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Capitol Reflections: 2024 Session, Issue 9

By: Idaho Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs



“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”  James Madison




School Facilities Bill Nears Finish Line

This week, H521 was approved in the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee chaired by Senator Doug Ricks (R-Meridian).   The bill would implement the school facilities funding ideas that Governor Brad Little touted in his State of the State speech at the beginning of the legislative session.

H521 provides additional funding for school districts to use to pay down existing bonds or levies.  It also provides new revenue streams that can be used to bond against future building projects. 

H521 reduces Idaho’s flat state income tax from 5.8% to 5.695% for both individuals and corporations and it removes the remaining “odd” school election date in August. 

This 30-page bill is quite complex and has a lot of technical nuances.  In a nutshell, it provides additional tax relief to citizens (both income and property tax), and provides additional funding for school facilities while requiring increased accountability from schools 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.

H521 has already been approved in the House.  It now moves to the Senate floor for consideration by the entire body, where it is expected to pass easily.  Following the Governor’s signature, H521 will become law.  IFBF policy numbers 96 and 114 support H521.  IFBF supports H521.




Election Integrity Bills Advance


This week two bills that are aimed at improving election integrity were heard in the House State Affairs Committee chaired by Rep Brent Crane (R-Nampa). 

H599 seeks to significantly reduce the opportunity for “ballot harvesting” in Idaho which has become a real problem in many other states.  Ballot harvesting happens when someone other than the voter gathers or collects ballots and either selectively delivers them or changes how they are voted prior to delivery, normally with the intent to adversely influence an election.

H599 clarifies that only close family members, a member of the same household, or a caregiver could legally collect or convey a ballot for another person at their request.  This language is part of the recommendations from a bi-partisan commission on election integrity at the federal level in 2005, which was co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker.

Secretary of State Phil McGrane testified in support of H599 stating that it would help to reduce the opportunity for fraud in the state.  H599 was approved by the Committee and was sent to the House floor with a “do pass” recommendation.

H667 seeks to put some sideboards upon when a person can vote absentee by mail.  This would not impair the ability of anyone to vote early in person at the county clerk’s office.

Unfortunately, as has been witnessed in a number of other states, mail-in voting is susceptible to fraud and abuse.  Idaho did not even allow mail-in absentee voting until 1970.  Curiously, rather than restrict absentee voting to specific circumstances, Idaho implemented “no excuses” absentee voting, allowing anyone to vote by mail without requiring a specific reason.

H667 would require a person to declare that they either 1. anticipate they will be out of the jurisdiction on election day and during all the early voting days, or 2. have an illness or other disability that would prevent them from voting in person on election day, or during early voting.

H667 also ensures that the only way a citizen could receive an absentee ballot is if they fill out an official absentee ballot request form from their county clerk.  It would prohibit other groups or entities from sending unsolicited ballot request forms to people, encouraging them to vote absentee.

Many people spoke against H667, stating that it would make it “too hard” for many people to vote.  One hundred years ago, it was far more difficult to vote than it is today.  Most rural residents had to hitch up the wagon or saddle a horse and ride miles into town on election day to cast their vote.  It was difficult, yet it was a privilege that people were willing to sacrifice for.  Today, voting is vastly easier for everyone.  Unfortunately, this modern convenience appears to have enshrined a deep-seated sense of entitlement that voting must be made as painless as possible, and any inconvenience is inexcusable. 

Ultimately, the committee liked the concepts contained in H667, but thought that the language could be tightened up a bit, so they sent H667 to the amending order to make some adjustments to clarify a couple of the terms.

Idaho Farm Bureau policy #114 states in part:  “We oppose unsolicited mail-in voting and vote harvesting practices.”  IFBF supports both H559 and H667.




Two Transportation Bills Pass the Senate, Head to the Governor



H412 and H414 were both approved by the Senate unanimously and will head to the Governor’s desk. IFBF appreciates the legislature’s support in eliminating red tape and time wasted for Idaho truckers.

H412 allows the Idaho Department of Transportation to implement efficient methods to allow trucks to bypass ports. Measures include scales on interstate roads and license plate scanners. These technologies work in tandem, checking for weight, registration, and permits before the truck even reaches the off-ramp. Additionally, tire pressure sensors are in place at select ports of entry, which detect low pressure, allowing drivers to exit, inspect for leaks, and fill their tires. Some of these are already in place in high-traffic Ports of Entry across the state.

H414, introduces two significant changes. First, it extends the renewal period for commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) from four to eight years. Additionally, the bill offers a five-dollar discount for online license renewals. The aim of this bill is to enhance efficiency by enabling drivers to maintain their CDLs for a longer duration and eliminate the need to visit a county DMV for renewal.  IFBF supports both H412 and H414.




Snake River Dam Memorial Advances


A memorial speaking to the value of the Columbia-Snake River System and the four lower Snake River dams advanced out of the House Resources and Conservation Committee this week. With the recent action in the courts regarding the settlement agreement between the Biden Administration, the Federal Agencies, and the six sovereigns involved in the case, the importance of this memorial is all the greater.

