Capitol Reflections: 2023 Session, Issue 10
By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs
“The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.” U.S. Senator from Idaho, William Borah, 1929
Grizzly Delisting Memorial Advances
This Wednesday, the House Resource and Conservation Committee heard HJM005, a memorial stating that the Idaho legislature supports delisting grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the lower 48 states. HJM005 passed out of committee with a do pass recommendation.
Earlier this year the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) released its initial review response to three petitions seeking the delisting grizzly bears, denying Idaho’s petition to delist the lower 48 states and to begin the process of a 12-month status finding for the other two delisting petitions. The two other petitions were Montana and Wyoming, which only asked to delist specific recovery zones, the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). The response came only a day after Governor Brad Little sent a letter to the Biden Administration stating Idaho’s intent to sue the federal government for its failure to uphold the law and make a required finding on the state’s petition to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list. Idaho filed its petition to delist grizzly bear in the lower 48 states back in March of 2022. Under law, USFWS was supposed to respond with a finding within 90 days of the petition being filed, which they failed to do. Montana and Wyoming also filed their own separate petitions around the same time as Idaho’s and had not received a response within the 90-day time period either.
Grizzly bears are recovered and now number over 2,000 in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Washington states. With this growth in population, we are seeing an increase in conflicts both with humans and livestock. Bears are moving into unsuitable areas that are outside of specified recovery zones. This poses a risk to public safety, livestock, property, and the bears themselves.
IFBF believes that the Endangered Species Act should work as intended and that federal protections be lifted when we see healthy populations and successful preservation efforts. Species are best managed at the state level where there can be successful conservation measures and timely response to conflict issues that affect individuals in the state. Our state and local agencies are better positioned to take on these issues as well as maintain a rapport and support for conservation efforts from local communities, that the Federal government is simply not positioned to achieve. Refusing to delist on a federal level, despite successful efforts to preserve the population, risks a loss of community support for conservation efforts, causes increased conflicts both with humans and livestock, and an underutilization of our state and local agencies who are best equipped to manage for species in our state.
Idaho must do what is best for Idahoans living in these communities and what is best for the bears themselves. This means state management that transitions from preservation to conservation of this species and utilizing state tools and knowledge to best respond to and manage conflicts. Delisting in the lower 48 is the next step in grizzly conservation that maintains community support for these efforts, as well as untying Idaho’s hands to be able to manage the species.
HJM5 lays out many of these points, along with findings from Idaho’s delisting petition itself. The final requests in the memorial are three-fold. First, that Congress takes action to delist this recovered species. Second, that USFWS and Department of Interior overturn their petition finding and move forward with Idaho’s petition to delist the entire lower 48 states. Third, that it is recognized that the state and its agencies are the best available management for bears within Idaho and that to protect its sovereignty on this issue, the state reserves the ability to bring or otherwise participate in litigation, if necessary.
IFBF Policy #69.1 supports HJM005.
Senate Passes Immigration Memorial
The Senate debated SJM101 on the floor on Thursday afternoon. The memorial regards the need for Congress to address the issues and challenges of immigration and border security. The spirited discussion lasted over an hour with some standing more than once to debate the memorial. The memorial passed the Senate on a vote of 25 to 10.
The memorial offers a clear statement from the legislature requesting immediate action from Congress and the White House to strengthen border security and implement meaningful immigration reform policies that will address the challenges being faced by Idahoans and Idaho businesses. U.S. immigration policy must recognize that agriculture heavily relies on immigrant labor, and the ability of this nation to grow and produce its own food is a question of national security.
Throughout the debate, it was asserted that the agriculture industry was attempting to bring in foreign nationals as a source of inexpensive labor to work on farms and ranches at the expense of our U.S workforce. Nothing could be further from the truth. Current agricultural guest-worker visa laws and regulations require that employment positions be advertised and offered to domestic employees prior to having the option of bringing in anyone from abroad to fill the position. The fact is that no jobs are being taken by foreign nationals through this program that have not already been advertised and offered to the U.S. workforce. Additionally, the current mandated wage rate for these employees is $15.68 per hour, not including all of the other mandated expenses covered by the employer.
