Skip to main content

Capitol Reflections: 2024 Session, Issue 6

By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs



“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one.”  -  James Madison



Working Animals Protection Act


This week the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee, chaired by Senator Doug Ricks (R-Rexburg), held a hearing on S1302, the Working Animals Protection Act.

The purpose of S1302 is to prohibit any local jurisdiction in Idaho from” enacting or enforcing any ordinance, regulation or rule that is more restrictive than state law” with regards to working animals.

Working animals are defined as “any animal used for the purpose of performing a specific duty or function in commerce or service, including, but not limited to animals involved in hunting, entertainment, transportation, education, exhibition, agritourism, ranching, farming, logging or service.”

S1302 is sponsored by Senator Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton) and Rep Jacyn Gallagher (R-Weiser).  They indicated that it is becoming more common in other states for cities to restrict, or place bans on the use of animals for such common uses as carriage rides, circuses, rodeos, or even for use by police as K-9 officers or bomb sniffing dogs.

S1302 is meant to ensure that no political subdivision of Idaho goes out on its own to make it more difficult or impossible to allow working animals to do specific jobs.

At the hearing, the Humane Society and the Idaho Association of Counties testified in opposition to the bill. They were concerned that the bill as written would override long-standing local zoning ordinances that limit or prohibit certain animals within city limits, or ban roosters in residential areas.

There was an effort to send the bill to the amending order, but eventually the bill was held in committee. The sponsors plan to work with committee members to bring a new version of the bill that is not worded so broadly so it can accomplish its intent, without unintended consequences.

Nationally, there is an effort to enact similar legislation in every state. So far Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas have passed similar legislation. AFBF policy #301 states in part: We support the Working Animals Protection Act.”  IFBF supports the concept of protecting working animals found in S1302.





Truck Idling Bill Moves Out of Committee


H533 received a full hearing in the House Committee on Transportation and Defense and passed unanimously out of committee. This bill puts into code the allowance that trucks can idle to run their heating or air conditioning while the driver is eating or sleeping. Additionally, it permits them to idle with their trailer refrigeration running. Federal laws already permit this and typically it hasn’t been a problem in the state of Idaho. However, some communities in the state have implemented noise ordinances in their city limits that would prohibit idling, even when carrying perishables and pharmaceuticals. These trucks have to then drive on from the town, if they know the ordinance and haven’t timed out, elsewise they risk getting fined.

This statute change brings Idaho in line with federal law and keeps trucks safely running, even when parked, for the benefit of the driver and product. AFBF # 125.2.1 states, “We oppose the enactment of state legislation or regulations that are more stringent than federal requirements governing hauling of non-food items in trucks used to transport food products.” IFBF supports H533.









H485 Held In Committee For One Week


Grizzly bear and wolf depredation bill H485 sponsored by Rep. Gerald Raymond (R-Menan) and Rep. Mark Sauter (R-Sandpoint) received a full hearing in committee yesterday. The testimony given by Farm Bureau members and other producers was greatly appreciated and made a true impact! The bill was held in committee until next week to work out some technical corrections requested by House leadership and members of the committee. One of those technicalities includes changing wordage relating to the Office of Species Conservation creating policy, something they are not authorized statutorily to do. It is anticipated that the fund and its purposes will not change. We encourage all Idaho Farm Bureau members to continue to contact legislators and urge their support. TAKE ACTION ON H485 HERE








EV Tax Bill to Receive Hearing


In a move aimed at creating a level playing field for commercial vehicles, Idaho is considering H534. This does not introduce a new tax but rather ensures electric commercial trucks comply with existing statutes which prohibit operating commercial vehicles over 26,000 pounds without paying a fuel tax. Currently, there is no assessed tax on commercial electric vehicles ‘fuel’. This bill addresses the disparity by proposing a tax rate of 1 cent per kilowatt-hour on commercial electric vehicles, mirroring the taxation on diesel fuel vehicles at $0.32 per gallon.

