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Capitol Reflections: 2023 Session, Issue 8

By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs


“The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions” Daniel Webster



Restricted Driver’s License Passes Committee   



On Tuesday this week S1081 sponsored by Senator Jim Guthrie (R-McCammon) was heard by the Senate Transportation Committee. After an hour and half of testimony and committee discussion, the committee members voted to send S1081 to the Senate floor without a recommendation on a 5 to 3 vote. The bill can now be voted on by the full Senate body.

S1081 works to establish a Restricted Driver’s License (RDL) in the state of Idaho that would operate the same as a Class D driver’s license but cannot be used to prove citizenship or identity in any way. This means the license would be for driving privileges only and could not be used to vote, buy firearms, board a plane, purchase alcohol or apply for a passport. The front of the card will state, “NOT FOR VOTING OR OTHER OFFICIAL USES” and the back of the card will state, “This card is not proof of lawful presence. It is unlawful to present this card for voting purposes, for purchase of a firearm, or for the exercise of any rights or privileges reserved exclusively to citizens of the United States.”

This type of program is useful to many individuals in many different scenarios that would make it impossible to have a valid license otherwise, which in turn prevents the individual from being able to obtain insurance. Examples include individuals who cannot otherwise prove citizenship but live and work in the state, individuals working to obtain citizenship through the lengthy process that in the meantime need to drive on our roads, individuals who have a legal visa and are waiting for the Federal government to renew that visa with a massive backlog, or even individuals who are Idaho citizens but would prefer a driver’s license without the same stringent information sharing requirements that come with a Star Card, etc. A good portion of these scenarios are caused by a broken immigration system that has been passed down to us from the Federal government for decades.

The proposed RDL program is designed to provide the state a way to ensure that all drivers that we currently have on the road have a mechanism to comply with state law that legally requires a driver’s license and proof of insurance. S1081 would provide safer roads to all Idahoans by providing fewer unlicensed and uninsured drivers.

It should be noted that in no way does S1081 change immigration status or policy in the state of Idaho if it were to pass. It simply offers a solution to a current issue of individuals not being able to obtain a driver’s license and insurance to be able to comply with current Idaho law. Failing to pass S1081 will not change immigration status in our state or in our county, it only pushes the problem further down the road of continuing to have unlicensed and uninsured drivers on our roads. Creating this program does not provide any new privileges or rights to undocumented individuals, as they are already driving on our roads to get to work, take their kids to school and to go grocery shopping. What it does is create a way for these individuals to come into compliance with Idaho law, by providing access to driver’s training to obtain a valid license and in turn purchase insurance, which is already required of every other citizen or foreigner with a visa driving on our roads.

Farm Bureau had an excellent attendance by its members at the committee hearing. Many came to show their support of the bill and our policy as well as a few testifying before the committee in support of the legislation. There were also many members that did an excellent job of reaching out to committee members prior to the hearing to discuss S1081. Our strength comes from our grassroots at the county level. This was an opportunity for counties to rally behind our policy. It is important for counties to continue supporting one another as we fight for issues impacting our membership at the legislature. It is so important for everyone to engage on policy implementation as we work to empower Idaho agriculture through achieving our policy.

IFBF Supports S1081 and thanks Senator Guthrie for all his efforts on this bill.







Taxpayer Empowerment Bill Advances



This week, H247 was introduced which provides a pair of tools that will allow taxpayers to have more say in the level of property taxation to which they are subject.

Over the years, whenever taxpayers have been concerned about property taxes, they have only had two options: 1.) attend the budget hearing in August for the local taxing districts and provide comments about where they think the budget should be trimmed; and 2.) they can attempt to vote-out those who raised the taxes, but by then the budgets have already been set and the taxes have already been collected.  Neither option is particularly effective, and the deck seems to be stacked in favor of the elected officials.

Also, when taxpayers have complained to the local elected officials about their property taxes, they are increasingly told “go talk to the legislature, we only do what they tell us to do.”  So taxpayers have been complaining to legislators and the legislature is ready to do something that will help to resolve this ongoing dilemma.

Legislators are beginning to realize that if taxpayers had a couple of tools that would help to level the playing field and which would ensure that they had meaningful say in the level of property taxation they were subject to, most taxpayers would be a lot less frustrated with the entire process, and they could then begin to address the situation locally when needed. That is exactly what has been proposed in H247.

The first tool proposed in H247 would require approval from voters anytime a local taxing district proposes a budget that would result in an increase to the property tax levy for that district. This would happen only under specific circumstances, primarily such as during a recession when the assessed values of properties are declining and the taxing district does not reduce their budget at the same rate, OR if the budget growth exceeds the growth of assessed values within the district. These instances cause the levy rate to increase, and the voters would then get to decide by a simple majority vote whether they approve an increase in the levy rate or not.

The second tool could be used anytime taxpayers feel their property taxes are too high. There is currently a process to initiate a referendum at the county level, or at the city level. The bill clarifies that this existing process could be used to reduce the property tax portion of the city or county budget. Those who believe their taxes are too high could ask fellow citizens to sign a petition to reduce the property tax budget of the county or the city by a certain dollar amount or a certain percent, and once the required number of signatures are gathered, it would appear on the ballot in November. If approved by a simple majority, the property tax budget for the city or county would have to be reduced by the amount that appears on the ballot.

