Capitol Reflections: 2023 Session, Issue 7
By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs
IFBF State Board Member’s Internship with Governmental Affairs Team
The Idaho Farm Bureau is dedicated to working with and advocating on behalf of its members to ensure that the agricultural industry continues to thrive. Through the Governmental Affairs team, the Idaho Farm Bureau works to communicate the policy of its members to state legislators.
This past week I was fortunate enough to intern with the Governmental Affairs team and witness firsthand the importance of the Farm Bureau’s presence in the state’s capital. I had the opportunity to meet with multiple lawmakers, watch the proceedings on the House and Senate floors, attend committee hearings, and observe the power of personal testimony.
I also attended the Ag Summit Governor’s Award lunch and the Food Producers breakfast, both of which highlighted the importance and value of forming relationships with others. Throughout the week, I was reminded of the hard work and dedication that Idaho’s farmers and ranchers put into their trade to produce the food and fibers we need. It was a testament to me that the roots of Idaho lie in agriculture and that it is our responsibility to ensure that the agricultural industry continues to thrive. Getting involved and being proactive about our future is the best way to ensure that our voices are heard.
The governmental affairs team showed me the importance of 20/20 foresight instead of relying on 20/20 hindsight. The Farm Bureau is committed to advocating for the interests of its members and providing them with the support and resources they need to ensure a successful future. I am thankful for the opportunity. I gained a better understanding of how the Farm Bureau works to protect and promote the interests of its members. I would encourage members to take advantage of the internship with the governmental affairs team.
Water Bill Advances
The bill S1033 regarding the authority of the Director of IDWR to condition new irrigation groundwater rights advanced in the legislative process this week by passing out of committee for consideration by the full Senate. The bill is supported by Farm Bureau and other agriculture and water organizations.
The purpose of the legislation is to better conserve the state water resources by securing the maximum use and benefit from surface water resources prior to allowing any new or additional pressures to be put on the state’s groundwater resources.
Two Trapping Bills Heard in Committee
Two bills were heard in House Resources Committee Thursday that touched on a couple of trapping issues within Idaho. H143 was the first bill discussed. This bill 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 buyer’s who only want to attend a specific fur sale that only lasts a 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. It provides an incentive to out of state buyers to participate in annual trapper events, without the cost of a license for a whole year. A great example is the two fur sales Idaho Trapper’s Association hosts in Glenns Ferry each year, which last for one weekend in the winter and one in the spring. This new tag would allow an out of state buyer to participate specifically in this sale, without having to have the cost of a year-round license they would use only for this one sale. 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 target most often. H143 passed out of committee on a unanimous vote to send to the House floor with a do pass recommendation.
The second bill, 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. This option helps to promote trapping in the state as well as provide our longtime trappers a lifetime license to continue doing what they do best, trapping. The state heavily relies on trapping to help manage many species we have in Idaho, wolves being one of those species. H144 passed out of committee on a unanimous vote to send to the House floor with a do pass recommendation.
Invasive Species Update
This week, both the Senate and House Agricultural Affairs Committees received updates for the state’s Invasive Species Program which is part of ISDA. This is an annual presentation given to legislators to help them better understand how the program works, where the outstanding problems are, and what mitigation efforts are being done.
To see the video recording of the Invasive Species Program legislative presentations, visit the following link and look up the Senate and House Standing Committees for Agricultural Affairs: Link
Additionally this week, Governor Little recognized National Invasive Species Awareness Week on Wednesday. The Governor acknowledged the state’s many actions to control and mitigate the spread of invasive species across the landscape with Idaho’s specific programs including Watercraft Inspection Stations, Noxious Weed Management and Control, Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Control, and Regulated and Invasive Insect Pests.
To see the Governor’s news release, see the following link: Link.
Fence Bill Advances
This week S1063 was heard in the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee chaired by Senator Linda Hartgen (R-Twin Falls). The sponsor of S1063, Senator Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs), indicated that the purpose of the bill is to try and resolve some issues that have arisen when certain livestock owners have not kept their fences maintained and their livestock are routinely leaving their property and causing problems for other landowners.
