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Capitol Reflections: 2020 Session Issue 4

“When more of the people's sustenance is exacted through the form of taxation than is necessary to meet the just obligations of government and expenses of its economical administration, such exaction becomes ruthless extortion and a violation of the fundamental principles of free government.”

President Grover Cleveland Second Annual Message (December 1886)

Registration Requirements for Stored Vehicles 

BOISE - A new law came into effect on January 1, 2020, from a House Bill that was passed last year requiring proof of insurance when registering or renewing the registration of a vehicle in the state of Idaho. It also requires you to maintain current insurance coverage for the vehicle. If the registered vehicle is found to not have valid liability insurance for two consecutive months, owners will be notified with a letter informing them that they have 30 days to provide proof of insurance or provide an exemption. If the registered vehicle goes three months without the required insurance, ITD will suspend the registration. To reinstate the registration after suspension you must provide proof of insurance coverage and pay a reinstatement fee of $75.

Thanks to the diligence of our members, there were questions and concerns brought to our attention on how this new law would affect agricultural vehicles, specifically ones that are not insured year-round. Individuals in the industry brought up scenarios of having a vehicle that is only in operation certain months of the year. Therefore, these vehicles are only insured for the months that they are used, but they are registered all year long. Our members worried that their registered vehicles would flag for not having insurance the months the vehicle was not in use causing them to pay the fee each year.

Idaho Farm Bureau reached out to the Idaho Transportation Department and Representative Rod Furniss (R- Rigby) with these concerns to get clarity on how the new law would impact agricultural producers in the state. It was explained that there is an exemption for stored vehicles that would cover agricultural vehicles that are only insured a few months out of the year. The owner of the vehicle will have to send in the form indicating that it is a stored vehicle. Once the insurance is applied to the vehicle the system should automatically link the Vehicle Identification Number to show that it complies. Once the stored form is sent in that vehicle will be classified commercial and will no longer trigger an un-insured letter and will be exempt from the $75 fee. The form that would need to be filled out is 3119 on the ITD website. There is also a FAQ page concerning questions ITD has been receiving on this new law.  It should be noted that included in the bill last year was an exception to any vehicle under commercial motor vehicle coverage and implements of husbandry, such as combines, discs, fertilizer spreaders, etc.

After speaking with Representative Rod Furniss, it was made clear that the new system was not intended to hinder agriculture or cost anything additional for the handling of registration for seasonal vehicles. If you have any more questions concerning this new law you can reach out to the Idaho Department of Transportation, Representative Furniss or your insurance agent. 

Idaho Transportation Web Links

Affidavit of Non-Use of Registered Motor Vehicle Form

ITD FAQ Webpage 

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Bear River Adjudication

BOISE - On Wednesday, in the House Resource Committee, a bill that would authorize the adjudication of the Bear River was introduced. The sponsors of Bill H382 are Senator Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs) and Representative Marc Gibbs (R-Grace) from District 32. A full hearing will be held next week on the issue.

H382 directs the Idaho Department of Water Resources to begin the adjudication process on the Bear River once adjudication in northern Idaho is finished. This will likely occur in five years. The last adjudication process in the Bear River basin took place in the 1920s. Adjudication is the process of confirming and recording a water right. This can prove beneficial if a water right is ever challenged. The sponsors of H382 have stated the need to go through the process as a protective measure of Idaho’s water as other states show more interest in the Bear River.


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Initial Property Tax Proposals

BOISE - Several bills, including a few discussed below, have been introduced in response to the large public outcry against significant increases in property taxation.  Interestingly, many locally elected officials, apparently wanting to deflect attention from their increasing budgets, have very publicly stated that the legislature is responsible for increasing property taxes and that citizens should ask them to make adjustments.  Fortunately, most legislators are wise enough to understand that increased spending by the local taxing districts is the driver behind increasing property taxes.  They fully understand that the legislature has no control over local spending increases.  However, at the invitation of these vocal, locally elected officials, the legislature is now poised to do something about it, primarily by putting common-sense limits on the growth in spending.  Not surprisingly, the local elected officials are now saying the legislature should stay out of it because it is a local issue.  Their hypocrisy has been exposed.

H353 This bill would limit the growth of a local taxing district budget to 3%.  Many may think that current law only allows a 3% growth in taxing district budgets, but that is not true.  Current law allows a 3% increase plus any growth in new construction plus any areas annexed into the district plus any foregone balance that the district chooses to use.  Thus, current law allows local taxing district budgets to grow by more than 3% in any year.  For example, Ada County grew its budget by 11% last year.  H353 codifies what most citizens think the law requires, limiting budget growth to 3%.