There will likely be local taxing districts who are vehemently opposed to allowing citizens to have more say in the level of property taxation they are willing to pay. However, other taxing districts who are responsive to citizens and are doing their best to keep budgets tight likely will not have much concern over these two tools. 

The perception amongst many taxpayers is the current system is tilted in favor of the local taxing districts. H247 helps to level the playing field providing meaningful tools for citizens to use when they feel like they are being over-taxed.

Unfortunately, the tool requiring a vote when a levy rate would increase met with pushback from some legislators, but probably more importantly, the State Tax Commission pointed out some technical challenges that would make it quite difficult to implement and administer. With that understanding, H247 was held in committee and a new bill was introduced which simply clarifies that citizens have the ability to bring a local referendum or initiative to reduce the property tax budget for a city or a county. The new bill was introduced by the House State Affairs Committee and will now have a full hearing next week. 

IFBF supports H273, which is the replacement for H247.  When taxpayers have tools that help them address property tax pressures at the local level as they occur, there will be far less pressure on the legislature to increase the Homeowner’s Exemption which always shifts property taxes from residential property onto agricultural lands and other property classes.





Fence Bill Advances


This week S1063 was approved by the Senate on a vote of 25-10.  It will now move to the House for a hearing in the House Agricultural Affairs Committee chaired by Rep Kevin Andrus (R-Lava Hot Springs).

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 Farm Bureau supported 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. IFBF supports S1063.





Anti-Boycotting/ESG Bills Advance



This week, the House advanced three bills dealing with anti-boycotting of important Idaho industries and prohibiting the use of Environmental Social Governance (ESG) criteria in the procurement process for public entities. The bills passed out of committee and were favorably voted across the House floor and sent to the Senate. A description of all three bills follows:

  • H189, sponsored by Rep Barb Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls), Rep. Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay), and State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth, establishes a clear policy that if private companies wish to do business with the state in the form of public contracts greater than $100,000, they cannot be actively boycotting the very industries that make up the backbone of Idaho’s economy (i.e. agriculture, natural resources, etc.). The bill allows for reasonable exceptions and includes a transparent process for public entities to follow to still fulfill their legitimate duties.
  • H190, sponsored by Rep Barb Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls), Rep. Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay), and State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth, establishes a policy that prohibits credit unions and banks that serve as state depositories for public funds from actively boycotting the agriculture and natural resource industries, among other things. The bill allows for reasonable exceptions if the State Treasurer determines that the requirements of the legislation would be inconsistent with the constitutional or statutory responsibilities of the office.
  • H191, sponsored by Rep. Jason Monks (R-Meridian) and Sen. Kelly Anthon (R-Burley), ensures that state public contract awards will be based on competitive prices, contract requirements, and contractor qualifications, rather than unrelated principles of ESG. The bill further prohibits the state from using unrelated, ethically subjective, or biased sustainability criteria when determining whether a contractor is qualified, or a bid is awarded.

All three bills acknowledge the contribution of the agriculture and natural resource industries to the state and ensure that the financial institutions and companies that do business with the state neither actively work to undermine important Idaho industries, nor are judged by ESG standards to win state contracts.

Our members understand that there are entities and companies that do indeed use the principles of ESG to evaluate and determine those with whom they will do business. Of course, those decisions are theirs to make. But when dealing with state business, including procurement, public fund depositories, and state contracts, the Idaho Legislature is well within its bounds to establish state policies to limit the use of the principles of ESG.

Idaho Farm Bureau policy #134 states our organization’s opposition to the unsolicited use of ESG scores to evaluate individuals, corporations, or institutions. IFBF thanks the sponsors of all three bills,and applauds the House for advancing them in the legislative process. IFBF supports H189, H190, and H191.





Noxious Weed Notification Bill Advances



The Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee passed H94 regarding noxious weed control notification on a 5 to 4 vote on Tuesday. The committee members had several good questions regarding the proposed amendment and the requirements of landowners to control noxious weeds on their property. Two county weed superintendents were present in the committee to field questions from senators and assist them in knowing how they carry out their statutory duties. Frustratingly, however, several senators appeared to vote against the bill not because of what it proposed to do, but rather out of opposition to the current law regarding weed management on private and state-owned property.

As a reminder, the purpose of H94 is to amend Idaho Code 22-2405 to clarify when personal notice from county noxious weed superintendents to landowners is deemed satisfied. Such notice is considered served eight days after the notice’s postmark date or the date of receipt of the certified registered mail. From that time, the statute already specifies that a landowner has five working days to address the issue and control the noxious weeds on the property.

H94 does not propose changes to the already existing responsibility of the landowner to control noxious weeds on their property. Current law states that it is the duty and responsibility of all landowners to control noxious weeds on their land and property (Idaho Code 22-2407). Voting against H94 does not do away with the duty of landowners to control noxious weeds and prevent their further spread.

IFBF Policy #59.1 states Farm Bureau’s strong support of the enforcement of Idaho’s noxious weed law by the state and counties. H94 will advance better enforcement of the state’s noxious weed laws. IFBF supports H94.






Trapping Bills Pass the House



H143 and H144 passed the House floor this week, both with unanimous yes votes. Both bills will now head to the Senate to receive a committee hearing. 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 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. 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.

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.