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Capitol Reflections: 2020 Session Issue 11

“When depression in business comes we begin to be very conservative in our financial affairs. We save our money and take no chances in its investment. Yet in our political actions we go in the opposite direction. We begin to support radical measures and cast our votes for those who advance the most reckless proposals. This is a curious and illogical reaction.” President Calvin Coolidge

Legislature Adjourns Sine Die

BOISE - The legislature has completed its work for this year and adjourned on March 20, the 75th legislative day.  Amidst concerns over coronavirus, several legislators had already left a few days early.  Meanwhile, on a vote of 32-26, the House barely approved the motion to adjourn due to lingering concerns over Governor Little possibly vetoing one or more bills they had passed recently, primarily social issue bills.  Fortunately, Farm Bureau has received no indication from Governor Little that he is considering a veto of any bills of interest to our members that have not yet been signed.

Overall, the session was a mixed bag for agriculture.  Thankfully, there were no major catastrophes and despite major pressures from urban homeowners, we were successful in avoiding any shift of property taxes onto farmland or other commercial properties.  There was progress on some issues, such as requiring local data be used for ag land valuation, prohibiting forestland annexation without permission from the landowner, adopting a mechanism to get stockwater rights away from federal agencies and into the name of the stock owner, and protecting employers from lawsuits under worker’s comp laws.

Unfortunately, despite valiant efforts, no meaningful progress was made on other topics such as consolidating election dates for school bonds/levies, promoting a farmer’s right to repair his own equipment, allowing Idaho farmers to grow and process industrial hemp, and protecting landowners from rapidly escalating property taxes.  Many of these issues are discussed further in other articles in this newsletter.

One item that did not receive a lot of fanfare this session was the far more conservative budget proposal of the Governor.  This year, Governor Little proposed a far more reasonable budget than his predecessor, recommending only a 3.75% increase over last year’s spending levels.  This was a far lower recommendation than any other budget proposal of the last twenty-two years, except for years we were entering or exiting a recession.

Unfortunately, just as Congress has done repeatedly with President Trump’s proposed budgets, the legislature thought that the proposed budget did not adequately fund state government and actually were publicly stating they were going to increase his budget proposal.  After a lot of discussion, at the end of the session, the legislature finally approved a 3.9% increase, or $5.5 million over what the Governor had recommended. 

The Idaho Constitution requires the legislature to provide a balanced budget but doesn’t prohibit them from spending more than is prudent or necessary.  It is now becoming a trend with our legislature to appropriate even more than the Governor requests, and something we should keep our eyes on in the future if we are to inhibit excessive and unsustainable growth in the budget.

IFBF appreciates Governor Little’s much more modest budget proposal this year and we look forward to him sharpening his pencil and bringing an even more frugal budget proposal next year so we can pull back from the excessive growth of the past couple decades.  IFBF beliefs and philosophy support economy at all levels of government.


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Mid-Snake Data Collection Funding


BOISE - The Legislature has appropriated additional funding for water quality data collection and analysis in the mid-Snake. In years past, this appropriation has come as a trailer funding bill to IDWR’s original appropriation. This year, however, this specific funding was included as part of the Department’s original appropriations package, H646.

In Section 6 of the bill, it directs that up to $200,000 be used for monitoring, data collection, modeling, literature review, economic analysis, and other forms of data gathering and analysis in the upper Snake/Rock Creek sub-basin in support of the nutrient total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) objectives. The bill also specifies that this process is to be coordinated with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the United States Geological Survey.

IFBF Policy #34 supports the Legislature appropriating additional funding to enable the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct data collection and analysis to complete the water quality report of the Upper Snake/Rock Sub-basin in support of Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality Total Maximum Daily Load development. IFBF supports H646.

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Stockwater Bill Passes Senate 

BOISE - H592, dealing with the forfeiture of stockwater rights illegitimately held by the federal government unanimously passed the Senate and has now been sent to the Governor for his consideration and approval. The bill specifically establishes the procedure to be used by the Director of IDWR prior to issuing an order declaring certain stockwater rights to be forfeited for failure to put the rights to beneficial use for a term of five years or more. The bill also clarifies that a stockwater right for use on a federal grazing allotment may not be used for another purpose or at another place of use.  

