into allegations that one of the members engaged in “conduct unbecoming” a member of the House.  This prompted the Senate to take a recess while the House went through their proceedings, ultimately resulting in the resignation of Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R-Lewiston).

Although there are multiple other loose ends that are still being worked on, probably the main additional topic that is still being negotiated is tax relief for Idahoans.  You may remember that Governor Little identified $600 million in excess revenues for tax relief during his state of the state address in January.  H380, which would provide Idahoans with $163 million in ongoing income tax relief has advanced through the House and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.   Each of Idaho’s individual income tax brackets would be reduced under H380, with the top marginal rate being cut from 6.925% to 6.5%, and the corporate income tax would also be cut to 6.5%.  It is expected this will pass.

Meanwhile, property tax relief continues to be elusive, primarily due to vigorous opposition from the Association of Idaho Cities who have drawn a line in the sand that they will not accept any cuts to their budget-increasing authority.  The only way to reduce property taxes is to either cut budgets or force someone else to pay the tax for you.  Since most legislators understand that shifting taxes from homeowners to other types of property is not only unfair but is a poor tax policy, the negotiations have come to a stalemate.  It is hoped that the city officials will come to their senses and will recognize that taxing their citizens out of their homes is not in the best interest of their city.  There is hope that an acceptable solution will be crafted prior to adjournment, but the chances are rapidly dwindling.

Finally, legislators are especially nervous that the US Census Bureau has not yet released the data from the recent census.  By federal law, they were supposed to have completed their report by December 31, 2020, and that means the data is usually forwarded to states by late March.  It is now being reported that the data may not be delivered until late summer, which gives virtually no time for the redistricting commission to analyze the data and reapportion the legislative and congressional districts in Idaho.

The legislature is actually contemplating taking an extended recess and reconvening after the census data is made available so they can determine how to comply with the constitutionally mandated reapportionment for the upcoming elections which will be held in May of 2022.  Stay tuned, there is unfortunately much more coming.

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Wolf Bill Headed to Governor 

BOISE - S1211 passed out of the House on Tuesday with a 58-11 vote. It is now headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. The bill is a product of collaboration between agricultural and sportsmen groups to find consensus on something that could get across the finish line this session and open up some more tools for wolf management for our groups’ members.

The current wolf population count is 1,556 wolves in the state. That is more than ten times higher than the 150 wolves required in the Idaho Wolf Management Plan for them to be considered fully recovered. There was also a record take for wolves this last season at 583. This is a 53% increase in what was taken the previous year at 382 wolves. Despite the record take, the total population count did not really change from the previous year’s count.

S1211 expands the options and opportunities for the management of wolves. the Wolf Depredation Control Board can now enter into agreements with private contractors for more efficient means of removing wolves. The Board can also renew, or transfer control permits to ensure successful completion of those permits approved by the Director of Fish and Game. Idaho Fish and Game’s monetary contribution to the Board’s fund is increased from $110,000 to $300,000 annually.

The bill provides more tools for sportsmen and producers by opening up methods of take you see with other wild canines in Idaho such as the use of UTVs, snowmobiles, use of night scopes or thermals, etc. Trapping is now opened year-round on private property. This is to allow property owners to protect their property in a timely manner with a method that has proven most effective. You are still required to have a valid wolf tag and proper trapping license from the Department of Fish and Game.

Wolf tags are now universal and can be used for either trapping or hunting, so long as the individual has taken all the required education courses and possesses the correct licenses. There is no limit to how many tags an individual can purchase. Hunting seasons and trapping on public land seasons are still determined by the Fish and Game Commission. Current hunting seasons are either 12 or 11 months out of the year depending on the unit. The Commission at its recent winter meeting extended trapping seasons throughout the state, specifically in chronic depredation zones. 

IFBF policy states “We support all methods of year-round wolf control and population management statewide.” IFBF supports S1211.

 

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