While electric commercial vehicles in Idaho have enjoyed a tax-free status, their diesel counterparts contribute an average of $5000 per vehicle annually in fuel taxes. Additionally, electric vehicles, on average, weigh 30% more than a standard vehicle. By aligning with existing regulations and generating much-needed revenue, this bill ensures that electric commercial vehicles share the financial responsibility for using Idaho's highway system, supporting the long-term sustainability of the state's infrastructure. IFBF Policy # 95 states, “we support an alternative tax for non-combustion vehicles.” IFBF supports H534.







School Facilities Bill Introduced



Last week, H521 was introduced in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee chaired by Rep Jason Monks (R-Meridian). This is the bill that would implement school facilities funding ideas that Governor Brad Little touted in his state of the state speech at the beginning of the legislative session.

H521 redirects a number of existing funding streams that local school districts can use to pay down existing bonds. It also provides new revenue streams that can be used to bond against for future building projects. A brief overview of the bill’s features include:

  1. It replaces the current School District Building Account and Bond Levy Equalization Program with the School Modernization Facilities Fund (SMFF).
  2. It provides $125 million in new, additional funding to the SMFF annually, beyond the existing funding that is being redirected to the SMFF;
  3. Schools can receive money from the SMFF when they:
    1. Submit a 10 year plan discussing their future construction, renovation and maintenance needs for facilities;
    2. Certify that the school district does not require job applicants to sign a written diversity statement;
  4. Requiring SMFF funding to only be used for routine maintenance, preventative maintenance, building repairs, building security, replacement of old facilities and construction of new facilities using standardized plans for new construction;
    1. SMFF funds may not be used for facilities with primarily an athletic purpose such as gymnasiums, sports fields or stadiums;
  5. Increasing the amount of sales tax going to the School District Facilities Fund from 2.25% to 3.25% (this is the fund used to reduce property taxes that began last year); and
  6. Increasing the Public Education Stabilization Fund cap from 8.334% to 15% of the amount appropriated for public education in that fiscal year.

H521 also does the following:

  1. It reduces Idaho’s flat state income tax from 5.8% to 5.695% for both individuals and corporations;
  2. It removes the remaining “odd” school election date in August. All school elections in the future would be held on the dates for the primary or general elections; and
  3. It tightens up the amount that can legally be collected for a bond approved by the voters. Currently, a district can collect up to 21 months of bond payments in any year rather than just 12 months of bond payments. H521 ensures that just the amount necessary to cover the bond payments for the next year are collected during the year.

This 30-page bill is quite complex and has a lot of technical nuances.  However, it provides additional tax relief to citizens (both income and property tax) while also providing additional funding to schools, with increased accountability to better care for their existing facilities. H521 will assist school districts to construct new facilities through new sources of revenue they can bond against, thus reducing the amount they need to ask taxpayers to provide when bonding. IFBF policy numbers 96 and 114 support H521. IFBF supports H521.








Protecting Against Government Intrusion


Earlier this week S1345 was introduced into the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee chaired by Senator Todd Lakey (R-Nampa). The purpose of S1345 is to ensure Idaho law and practice matches the common understanding citizens have of their protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Unfortunately, over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a series of rulings on the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that are somewhat contradictory, and increasingly narrow in scope. They have found that a person’s home and the area immediately surrounding the home is protected against unreasonable search and seizure, while any other property, which they refer to as “open fields” are not under the same protection.

Some government agencies across the nation have used these rulings as authorization to enter private property without a warrant and have breached what most people believe is a constitutionally protected right. As an example, a few years ago the Tennessee Department of Fish and Game installed trail cams on private property without the owner’s knowledge to surveille the land to watch for potential poachers.

When the owners discovered the cameras, they cut them down out of the trees, discovered there were no markings identifying ownership, and brought them to their house. A few days later, heavily armed officers burst into the home demanding the return of their cameras. As you can imagine, this incident went to court. Ultimately the landowners prevailed. The agency argued that they have the right to go onto private property that is an “open field” to conduct surveillance or to ensure that their game laws are being followed. The court was unpersuaded.