IFBF Policy #44.1.4 supports permittees on federal land being recognized and acknowledged as the owners of stock water rights in their allotments as their livestock provide beneficial use under state law and the water rights are an appurtenance of the private base property. H592 provides the process for those rights currently held by a federal agency, and who can’t put those rights to beneficial use, to be forfeited, and that a permittee on such federal grazing allotment be notified. IFBF supports H592.


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Property Tax Issues 

BOISE - This week there was action on a number of issues related to property taxes.  Two bills attempted to increase the homeowner’s exemption, one of which would have been a direct shift in taxes from homeowners to other property owners, while the other bill would have avoided that shift and instead require local taxing districts to reduce their budgets by the amount of the increased exemption.

S1416 was introduced into the Senate State Affairs Committee last Friday morning and it had a hearing this past Monday.  S1416, sponsored by Senator Steve Vick (R-Dalton Gardens) would have increased the homeowner’s exemption from a maximum of $100,000 to $120,000 and would have reinstated indexing of the exemption allowing it to grow over time to keep up with inflation in housing.  Farm Bureau testified at the hearing that this is a direct shift in taxes from homeowners to other property owners.  When a homeowner pays less in taxes due to a higher exemption limit, the local taxing districts do not receive less money, they simply raise their levy rate and cause other property owners to pay more in taxes than they would if the exemption were not raised.  This means farmers pay more in taxes with no corresponding increase in any services or benefits, it is just a subsidy they are paying for homeowners.  Furthermore, many business owners, and even some farmers who do not live near the land they farm, cannot even vote on tax issues or the officials who spend the money since they live in another jurisdiction.  This is taxation without representation.  Only the Idaho Association of Counties was there in support of the bill.  Senator Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs) moved to hold S1416 in committee but did not receive a second.  S1416 then received a motion to send it to the floor with a “do pass” recommendation which was approved.  Later this week, S1416 never did receive a vote on the Senate floor, so it died for this year.  IFBF policy #97 opposes shifting taxes to agricultural land.  IFBF opposes S1416.

Once S1416 was introduced last Friday, the House decided to amend a Senate bill that had passed the Senate and was now in the House.  S1277 was originally meant to provide a more uniform way of applying for the homeowner’s exemption, to prohibit assessors from asking for certain information and to require the homeowner’s exemption application to be available on county websites.  The House, however, decided that they too wanted to provide a symbolic gesture towards reducing property taxes, but at least their idea was not harmful to other taxpayers.  The House amended S1277 to increase the homeowner’s exemption from $100,000 to $112,000, but rather than shift the taxes that homeowner’s would have paid to other taxpayers, S1277 as amended would have required local taxing districts to reduce their new construction rolls by the amount of the new exemption granted in their district, thus preventing their budgets from rising by that amount.  Since S1277a would not shift taxes, IFBF was not opposed to this effort.  However, after passing through the House, the Senate did not concur with the House amendments, so S1277a also died in the Senate.

Finally, H560 had been approved in the House by a vote of 67-1, but it hit a snag in the Senate.  H560 requires that local data be used when assessing agricultural lands, prohibits the consideration of any speculative value for agricultural lands, and requires that the lands be valued at their actual use value.  H560 also included language which required any rules promulgated by the State Tax Commission for the assessing of agricultural lands to be approved by both the House and the Senate or the rules would be rejected.  This was a safeguard that the sponsor, Rep Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) and the Chairman of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee Jim Rice (R-Caldwell) thought was very important to have in the bill due to a number of issues each had previously had with the Tax Commission over rules.  Inexplicably, the Food Producers of Idaho opposed the bill due to the language regarding the rules, despite Chairman Rice personally speaking to their group and explaining the importance of protecting the taxpayers against the Tax Commission.  Their position was that the legislature would reject good rules that the ag community relied upon and it would cause more work for the ag groups to have to go into negotiated rulemaking more often.  Therefore, due to this opposition and the ongoing feud between the House and the Senate over rules review procedures, a number of Senators got squishy on H560 and it had to be amended in the Senate to remove the language requiring rules to be approved by both the House and Senate.  After it was amended, H560a was approved 30-2 in the senate and was later approved as amended in the House.  IFBF policy #98 supports assessing ag land at its actual use value, eliminating any consideration of speculative value and using realistic data when determining market values.  IFBF supports H560a.

