“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’s Second Annual Message - December 1886
Capitol Reflections: 2022 Session, Issue 9
By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs
BOISE- Hello! My name is JaKell Hansen, I grew up in Paul, Idaho on a small farm but recently relocated to Twin Falls to attend school at the College of Southern Idaho. This semester at CSI I joined the Agricultural Club which has allowed me the opportunity to meet the right people so I could participate in the legislative internship with the Idaho Farm Bureau.
I am so grateful for this chance I have had to intern through IFBF! Spending two days in Boise at the capitol learning from Chyla, Braden and Russ has been an absolute pleasure and I will never forget this eye-opening experience. I had the opportunity to attend committee, House, and Senate meetings, to rub shoulders with Representatives and Senators and to watch firsthand the process of the legislature.
In some ways, a lot of things were review for me, however, in other ways it was like drinking from a firehose! Nonetheless, I have realized with more certainty that being involved in local government is much easier that people initially think, our representatives and legislatures are readily and eagerly accessible, and that Farm Bureau truly represents its people. I have loved this internship and am so grateful for the people who have taught me so much during my stay. - JaKell Hansen
Property Tax Reduction Bill
BOISE- One week ago, H741 was introduced in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee chaired by Rep Steven Harris (R-Meridian). The bill has an important goal, to begin shifting away from property tax as the major funding source for local government. Farm Bureau policy #80 supports that goal.
The bill, in its simplest form, removed all property taxes on owner-occupied residential properties, providing significant property tax relief for all homeowners in Idaho. Homes would still be subject to all voter-approved taxes such as school levies and bonds. The state would replace these property taxes, dollar for dollar, to local governments by increasing the statewide sales tax by 1.85 percent. All Idaho residents would receive an increase in the state grocery tax credit of $75 to offset the increase in sales tax on food.
An important aspect of the bill is that there would be no shift of property taxes from residential property to farmland, or any other property classes. Therefore, the property taxes farms and businesses pay now would be the same under H741, with normal annual adjustments as we currently make.
The data shows that the reduction in property taxes would have far exceeded the increased sales tax for homeowners, and visitors to Idaho would have shared in paying for the cost of local government when they made purchases here. Idaho’s new sales tax rate of 7.85 percent would be similar to surrounding states when local option sales taxes are considered.
There were a number of other technical items included in the 41-page bill which were necessary to ensure that everything worked as intended. Farm Bureau would like to thank the sponsors Senator Jim Rice (R-Caldwell), Rep Mike Moyle (R-Star) and Senator Scott Grow (R-Eagle) for their vision and for starting the conversation on how we can significantly reduce or eliminate the need for property taxes.
Unfortunately, many legislators believed the bill was introduced too late in the session and was too complex for them to feel comfortable moving it forward at this time. Surprisingly, many organizations representing business and other sectors of the economy were more concerned about the stability of funding for local government and what they viewed as inequities in the bill than in using it as a platform to move the discussion forward. Cities and Counties were also lukewarm to the bill, with many of their members supportive, while others were deeply concerned. It is rumored that H741 is dead for this year.
Although there were a couple of issues that were of concern to Farm Bureau in the bill, which we discussed with the sponsors and we believe could have been adjusted, we are anxious to keep this discussion moving forward. We will continue to work with the sponsors and other legislators to reduce reliance on property taxes, which is a worthy goal most people can agree upon.
New Vet Loan Repayment Bill Passes Committee
BOISE- On Thursday, the Senate Ag. Committee held a hearing on a new bill regarding a proposed state veterinarian loan repayment program. After last week’s committee actions which caused a similar bill to stall (S1344), Sen. Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) worked with industry and officials at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to address some of the concerns raised from the original legislation.
S1380 would create the “Rural Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program.” Money allocated to the program would pay education debts for veterinarians committing to provide care primarily to agriculture production animals in rural areas of the state. The bill establishes a payment cap of $25,000 per year up to a maximum of $75,000 per qualified applicant, with a commitment to work for 4 years in the state. If a recipient fails to abide by the contract, the grant award amount of the last year would have to be paid back. Any candidate already receiving another loan repayment award would be excluded from participating in this program. The legislation would also allow for private donations and federal funding to be contributed to the program. To oversee the distribution and allocation of funding, a five-member advisory committee would be established in ISDA.
The committee members were thorough in their questioning of industry representatives and the state veterinarian, Dr. Scott Leibsle, regarding the need in the industry, what other states are doing with similar programs, and the exploration of efforts beyond what S1380 contemplates. The bill ultimately passed the committee on a split vote, 5-4, and will move on to the full Senate for consideration.
IFBF Policy #111 supports efforts to incentivize vet students studying large food animal medicine to practice in Idaho. IFBF supports S1380.
Civics Education Resolution
BOISE- This week SCR115 passed out of the House Education Committee with a do pass recommendation. This concurrent resolution was previously passed out of the Senate with a voice vote.
The resolution lays out the importance of civic engagement from citizens as a fundamental aspect of our republican form of government. Unfortunately, research has shown a decline in civic engagement over the past few years. This resolution points to the important role education plays in ensuring that we have informed and effective citizens and the need to educate our students on the American system of government, including the Constitution.