H354 Under current Idaho law, certain taxing districts, such as cities and counties, set their annual budget not to exceed an increase of 3% of the prior year’s budget, plus factors for growth.  If a taxing district chooses to set a budget less than this allowed amount, the difference (or foregone balance) can then be used to increase taxes in a later year.  It is essentially like “banking” future taxing authority to be used when desired. H354 requires taxing districts to explicitly reserve, through a public resolution, such unused taxing authority which will allow the taxing district to collect those additional taxes in future years.  If they don’t pass a public resolution, that unused taxing authority is no longer valid and cannot be used in the future.

H355 This bill is very simple.  It freezes the property tax portion of all taxing district budgets for one year.  Many taxing districts receive funding besides property taxes through revenue sharing, fees for services, or other means.  Therefore, this does not mean that their overall budget is frozen, just the property tax portion will stay the same as last year.  This would provide a one year pause in any property tax increases while additional ideas are developed for consideration next year.

H359 This bill completely eliminates property taxes and replaces the money to local taxing districts by increasing the sales tax from 6% to 11%.  If this bill were to pass, a companion piece would need to be approved by the legislature placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot which would prohibit property taxes within the Idaho constitution. These are a few of the bills that have been introduced so far addressing property taxes.  It appears that many more will be introduced in the near future. 

Farm Bureau will be working closely with legislators to ensure that any efforts to address property taxes do not shift taxes from one class of property to another.  Farm Bureau will only support bills that address the root cause of increasing property taxes, namely budgets that are increasing faster than growth within the district. 

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Legislation for Wolf Management

BOISE - Last week Senator Brackett (R-Rogerson) introduced draft legislation to the Senate Resources Committee dealing with the management of wolves. SB1247 involves creating chronic depredation and wolf free zones. Chronic depredation zones are any big game hunting units that have confirmed depredation in four out of the immediate five preceding calendar years. In this legislation, these zones would allow the taking of a wolf year-round, so long as the individual has a valid hunting license and wolf tag. It also establishes Southern Idaho units 38, 40, 41, 42, 46, 47, 53, 54, 55, 56 and 57 as wolf free zones. In these zones, wolves may be taken year-round by someone with a valid hunting license and wolf tag. SB1247, if passed, will be in effect as long there are no less than twenty packs, consisting of at least two hundred wolves in the state. This provides a buffer for the fifteen packs that are currently required in the Idaho Wolf Management Plan. With an emergency clause in the legislation, it would take effect immediately following its passage and approval.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission held a meeting in Boise last week as well. During the meeting, it was reported that 600 cameras are scattered throughout the state to count wolves.  Using artificial intelligence to sort through millions of photos, the population number they were able to come up with was 1,500 wolves during peak summer season after the wolf pups were born. The number today may be closer to 1,000 wolves in the state after you consider natural and human-caused deaths, either through hunting or accidental, such as vehicular collision. When the Commission sat in on the House Resource Committee later that afternoon, Director Schriever reported this number of 1,000 wolves to the House Resource Committee members. The Director also said with Fish and Game using this technology annually, it would better allow them to track wolf populations in the state and make reliable annual wolf estimates to better understand what impact management practices are having.  During the Commission’s meeting, they moved to adjust the number of wolf tags, both hunting and trapping, that an individual could purchase. The current number is ten hunting tags and ten trapping tags in high depredation units and five and five in other units.  Commissioner Attebury of Idaho Falls moved to increase the number of tags to 15 hunting and 15 trappings statewide. There were no votes in opposition to the motion and it passed for the next hunting season. The Commission discussed how important it is to better manage the wolf population and to lower the cases of depredation occurrences in the state.  It was decided to open a public comment period for two weeks online to get feedback on management proposals.

 Idaho Fish and Game posted the Review and Comment Opportunity on their website for public input on different management proposals to adjust hunting and trapping seasons. The comment period will be open now through February 10th. Idaho Farm Bureau recommends members take the time to respond to the proposals and give feedback from their experiences with issues arising from a robust wolf population in the state. The Commission will take the public comments into account at their next meeting and decide which management proposals to move forward with. The following link directs you to the comment page:

Idaho Fish and Game proposed its budget to JFAC this week as well. Director Schriever requested authorization to spend $408,000 on counting wolves through the new camera monitoring technology. The Director told the committee that this expense would become part of the agency’s annual budget to keep a running tally of the number of wolves in the state. It is a high priority of Fish and Game to continue to have a more accurate count of wolves in the state to better assess how to manage them. JFAC will begin approving budgets later in February.  IFBF Policy supports “All methods of year-round wolf control and population management statewide.”