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NEPA Reform Joint Memorial Adopted

BOISE - HJM15, a memorial expressing support of the Trump Administration’s review of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) rules has been adopted by the Idaho Legislature. NEPA of course is the mandate that requires federal agencies to analyze the environmental impacts of major federal actions on a wide variety of important projects. This memorial specifically expresses support for the White House Council of Environmental Quality updating the NEPA regulations that have not been adjusted for 40 years. The primary purpose of this update is to streamline the NEPA process, and moving vital projects forward in a timely manner.

AFBF Policy #110.11.5 supports the immediate simplification, improvement, streamlining of, as well as a comprehensive congressional review of the National Environmental Policy Act. IFBF supports HJM15.


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Dyed Fuel Bill Heads to Governor


BOISE - S1379a, a bill that establishes a dyed fuel enforcement program in Idaho, has passed both the Senate and the House and is on its way to the Governor to be signed into law. The vote in the Senate was 25 ayes, 9 nays and 1 absent. The vote in the House this week was 42 ayes, 24 nays and 4 absent. If signed into law by the Governor, this enforcement program would only apply to commercial vehicles and would be conducted via a visual test to determine if there is dyed fuel being used in the on-road vehicle.

Idaho Farm Bureau was able to voice our concerns and work with the bill sponsor this year to come up with a version that is much lighter handed in enforcement and not as burdensome as the bill we opposed back in 2016.

IFBF took a neutral position on S1379a and monitored it as it worked its way through the legislature. For more details on the bill you can read the dyed fuels article in Issue 9 of Capitol Reflections.  

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Columbia-Snake River System Memorial Adopted 

BOISE - The Legislature has adopted a joint memorial acknowledging the benefits of the Columbia-Snake River System. SJM110 states that the Idaho Legislature recognizes and supports the international competitiveness, multimodal transportation, and economic development benefits provided by the Port of Lewiston and the Columbia-Snake River System. Idaho has sovereignty of its water resources and benefits from the multiuse system that provides transportation of commodities, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, hydropower, flood control, and irrigation. This Memorial also states that Idaho opposes the removal or breaching of the dams on the Columbia-Snake River System and its tributaries.

IFBF Policy #30 supports the continued existence and current usage of all dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. It also opposes any effort to destroy or decrease production of those dams. This memorial is extremely important, particularly as the Columbia River System Operations Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been recently released and is now open for public comment. It is good for those federal agencies that have a part in the river system operation to know of Idaho’s support of the overall system and the benefits it provides the state and region. For those individuals who are interested in the Draft EIS, please visit Public meetings have been adjusted to teleconferences due to concerns of the coronavirus. IFBF supports SJM110.


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Session-End Recap

Efficiency in Commissions

We wanted to provide a report on a bill that allows for more efficient management of resources used by the agriculture commodity commissions in the state. H318 deals with the statutes associated with occupational licensing in Idaho. However, of more interest to our members is the provision in the bill that grants the governor the authority to assign certain entities of state government, including commodity commissions, “to divisions, sections, and units in such a manner as will tend to provide an orderly arrangement in the administrative organization of state government.” This can reasonably be interpreted to mean that the governor has the power to setup and ensure that these government entities listed in Idaho Code 67-2601, Subsection 2, operate in an efficient and effective manner.

H318 passed the House on a 43-24 vote, by the Senate on a 25-8 vote, and was signed by the Governor into law. The bill appears to provide the means to meet the intent of the directive given by the House of Delegates to the State Board during the IFBF Annual Meeting held in December. 