S1063 makes several adjustments to existing fence laws. One of the adjustments ensures the law only applies when livestock are present by clarifying if any barbed wire fences are in disrepair “under circumstances or conditions likely to permit the livestock to escape the fenced area and expose the livestock to injury” then it is the owner’s responsibility to repair the fence. The current law requires a law enforcement official to notify the owner either verbally or in writing that the fence needs to be fixed, and the owner must repair the fence within 10 days of notification. Since Sheriffs don’t have time to inspect fences, but they do routinely get called when livestock are out, they will simply notify the landowner to fix their fence if their livestock are out.
Another change is modernizing the penalty for failure to correct the problem. Current law, which was adopted in 1915, provides a misdemeanor penalty on a first offense, but stipulates that the fine is between $5 and $25. Therefore, no prosecutors are willing to prosecute a violation with such a low penalty, and worse, nobody really cares if they are convicted since the fine is so low. S1063 updates the penalty provision by removing the misdemeanor on the first and second offense and adding fines that increase for each violation. The first time a person does not fix their fence within 10 days of official notification he will be subject to an infraction (ticket) and will be fined $150. If the owner fails to respond to notification from law enforcement to fix his fence for a second time within five years of the first offence, he will then be subject to a fine of $300. A third conviction within a five-year period of the first offense would then be subject to a misdemeanor charge.
Unfortunately, a few bad actors are negatively affecting the property rights of other citizens. Therefore, S1063 is a reasonable approach to put enough teeth in the law to get the attention of the bad actors, while simultaneously not becoming a burden upon those livestock owners who are trying to keep their fences maintained.
The IFBF Beef Committee and the State and Federal Lands Committee have both reviewed S1063 over the summer and both committees indicated that the language was acceptable to them. They appreciated the efforts of Senator Harris to address this issue in a measured and reasonable manner.
The Idaho Cattle Association and IFBF testified in favor of S1063 and nobody testified in opposition. After several questions and some lengthy comments by committee members, S1063 was sent to the floor with a “do pass” recommendation. IFBF supports S1063.
One Critical Infrastructure Bill Advances, One Dies
This week there was a hearing on the two bills attempting to deter trespass and damage to facilities that are deemed critical infrastructure. Rep Britt Raybould (R-Rexburg) is the sponsor of both bills which were heard in the House Judiciary and Rules Committee chaired by Rep Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa).
The first bill, H167 defines critical infrastructure as “any facility so vital to the state of Idaho that the incapacity or destruction of such system or asset would have a debilitating impact on state or national economic security, state or national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.” It goes on to state that the term includes, but is not limited to facilities in the following sectors, as listed by the federal cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency: Chemical manufacturing, storage, use and transportation; communications; critical manufacturing; dams; defense industrial bases; emergency services; energy; financial services; food and agriculture; government facilities; healthcare and public health; information technology; mineral exploration, mining operations and mineral processing; nuclear reactors, materials and waste; transportation systems; and water and wastewater systems.
If a person “knowingly and willfully enters a critical infrastructure facility” without permission or remains when notified to depart, they would be guilty of critical infrastructure trespass and would be subject to enhanced penalties over and above the normal trespass statutes. A first-time offense would be a misdemeanor with up to a six month jail sentence, or a fine of up to $1,000 or both. A second offense within five years would be a felony punishable up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Perhaps most importantly, an organization that “aids, abets, solicits, compensates, hires, conspires with, commands, or procures a person to commit the crime of critical infrastructure trespass” with the intent that the crime of critical infrastructure trespass be completed would be subject to a fine not to exceed $100,000. All too often there are organizations that recruit people to commit these crimes knowing that the punishment will not be too severe if they are caught, and the organizations are usually willing to pay any fines that are imposed on the guilty individual. This large penalty on the sponsoring organization will be a deterrent in any organized efforts to recruit people to enter these facilities for nefarious purposes.
Those who testified in favor of H167 included the Association of Idaho Cities, the Idaho Consumer Owned Utilities Association and IFBF. The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance testified against the bill stating that it was too vague and the definitions were too broad. After a lengthy debate amongst committee members, H167 passed on a vote of 9-8. It will now go to the House floor for consideration by the entire body before moving to the Senate.
The second bill, H148 is essentially identical to H167, except that the crime that is prohibited in this bill is “impeding” a critical infrastructure facility. Impeding is defined as “blocking the operation of, or preventing legal access to a critical infrastructure facility, or the construction of a permitted critical infrastructure facility.” It also includes efforts to “damage, destroy, deface, or tamper with the equipment of a critical infrastructure facility.”