Several other states have had “open field” cases go to court. In at least six states, the state Supreme Courts have ruled that notwithstanding the narrow interpretation of the Fourth Amendment by the U.S. Supreme Court, their state Constitutions provide additional protections for citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. Three of these states are our neighbors, Washington, Oregon and Montana. They have found that citizens have a right to be “free from government scrutiny” and from “intrusion into their private affairs” on their property, which includes “open fields” when the property is not open to the public.

S1345 seeks to place into Idaho law the findings of these other state Supreme Courts just as South Dakota placed into their state law two years ago.

S1345 clarifies that law enforcement cannot enter private property that is not open to the public without the permission of the owner, or a warrant, unless there are exigent circumstances. It would allow entry without a warrant if they have probable cause that a law is about to be broken; or if there is an accident, emergency situation, or other threat to public safety, the officers may enter the private property without permission.

S1345 simply affirms the common understanding that Idaho citizens have of the protections they are afforded under the state and U.S. Constitutions and puts it into Idaho law so there is no misunderstanding in the courts when a situation like this arises in the future. 

So far, law enforcement agencies have not been opposing the bill. They have indicated that they already follow these procedures and would not approve of entering private land without a warrant.  However, the Idaho Department of Fish & Game have been quite vocal that this would restrict their ability to enforce Idaho’s laws related to fish and game. They have tacitly admitted that they routinely enter private property to check people’s hunting or fishing licenses, or to inspect daily take limits, etc. However, they did have to admit that other states are still able to manage their fish and wildlife without the ability to enter private land at will, and those states have far less public land than Idaho does. It appears they are primarily concerned that they would be losing “authority” they have been exercising, despite it being contrary to Idahoan’s understanding of their constitutionally protected rights.

When Idaho Farm Bureau members were in Boise last week for our Legislative and Commodity Conference, of the 100 or so in attendance, about 1/3 indicated that they have had an incidence when Fish and Game entered their land without their permission to do so. Landowners would still be free to give permission for Fish and Game to enter their property if they choose to do so, for instance if they would like them to patrol for trespassers or to check that no game laws are being broken.

IFBF policy #163 states in part: “We support revising Idaho law to reject the open-field doctrine by making it unlawful for any person, including any state or federal agency representatives, to enter private property without the permission of the owner or authorized agent, or a warrant.” S1345 will have a hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee next week. We encourage you to contact your legislators to support S1345 as they will likely hear from IDF&G and possibly sportsmen in opposition to this bill. IFBF supports S1345.








Public Contracts/Anti-Boycotting




This week, the Senate State Affairs committee advanced a bill dealing with anti-boycotting of important Idaho industries. S1291 sponsored by Senator Doug Ricks (R-Rexburg) and State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth, establishes a clear policy that if private companies wish to do business with the public entities 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, firearms, etc.). The bill allows for reasonable exceptions for government entities to follow to still fulfill their legal and legitimate duties when there may not be other companies to provide the needed good or service.

S1291 acknowledges the contribution of the agriculture and natural resource industries to the state 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 the S1291 and applauds the Senate State Affairs Committee for advancing it in the legislative process. IFBF supports S1291.








Plant Pest Act Bill Advances



This week, a bill that would make a simple amendment to Idaho’s Plant Pest Act advanced in the House. H472, carried by Rep. Doug Pickett (R-Oakley) and co-sponsored by several legislators, would bolster private property rights, and reduce unwarranted searches and seizure on private land.

The purpose of H472 is to ensure that the requirement for ISDA to inspect plants and plant pests on private land is consistent with the statutory requirement of ISDA for inspecting livestock (see Section 25-3519, Idaho Code). This amendment would simply require ISDA, when inspecting private land, to gain the landowner’s permission, have probable cause, or a warrant. Again, this is very similar to ISDA’s requirements to carry out animal/livestock inspections – first gaining permission from the owner. This amendment does not change the department’s authority when carrying out inspections on public property.

