Capitol Reflections: 2023 Session, Issue 11
By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs
Property Tax Relief Package Almost Law
This week H292 was approved by the Senate on a vote of 32-3. H292 has been transmitted to Governor Little, which he is expected to sign.
H292 will provide between $200 and $300 million in ongoing property tax relief beginning in December 2023. 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.
There are two major victories for Farm Bureau in this package. First, there is NO increase in the homeowner’s exemption and there is NO shifting of taxes from one class of property to another.
Second, the March school election date has been eliminated in H292, so schools can now only run a bond or levy on the May, August and November election dates. The schools overplayed their hand on the election date front. Last year, Secretary of State Denney proposed a bill to eliminate the August date so county election workers would have time during the summer/early fall to do maintenance on voter registration rolls and to do training for poll workers etc. Schools seldom used the August date and it seemed like a good solution. The House passed the bill, but the schools came unglued in the senate and said they could never live without the August date.
Therefore, this year when H292 proposed to remove the March date, primarily due to the additional hundreds of millions of dollars the state is providing for K-12 this year and last year, which should reduce the need to go to the voters for additional funds, the schools said they could never live without the March date, but would be willing to give up the August date. It was too little, too late for them. They had cried wolf one too many times and the legislators were not about to fall for it again. Therefore, the schools will have to live without the March date in return for the HUGE amount of new money they are receiving from the state.
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.
IFBF policy #102 opposes increasing the Homeowner’s Exemption and shifting property taxes to ag lands. IFBF policy #114 supports removing both the March and August school election dates. IFBF supports H292.
Ag Land Preservation Concept Introduced
This week, the Idaho Farm Bureau had the opportunity to present before the House Agricultural Affairs Committee regarding a concept to help preserve agricultural land in the state. Through the work of the IFBF Ag Land Preservation Committee, Farm Bureau is pursuing legislation for next year that would allow for the creation of voluntary agriculture protection areas (APAs).
An APA is a land designation voluntarily applied for by a landowner with the local unit of government where the property resides. The establishment of an APA communicates to all units of government that the land should remain zoned for production agriculture as the owner intends to remain in farming/ranching for the foreseeable future. Such a designation would aid counties and cities in their planning processes and better ensure that as areas continue to develop and grow, that local units of government are actively planning for production agriculture just as they would for any other significant development within their jurisdiction. It is contemplated that established APAs would be protected from changes of land use designations, eminent domain, and further nuisance claims, amongst other benefits. Additionally, Farm Bureau is also examining if there might be an opportunity for financial incentives.
At this point, Farm Bureau has worked to produce draft legislation that will serve as a starting point for conversations to happen during the coming months with all interested stakeholders. The goal is to have legislation finalized and ready for the 2024 legislative session. There is still a lot of work left to be done with this concept, with many details still having to be settled. Nonetheless, Farm Bureau is committed to seeing this endeavor through to the end, and we look forward to working with stakeholders and legislators in this process.
It is important to know that Farm Bureau is not anti-development, nor do we believe that this concept will be the silver bullet in saving all valuable agricultural land. We do believe, however, that it will be an additional tool for landowners to have at their disposal to aid them in their future planning decisions. For those interested in reviewing the draft legislation, please follow this link. Please reach out to the IFBF staff in the Boise office if you have any questions.
Grizzly Delisting Memorial Sent to Senate Floor
On Wednesday the Senate Resources and Environment 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 all Senators voting aye to send to the Senate Floor with a do pass recommendation.
Grizzly bears have recovered and are now numbered 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.
The time has come to transition grizzly bear management from a preservation strategy to one that focuses on conservation. Public support and buy-in is crucial to be successful in grizzly bear conservation efforts. This is best accomplished by State and local agencies that are equipped to respond quickly to public safety issues and depredation conflicts when they occur. Refusing to delist on a federal level, despite successful efforts to increase 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 species in our state.
For continued successful conservation of grizzly bears, it’s essential that delisting occur when we achieve ESA's purpose, the recovery of threatened and endangered species. It should not take two decades - and counting - to delist recovered grizzly bears. Yet, we find our rural communities and important conservation efforts held hostage by procedural gridlock concerning the ESA-listed status of grizzly bears.
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 take action to delist this recovered species. Second, that United States Fish and Wildlife Services and Department of Interior overturn their petition findings 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 best positioned to manage the 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 is thankful for all the hard work of our grassroots members who have specifically invested in this issue. We are also thankful for the collaboration that Idaho Fish and Game Department and IFBF had over the Joint Memorial to continue the push for delisting on the federal level and gaining state management for Idaho.
IFBF Policy #69.1 supports HJM005.
Water Infrastructure Funding Bill Advances
The funding bill for water infrastructure projects was introduced this week and passed by the House. H361 provides for the appropriation and transfer of $150,000,000 from the General Fund to the Water Management Fund for larger water projects. The bill directs the Idaho Water Resource Board to use the funds on efforts to address water sustainability, enhancement, and the modernization of surface water delivery systems. Additionally, the money can be used to rehabilitate or improve aging water infrastructure, flood management, and other water infrastructure projects.