The penalties are essentially the same as in H167, including the large fines for any organization who recruits people to impede a critical infrastructure facility. However, if damages occur, the fines shall be no less than the amount of economic damages to the facility, and they can also go after the perpetrators and organizations for damages in civil court as well.
Thankfully, these sorts of activities have not occurred so far in Idaho. However, there are many examples around the nation of incidents that would be punishable under H148. For instance, several petroleum pipelines have recently been damaged across the U.S. Idaho is very reliant on the petroleum pipeline from Utah. If anyone were to damage or impede the functioning of that pipeline, it would be a serious problem for Idaho agriculture as well as many other sectors of the Idaho economy. There are numerous other examples of bio-terrorism that would cripple Idaho agriculture if activists were successful in spreading disease or other contamination.
AFBF policy #175 – Biosecurity states in part: “We support state and federal legislation to strengthen civil and criminal penalties for persons or organizations that engage in acts of bio-terrorism. Foreign or domestic terrorist organizations who commit such acts and those who willfully finance these acts should be held financially responsible for damages.”
Therefore, H148 is probably even more important to agriculture than H167 since it provides meaningful penalties for those who actually perpetrate these crimes against our critical infrastructure. As with H167, the same people testified both in favor and against H148. Unfortunately, again after lengthy debate, H148 was not approved on a vote of 8-9. One legislator changed their vote from the earlier vote which was the deciding factor on this bill. IFBF will continue to work with Rep Raybould and other stakeholders to try to craft acceptable language for a future bill so we can ensure that we are protecting our critical infrastructure around the state. IFBF supports H148 and H167.
CDL Renewal Passes Both Chambers
H9 has now passed out of both the House and Senate Chambers on an unanimous vote. It is now on its way to be signed into law by the Governor. This bill will allow Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders to renew their licenses online. This brings CDL renewal in line with other licenses that are already available for renewal online. The goal is to provide customer convenience and cut back on unnecessary foot traffic in local county DMV offices. This provides better efficiency overall and saves the costs of paperwork and manual change of hands when at a DMV office.
IFBF policy #161.3 supports H9.
IFBF Regional Manager's Internship with Governmental Affairs Team
There is a special energy looming around the state capitol building pulling legislators and people from all different backgrounds into the various committee meetings and hearings. From listening to debates on the House and Senate floors to one-on-one visits with legislators on specific bills, we are able to experience the vital routine of what happens during the Idaho Legislative Session. The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) Legislative Internship allows individuals to personally take advantage of this energetic opportunity. I had the chance to spend two days in Boise on this specific internship and had a positive experience.
I got to shadow the talented IFBF Governmental Affairs team members in multiple different settings in and around the capitol. It was enlightening to witness the legislators listen to and work with us as we expressed our thoughts and feelings on certain legislative bills that we have policy related to. I got to visit with legislators about the current fencing laws and how we believe that they need amended, property tax and not expanding the homeowner’s exemption to keep from transferring the tax load to the landowners, and water issues with ag land preservation. I got to sit in on the Food Producers meeting and listen to them discuss the issues pertinent to the multiple ag groups in attendance. I got to participate in collaborating and coordinating with other ag groups to help garner support for the Restricted Driver’s License (RDL). It was interesting to see the game plans be created between the IFBF and other ag groups on how to work with legislators and help them understand why we need the RDLs available to us in Idaho. I was invited to attend a legislative freshman luncheon with the Food Producers and listen to a few new legislators answer questions from the group. It is great to see new legislators be willing to come and visit with ag groups on issues that are important to the ag industry.
Having the chance to participate in this internship has allowed me to have experiences to learn and grow. One thing I learned is that our legislators want to hear from the citizens in their areas. In one committee meeting I attended, the chair asked the committee if they had heard anything from their constituents regarding a particular issue. That question was a testament to me of the importance of visiting with our legislators. For the ag producers in the state to be successful and achieve their goals, I believe it is vital to build and maintain positive relationships with our legislators. How blessed we are to be able to have an opportunity to have our voices be heard through grassroot organizations to help protect what we value so highly. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Internship opportunity.
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