American Farm Bureau Policy #137 outlines our organization’s extensive positions on immigration reform. We support strong border security policies that are effectively and diligently enforced. We support reforms to the agricultural guest-worker visa (H-2A) program to be accessible by all production agriculture sectors (year-round and seasonal).
Farm Bureau is working with the Idaho Delegation and other Congressional leaders on this topic to address the many factors of immigration reform, agriculture labor needs, and guest-worker visa policy. We appreciate the strong message SJM101 proposes and feel confident it will be useful as we continue to work on this issue.
Farm Bureau appreciates the Senators who supported the memorial and looks forward to the House taking it up for consideration in the coming week. IFBF supports SJM101.
Property Tax Relief Package Advances
This week H292 was approved by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee (vote 15-1), the full House (vote 63-7) and finally by the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee (vote 9-0). H292 will now be considered by the full Senate early next week, where it is expected to be approved prior to being sent to Governor Little for his signature.
H292 will provide between $200 and $300 million in ongoing property tax relief beginning in December 2023. The range depends upon how much excess revenues the state receives over-and-above what was projected each fiscal year as that additional money will be funneled into this package through a “surplus eliminator” mechanism, up to $150 million per year.
Idaho homeowners and will receive the vast majority of the tax relief through a credit on their annual property tax bills labeled as “tax relief appropriated by the Legislature.” This credit will directly reduce the amount of property tax due on their tax bill.
In addition, all property taxpayers will see a modest reduction in their property taxes through a new state school facilities funding program. Initially, approximately $100 million will be divided amongst every school district across the state based upon their average daily attendance. The money must first be used to pay any current school bond payments. If money remains, the money must then be used to pay any school levy payments. If any money remains, it must be set aside for future building needs and can be bonded against, which will reduce the need to go to the voters for a bond in the future.
Each school district must reduce the amount of property taxes they collect by the amount of money received through this program. This will provide property tax relief across the board for all property taxpayers within school districts that currently have bonds or levies, including farms.
H292 is funded through a portion of the existing sales tax, a surplus eliminator mechanism, some one-time funding to get the program started this year, and 20% of the sales taxes generated from on-line sales beginning in 2024. No new taxes will be implemented to pay for this program.
H292 will provide property tax relief to Farm Bureau members. Every homeowner will see a meaningful property tax reduction, while agricultural land will also see an incremental tax reduction if it is within a school district that currently has a school bond or supplemental levy.
The major victory for Farm Bureau in this package is there is NO increase in the homeowner’s exemption and there is NO shifting of taxes from one class of property to another. Farm Bureau appreciates the sponsors of H292, Rep Jason Monks (R-Meridian), Speaker Mike Moyle (R-Star), Senator Scott Grow (R-Eagle) and Senator Doug Ricks (R-Rexburg), for recognizing the importance of not shifting taxes to provide property tax relief for one group at the expense of another group. Governor Little also made it clear in his state of the state address that he opposed any property tax shifting, which we appreciate.
H292 will likely receive a vote on the Senate floor on Monday, March 20. IFBF policy #102 opposes increasing the Homeowner’s Exemption and shifting property taxes to ag lands. IFBF supports H292.
Veterinary Needs Task Force Reports to Ag Committees
This week, the U of I Veterinary Needs Task Force reported to both the House and Senate Agricultural Affairs Committees. Farm Bureau participated in the task force to offer an industry perspective on the challenge of the lack of large animal veterinarians, particularly in rural areas of the state.
The purpose of the report was to provide the task force recommendations to the legislature for their consideration. There were good questions and inquiries by the committee members, with some suggesting their desire to bring forward legislation next year to help address the issue.