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James Taylor Speaks on Climate Variability 

BOISE - Do you remember playing the game “telephone” as a kid, where one person would make a statement and after some time had passed and enough people were involved, it had changed into something much more dramatic and wildly different? Well, according to a presentation by James Taylor, the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy at the Heartland Institute, the data seems to reflect that this illustration is similar to what has developed in the discussion on climate variability. No, we are not saying that scientists have been picking up the phone for years and the idea has become distorted. What we are saying, is with a careful examination of the facts, it appears that over time and as more people have become involved, the consensus has changed from “the earth is mildly warming” to “cows are passing too much gas and are going to send us into a drought.” According to the data, it becomes obvious that the last conclusion is, well, simply not true...

In his presentation, which we would highly encourage you to listen to, Mr. Taylor gave a brief overview of the national and global climate variability, and then examined some Idaho specific data.

The national data shows that, while over the last century, temperatures have indeed risen, this past century was one of the coldest centuries in earth’s history. Sometimes, it will be stated that these past ten years have been the warmest on record. While that may be technically true, the record only goes back over the last century, which has been one of the coldest centuries based upon the data. In fact, for the past ten thousand years, according to a study of the Greenland ice cores, earth has been much warmer than it currently is. This can easily be illustrated by the fact that there are settlements in Greenland that still have not been unearthed because they are still buried in ice. The earth would have to have been much warmer for an area that is currently buried in ice to have been the home of a human settlement.

However, even the warming that has occurred over the past 40 years, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows that the temperature has only risen by 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade. Those increases and the effects they cause, which are very negligible, can be examined to determine if such large warming has been postulated, but has yet to be seen, would produce detrimental effects.

When Idaho specific data is examined, again, no drastic changes are seen. With approximately 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit increase per decade, such temperature increases are negligible. However, where the increase in temperature is seen is in the colder temperatures, not the warmer temperatures. So, while concerns are constantly given over summer droughts and winter flooding with climate change, we see the opposite occur. With warmer cold temperatures, we see a more even distribution of increased precipitation over the summer months, and less extreme cold in the winter months. While the hottest days have not risen, the nights where temperatures fall below zero degrees have decreased. Dramatic changes are not caused purely by these colder nights not getting quite as cold. Again, this comes from scientific data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

One issue that was raised during questions from the committee was the increase in fires seen in the West. While many attribute this to global warming, as Mr. Taylor pointed out, this would theoretically have to be caused by increasing drought conditions. However, as the data clearly shows, drought conditions have reduced with any level of warming. Other factors, such as mismanagement of public lands, are the cause of these greater wildfires rather than global warming.

During questions from the committee, Mr. Taylor heavily emphasized the importance of facts and data as opposed to opinions and conjecture. It is key on an issue such as this to let the data guide our policy, rather than potential presuppositions of what we think the data should be.

Mr. Taylor summed it up well when he said, “I think it’s human nature to sometimes fear anything that we see as change, and perhaps maybe overreact. It is good that we study the issue, it is good that if we see signs of negative implications, that we take action. But, in this case, we know that temperatures have largely been warmer than today throughout most of human history, and we know that, as temperatures have warmed, there have been benefits that appear to far exceed the harms.”

Unfortunately, it seems that the fears have led to the postulation of negative implications that far exceed what the data shows. The telephone game effect, if you will, where what was something simple turns into something much more complex and severe than what it is. So, no, cows are not causing the world to warm and even if they were, the data seems to indicate that they would make the temperatures less extreme and the world a happier place.

Click the link below to watch Mr. Taylor’s full presentation

Climate Variability


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Closing the Loophole on Repeat Bond Elections 

BOISE - This week H347 advanced through the House and moves to the Senate for consideration.  H347 requires taxing districts to wait a minimum of eleven months after a failed bond election before a subsequent bond question of the same type or subject can be placed upon the ballot.  The bill is meant to address those taxing districts who refuse to listen to the voters and continually push essentially the same bond on multiple occasions until finally getting the vote they need.  Wise taxing districts will work with constituents and sharpen their pencils to ensure that what they are proposing is necessary and acceptable to the public before going to the election.  H347 passed the House on a vote of 48-21.  It will now move to the Senate for a hearing, possibly in the State Affairs Committee.  Opponents of the bill so far have included the Idaho School Boards Association and some school district Superintendents.  Senator Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian) is the sponsor in the Senate.  If you are concerned about taxing districts running the same bond repeatedly, without any significant changes to address taxpayer concerns, you should contact your Senator to let them know you support H347.  IFBF supports H347.


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