Eminent Domain for Trails

H335 Would allow the use of eminent domain to condemn private property for trails, greenbelts and other recreational paths.  Held in House Ways and Means Committee - IFBF policy #156.2.2 opposes


Local Minimum Wage

H337 Would allow cities to mandate a minimum wage that is higher than the state minimum wage for all businesses within their jurisdiction.  Held in House Ways and Means Committee - IFBF policy #93 opposes


Foregone Balances

H354 Requires local elected officials to affirmatively approve a resolution reserving any unused taxing authority foregone balance for future taxation.  LAW - IFBF policy #106 supports

Cattle Nutrient plans

H356 makes it clear that any Nutrient Management Plan submitted on the web-based planner housed at ISDA is protected as proprietary information. This ensures that even though it is stored on the ISDA web database, ISDA cannot disclose information from individual plans. Signed into Law -  IFBF supports H356.

Eliminate Property Tax

H359 Would raise sales tax to 11% and use the additional revenue to replace all property taxes to local taxing districts.  A constitutional amendment would be required to prohibit property taxes.  Held in House Revenue and Taxation Committee - IFBF policy #106 supports

Board of correction, training programs

H373 expands the Idaho Correctional Industries program to include more agricultural operations as an option to inmate’s who wish to work in the industry under the work training program through ICI. This allows more workforce opportunities for producers. Signed into Law - IFBF supports H373

Potato Commission

H389 would have adjusted the boundaries for potato commission districts to be based more upon acres of production, established a referendum provision, updated the definition of shipper, established that commissioners serve at the pleasure of the governor, and made other corrections. The bill was introduced in the House Agriculture Affairs Committee; however, it never received a hearing. 

School Election Consolidation

H393 Prohibits school districts from using any election dates except for the regular May primary and November general election dates when they propose any new bonds or levies.  Held in Senate Education Committee - IFBF policy #121.1.2 supports


Forestland Annexation

H451 Prohibits annexation of forest land parcels of five acres or greater without the written consent of the property owner.  Awaiting Governor’s signature -  IFBF policy #118 supports

Right to Repair

H452 would have protected a farmer’s right to repair his own equipment and established policies to ensure that such repairs could occur.  The legislation required equipment manufacturers to make diagnostic codes and materials available for sale. As was noted in previous articles, the bill was sent to the amending order by the House Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee where it did not receive any further consideration. IFBF Supported H452.

Fair PILT Values

HCR38 Provides a mechanism to determine fair market value of federally administered lands so Idaho can require Congress to adjust PILT payments to finally reach full tax equivalency.  Held in Senate State Affairs - IFBF policy #48.1.2 supports

Depredation, wolf-free zones

S1247 would have established designated Chronic Depredation Zones and Wolf Free Zones within Idaho. With a valid hunting license and tag, wolves could have been taken year-round in these zones. IDFG Commission changed their hunting rules for wolves during the next two hunting seasons to accomplish essentially the same thing as the bill does. Held in Committee IFBF policy # 80 supports S1247.

Waiver or Variance from Rules

S1283 Provides an opportunity to receive a waiver or variance from existing rules if the rule creates an undue hardship or if new innovations or technologies are available which provide similar protection/results.  Awaiting Governor’s signature – IFBF policy #169.2.2 supports


Blocking Public Access

S1317 Creates a mechanism for the public to sue landowners who “block access” to public lands.  Held in Senate Resources Committee - IFBF policy #156.2.1 opposes

Worker’s comp, aggression

S1321a, a bill dealing with Worker’s Compensation and defining aggression, has passed the House unanimously and is now headed to the Governor for his signature. S1321a came about based on a recent Idaho Supreme Court case and amends the current statue to better clarify the intent of “exclusive remedy” in worker’s compensation. This is to maintain the current understanding that if you are receiving worker’s compensation there cannot be 3rd party lawsuits against the employer, except under certain defined conditions. IFBF Policy # 96 Supports S1321a

Industrial Hemp

S1345 would have legalized the licensed production, processing, research, and transportation of industrial hemp in Idaho within the 0.3% THC threshold set by the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill also directed ISDA to develop a state plan while allowing production under the USDA program. The bill passed the Senate on a 27-5 vote but failed to pass out of the House State Affairs Committee.


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