Farm Bureau is the sponsor of this bill and we worked closely with ISDA to get the language of the bill right. This will likely not change the current process by which ISDA carries out inspections as they carefully work with landowners to gain access before carrying out plant or plant pest inspections. Nonetheless, the bill will put in code the process for which the Department will carry out inspections on private land in the future.

Farm Bureau policy supports amending the Idaho Plant Pest Act to include language to protect growers from being subject to unnecessary search and seizure without probable cause, and advanced warning to enter premises. IFBF supports H472.








State Grazing Permit Bill Moves to House




Federal grazing permits are automatically renewed at the end of the term so long as the rancher has followed all the rules. This renewal feature provides surety that the rancher will be able to graze there into the future and that security has a value. In fact, banks use federal grazing permits as collateral on loans and the IRS even taxes your estate when the owner of the federal permit passes away. This ability to renew is called the federal grazing preference right in the Taylor Grazing Act. A federal grazing preference right is recognized in title 25, chapter 9, Idaho Code as a property right.

There is no such feature in state grazing leases. At the end of the state grazing lease, no matter how well you have followed the rules, the grazing lease goes up for public auction. If another person is willing and able to bid more than the current lessee, the lease is transferred to the highest bidder. Unlike a federal grazing permit, there is no guarantee a state lessee will be able to continue to graze on that state land into the future, which brings uncertainty to the viability of future operations.

Once in a while, the state and the federal government determine it would be in both of their interests to exchange lands. When this happens, pre-existing encumbrances that exist on the federal land continue to be recognized by the state after the exchange. For instance, an easement or right-of-way for a power line will still exist after a land exchange takes place. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for grazing.

Even though a rancher has a legally recognized property right to renew his federal grazing permit, once that land becomes state land, the state no longer recognizes that right and his new state grazing lease is  then subject to public auction at the end of the term. S1243 was proposed to provide a mechanism for the state to continue to recognize that right to renew following an exchange with the federal government.

After an exchange in the future, S1243 would allow a state grazing lessee to apply to IDL to convert his grazing lease into a state grazing permit where the land had previously been federal land. The same rules and fees would apply to a state grazing permit as a state grazing lease. The only difference is that the permit will be renewed at the end of the term so long as the rancher has followed the rules. This allows the state to continue to recognize the pre-existing legal right to renew that is recognized in Idaho Code.

Some have claimed that S1243 is unconstitutional as it does not require this very narrow set of state grazing leases to go to public auction. However, the Idaho Constitution is very clear on this point. It states: “the general grants of land from congress to the state shall be subject to disposal at public auction.”  The constitution specifically requires those lands received from congress at statehood to go to public auction. However, land received through an exchange is neither a “general grant” of land, nor does it come from congress. Therefore, such land is not required to go to public auction under the plain language of the constitution.

This week, the Senate approved S1243 on a strong, bi-partisan vote of 31-4. It will now be considered by the House Resources and Conservation Committee. IFBF would like to thank Senators Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs), Todd Lakey (R-Nampa) and Jim Guthrie (McCammon) for sponsoring the bill in the Senate. In the House, the sponsors are Rep Doug Pickett (R-Oakley) and Rep Dustin Manwarring (R-Pocatello). IFBF policy #46.8 states: “we support legislation to ensure that none of the valid existing private rights are lost in any land exchange between Idaho and the federal government.”  IFBF supports S1243.








Resources Available to Follow During Session:

Legislative Website Homepage: HERE

2024 Legislative Session Bill Center: HERE

List of Senate Committee Assignments: HERE

List of House Committee Assignments: HERE

Current Senate Committee Agendas: HERE

Current House Committee Agendas: HERE

Watch Committee Meetings and Floor Sessions Live: HERE

Governor’s Bill Action and Legislative Communications: HERE