Currently, in Idaho code, a civics course is required to be successfully completed to graduate. The civics standards are incorporated under Idaho’s social studies standards for education. This resolution asks that the State Department of Education work with a group of stakeholders to develop stand-alone standards for civics instruction for consideration by the State Board of Education and the legislature. Under this resolution, parents will be able to easily look up these specific civic standards. The stakeholder group would include parents, educators, education organizations and legislators. The stand-alone standards are expected to emphasize the importance of teaching natural law as recognized by the American founders based on the works of Cicero and John Locke, as well as provide a better understanding of the opportunities and responsibilities of citizenship.
IFBF policy #106 supports SCR115.
Fence Fix Bill Stalls
BOISE- After passing the Senate 34-0, S1345 was held in the House Ag Affairs committee this week, when some committee members desired to adjust the language in the bill. S1345 amends Idaho’s 100-year-old fence law to ensure livestock owners who have not maintained their fences, allowing their livestock to routinely leave their property causing problems for other landowners, will begin maintaining their fences.
S1345 makes several adjustments to existing fence laws. If any barbed wire fences are in disrepair, or “under circumstances or conditions likely to injure livestock” then it is the owner’s or lessee’s responsibility to repair the fence. If a law enforcement officer determines that a barbed wire fence is in disrepair, he will notify the person responsible for maintaining the fence either verbally or in writing, and they must repair the fence within 7 days of notification, or they will be subject to an infraction (ticket) and will be fined $150. If the owner fails to maintain his fence after notification a second time within five years of a first offense, he will then be subject to an infraction and penalty of up to $300. On a third offense within five years, it is a misdemeanor.
There would be no need for S1345 if all landowners would be good neighbors and keep their fences maintained so their livestock do not routinely leave their property and negatively affect other people’s property. Even though Idaho is an open-range state, it is important to note that does not give license to livestock owners to let their stock wander wherever they want. There is no common range where anyone with stock can freely graze in Idaho anymore. At this point, the open range law is primarily used to determine liability when there is an incident involving a vehicle hitting livestock on a road. Livestock owners must have pasture or range enough to feed their animals and they must reasonably attempt to keep them within their lands.
It was the hope of the sponsor that these minor tweaks would be enough to resolve the issues and would provide the incentive for fence maintenance to improve where needed across the state. We want to do everything we can to resolve these types of problems before they become efforts to change Idaho’s open range law. Farm Bureau is very grateful to Senator Mark Harris (R- Soda Springs) for all of his efforts in moving this bill forward. IFBF supports S1345
Lemhi Basin Water Settlement Legislation Passes Committee
BOISE- The legislative portion of a new water settlement agreement in the Lemhi Basin was introduced and heard in committee this week. H749, brought forward by the Idaho Water Resource Board, would create the legal process for water users in the Lemhi basin who currently use high-flow waters as a Basin 74 General Provision under the Snake River Basin Adjudication to now be able to file a claim for a water right for the use of that high-flow water.
In recent years, the Legislature has directed the Idaho Water Resource Board, with technical support from the Idaho Department of Water Resources, to work with local water users to develop a comprehensive settlement that resolves the current tensions and conflict that are the result of competing water supply demands in the Lemhi River Basin. After years of negotiations and compromise, on February 24, 2022, the affected water users and state agencies entered into the Lemhi Basin Comprehensive Settlement Agreement. As part of the Settlement Agreement, the participating parties agreed to seek enactment of H749 to provide for the filing of Lemhi Basin streamflow maintenance applications and minimum stream flow applications on selected designated streams.
An important aspect of this settlement is that participation is completely voluntary. Those that wish to go from using the high-flow waters under the general provision to a water right can, while those that don’t may continue to use the water under the general provision.
The House Resources Committee held a hearing on the bill Wednesday and then voted to pass the bill with a do-pass recommendation on Friday. A vote by the full House will likely come early next week, and if passed, will then be heard in the Senate Resources Committee mid-week.
BOISE- This week H526 passed out of Senate Transportation Committee and passed on the Senate floor with a 34-0-1 vote. Having passed both chambers, H526 is now headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
This bill makes it possible for some individuals that were convicted of offenses that federal code requires a lifetime disqualification for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to be able to reapply for their CDL after a 10-year period has elapsed. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has already adopted new rules allowing jurisdictions to reinstate CDLs that had the lifetime disqualification after the individual has met certain criteria and a 10-year period has elapsed after the CDL was disqualified.
H526 authorizes CDL requalification in Idaho and outlines the requirements the individual must meet to be eligible to reapply after the 10-year period. This includes requirements such as a clean driving record for the past 3 years, completion of an online defensive driving class, completion of knowledge and skills testing, criminal background check that is clear of any convicted alcohol or drug related offenses for 10 years prior to the date of application, and if the situation requires, proof of successful completion of a rehabilitation program.
If all is in order when the application is filed, the state can reinstate the individual’s CDL license. If any further conviction were to occur after the reinstatement of the CDL, the individual would not be eligible for future reinstatement of a CDL.
This bill was designed to conform to the opportunities offered with the FMCSA rule changes to increase the number of CDL drivers available for the industry that has persistent shortages.
IFBF policy #139 supports H526.
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