H361 also provides dollars to further address water quality issues throughout the state. The bill provides $2,000,000 to the Agricultural Best Management Practices Fund (Ag BMP Fund), and $5,000,000 to the Confined Animal Feeding Operations Fund (CAFO Fund).
IFBF’s water policy supports the state’s investment and participation in water infrastructure projects and water quality improvement efforts. IFBF supports H361.
Rules Review Modernization Bill Detoured
H206 took a detour this week as Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Boise) questioned whether the bill required that a legislative body provide specific reasoning when rejecting a proposed rule. The sponsors responded that it did, but the Senate State Affairs Committee ultimately moved H206 to the amending order for possible amendment. Pro Tem Winder thanked the sponsors for their efforts in preparing the bill and indicated that he believed there is a path forward; but the concern at this point is whether there is enough time to negotiate a compromise that will satisfy both bodies with just a few days left in the session.
Farm Bureau members have been engaged in improving Idaho’s rule-making process for many years. Farm Bureau was one of the significant supporters of HJR5 in 2016, which successfully amended the Idaho Constitution to ensure that the legislature continued to exercise the authority to approve or reject all executive agency rules. Our members believe it is vital that the legislature carefully review rules and ensure that any rules which are approved strictly conform to the underlying law which the rules are attempting to enforce. This is important in Idaho since administrative rules have the full force and effect of law. Therefore, these rules are just as legally binding on citizens as the laws that are passed by the legislature.
Since the Administrative Procedures Act was first approved back in 1965, which granted agencies the ability to propose and enforce rules, it has been amended multiple times in a convoluted and haphazard fashion. This has left kind of a “rat’s nest” where definitions and processes have, over time, become muddied and confusing, not only for citizens, but also for legislators and agency personnel. H206 does a very good job of simplifying and clarifying the current process.
H206 clarifies definitions to avoid duplication and overlap, more clearly articulates procedures and provides simplicity to the rulemaking approval process. It also requires agencies to provide an option for citizens to participate virtually in rulemaking procedures. Clear and simple procedures and definitions provide greater transparency and foster better understanding of the entire process. This will be a benefit for everyone, including the regulated stakeholders, legislators and agency personnel.
Finally, an important aspect of H206 is requiring rules to be approved by concurrent resolution. This ensures that rules, which have the force and effect of law, are held to the same standard as laws when they are approved. Also, as spelled out in the Idaho Constitution, the Governor has no veto power when it comes to approving or rejecting rules. Since the Governor does not sign concurrent resolutions, this process complies with the Idaho Constitution.
IFBF thanks the Sponsors of H206, Rep Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) and Speaker of the House Mike Moyle (R-Star), for their diligent efforts in improving our current system of rulemaking. H206 has passed the House on a vote of 59-11 and is now awaiting possible amendment in the Senate. IFBF policy #156.5 supports H206.
Idaho Farm Bureau Legislative Intern Program- Josiah
I am extremely grateful to the Idaho Farm Bureau for allowing me to tag along this week. In the past, I was allowed to serve as a Page in the Senate and now had the opportunity to intern with the Farm Bureau. This opened my eyes to much of what happens in government and allowed me to explore our legislative branch. After my time in the Senate, I wanted to continue to learn more about our legislative process, and my county farm bureau president encouraged me to participate in the legislative affairs intern program.
This experience has shown me the other side of our legislature, the lobbyists. I have been able to sit side by side with major people in all aspects of our agricultural industry and discuss big issues that matter to the citizens of our great state.
I care deeply about agricultural issues in our state, and I hope to be a part of the solution in the future. This experience has allowed me to understand everything that goes into our legislative process, and I will cherish this experience. As I look forward to my future and what I plan to accomplish, I will always remember the people I have met, the issues I have heard, and the conversations I have participated in this week. I have enjoyed my experience, and I highly recommend this internship for anyone that wants to have an understanding of the role and purpose of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation!
Idaho Farm Bureau Legislative Intern Program- Pat
My name is Pat Field, and I am a farmer and a board member of the Cassia County Farm Bureau. I am grateful to our Cassia County President, Paul Marchant, who encouraged me to participate in the legislative internship program.
I can tell you without hesitation that the Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs Team has your best interest as Farm Bureau families as their number one goal. One of the benefits of serving this internship during one of the last weeks of the session was meeting with various groups and legislators. The Food Growers Association was one of those groups. I was able to listen to their concerns for and against pending legislation. I enjoyed learning the process of watching legislative matters move through committees and then to the floor for further debate in both the House and the Senate.
I have learned so much and appreciate the IFBF Governmental Affairs Team for their expertise and training. I would also like to thank President Searle and Vice President Durrant for their leadership. Lastly, I would like to give a big “shout out” to my teammate Josiah for being patient enough to teach an old dog some new tricks.
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