Some of the task force recommendations included:
- Expanding the WIMU program size from 11 students to 20
- The creation of a 1+3 program with the first year at U of I and the following years at WSU; Idaho WIMU students only pay out-of-state tuition for 1 year at WSU
- Initiate a Targeted Rural Veterinary Program (TRVP) for Idaho WIMU students (10 students per year admitted out of a class of 20)
- Students choosing the TRVP track pay no tuition
- TRVP students are paired with rural county veterinary practices in Year 1
- TRVP students must pay back tuition if they do not locate to a rural practice within 1 year after graduation
- Idaho WIMU students must pay back a year of out-of-state tuition if they do not locate to Idaho after graduation
IFBF policy #122 states our support of efforts to incentivize vet students studying large food animal medicine to practice in Idaho. IFBF looks forward to working with legislators in preparing legislation for the coming year to pursue these recommendations and others.
Trapping Bills go to Governor’s Office
H143 and H144 passed the Senate floor this week; H143 with a unanimous vote and H144 with only two no votes. Both bills will now head to the Governor’s office to be signed into law. H143 amends existing law to provide for a three-day fur buyer’s license for non-resident fur buyers. Currently, the only license available is a year-long license, which can be a deterrent to some buyers who only want to attend a specific fur sale that only lasts one weekend. The 3-day license would promote and enhance the opportunities for Idaho trappers to get the best price for their furs as well as help promote fur sales in Idaho. When you can incentivize more buyers, it helps with the price received for furs overall. This is a huge driver of how active Idaho trappers are in the state and what species they often target.
H144 amends existing law to provide for a lifetime trapping license in Idaho. The state currently offers both a hunting and a fishing lifetime license that sportsmen can purchase. This bill will add a lifetime license option for resident trappers in Idaho if they wish to purchase one. A lifetime license provides an opportunity to recognize trappers in the state and promote continued trapping into the future.
Both bills would help promote trapping in the state. Trappers play a key role when it comes to species management in Idaho, both in population control as well as property damage or depredation prevention.
IFBF policy 78.1 supports H143 and H144.
Idaho Farm Bureau Legislative Intern Program- Daelas
My name is Daelas, and while most of my friends are out playing in the mountains or seeding for this summer's crop this week, however, this wasn't the case for myself and another peer of mine, EmmaRae. Instead, we were given the great opportunity to learn from the Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs team's legislative intern program.
The IFBF Governmental Affairs Team ensured that we learned more than what we already knew about the legislative session by providing us with educational resources and the ability to watch House and Senate debates. I am beyond grateful for the Governmental Affairs team, as it was a great eye-opener to how the legislators debate and present bills, along with how important lobbying is for the agricultural community. They truly voice the concerns, needs, and wants of our community. Overall, bridging the gap between producers, consumers, and lawmakers.
I would recommend this program to any member of the Farm Bureau to gain insight into the importance of communicating and educating others that are outside of our community.
Thank you to IFBF Governmental Affairs Team and IFBF for making this program possible!
Idaho Farm Bureau Legislative Intern Program- EmmaRae
This week, I was provided with another opportunity to see Farm Bureau’s contributions to Idaho agriculture. I was able to spend four days over spring break in Boise, observing and learning. The first two days I was pleased to be in the company of another intern, Daelas Zieber. We had the opportunity to attend committee meetings, listen to both the House and Senate, attend Food Producers of Idaho meetings, and learn from Braden, Russ, and Chyla with the Governmental Affairs team.
This was an exciting week to be in the Capitol, and I was able to see ideas that were presented in committee meetings come to the floor within a matter of days. Additionally, the Veterinarian Task Force gave their presentation in Agricultural Affairs committee meetings, and it was a pleasure to be in the audience. It was exciting to see our government addressing relevant issues and how Farm Bureau supports its members by speaking with their best interests in mind. I witnessed both Chyla and Braden provide testimonies for multiple bills. Different viewpoints and committees provide for interesting discussions among lawmakers.
I would highly recommend this opportunity to anyone, whether you come for one day or four. It will open your eyes to the workings of our government, provide networking opportunities, and overall be a great experience. I am grateful for this amazing opportunity!
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