SJM103 specifically outlines Idaho’s support for the international competitiveness, multimodal transportation, and economic development benefits provided by the Port of Lewiston and the Columbia-Snake River System. The state has sovereignty of its water resources and benefits from the multiuse system that provides transportation of commodities, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, hydropower, and irrigation. The memorial also expresses Idaho’s strong opposition to the removal or breaching dams on the Columbia-Snake River System and its tributaries.

SJM103 advanced out of committee on a party-line vote, with the Republicans supporting it and the Democrats opposing it. The memorial will likely be voted on by the full House next week.

IFBF Policy #28 states our support for the continued existence and current usage of all dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. We oppose any efforts to destroy or decrease the production of those dams. IFBF supports SJM103.




Pesticide Labeling Bill Introduced in the House


A bill dealing with pesticide warning labels was recently introduced in the House. H653 brings more certainty to chemical product manufacturers and the agricultural industry that depends on them for their farms and ranches. The bill simply says that existing regulations for pesticide labeling shall be sufficient for a cancer warning unless a plaintiff can demonstrate in court that they were actually harmed by the product or that a company withheld important safety information from regulators. This legislation will reduce costly and unnecessary 'failure to warn' litigation in the future while still providing access to all other legal remedies for individuals harmed by bad actors.

H653 does not provide “sweeping legal immunity” to pesticide manufacturers. Moreover, it raises the standard so that a plaintiff needs clear and convincing evidence as proof in a court of law that they were injured as a result of the warning label being inadequate.

Farm Bureau policy supports the availability of these licensed products for agricultural producers. Agricultural chemicals are important in continuing to supply consumers with an abundant, safe, nutritious, high quality, and reasonably priced food supply. We are committed to continuing the use of agricultural chemicals in a safe and judicious manner so as to protect the health and safety of producers, our employees, our families, our communities, and the environment.

Farm Bureau, along with many other Idaho agricultural and natural resource organizations, supports H653. This critical legislation provides necessary legal protection for U.S. pesticide manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits – reducing the certainty that these crop protection products will continue to be available for use in agriculture.

H653 has been assigned to the House Business Committee where we look forward to a full committee hearing in the coming days. IFBF supports H653.




Ag. Land Protection Bill Unanimously Passes House


On Monday, the House unanimously passed H608 on the House floor. The bill is one of Farm Bureau’s legislative priorities this session, and we are pleased to see it advance with full support. The bill now moves on to the Senate, where it has been assigned to the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee for consideration.

H608 has been scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday of next week at 1:30 pm. We encourage our members to contact their Senators and ask them to support the bill. Also, for those interested in providing testimony in support of the bill on the day of the hearing, please contact a member of the Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs team and we would be happy to help you sign-up.

IFBF Policy #146 supports legislation to protect agriculture land through voluntary agreements and programs based on incentives. IFBF supports H608.




Different Types of Legislation


With various forms of legislation, understanding their differences can often be confusing. To provide some clarity, below are straightforward definitions to help recognize the different types of legislation being referenced in the capital or in Capitol Reflections.

Bill: A proposal to create a new law or to amend or repeal current laws. Bills are also written to allocate public money to state agencies and departments, which is called appropriating money. Bills start in either the House or the Senate and, after passage, must go to the other chamber. If there are amendments, it goes back to the original chamber for concurrence, or the bill fails.

The bill is then sent to the Governor, where he will either sign it into law, veto it, or allow the bill to become law without his approval by not signing it within five days. If a bill is vetoed, the legislature can override the veto by a 2/3 majority vote in both bodies. At that point, it would become law. Next, it is up to state agencies to create rules that will guide them on how to enforce the law. Rules also must be approved by the House and Senate.

Concurrent Resolution: This type of legislation is used for one of three reasons: to regulate what happens inside the legislature, to express appreciation from the legislature, or to direct a study to be conducted when the legislature is not in session. It is acted upon in the same way as a bill; however, the Governor does not sign it. As an example, SCR111which IFBF supports, calls upon the State Board of Education to study opportunities to include Idaho-specific seats in Utah State University’s new veterinary program.

Joint Memorial: This is a petition usually addressed to the President, Congress, or some other person or department in the federal government requesting an action on an issue. A joint memorial is acted upon in the same manner as a bill but is not signed by the Governor. As an example, SJM102  states that Congress and the President have failed in their duties to implement an immigration policy that keeps Americans safe and calls for improved border security while meeting labor needs. IFBF supports SJM102.

This proposes amendments to the Idaho Constitution or ratifies amendments to the United States Constitution. It must be approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses but is not signed by the Governor. An example of this would be HJR2, which IFBF opposed. HJR2 would have proposed an amend the Idaho Constitution to reduce the supermajority requirement to pass bonds.

Other types of legislation that aren’t as common and their definitions can be found HERE





IFBF Legislative Intern - Wesley Van Etten


I have always had a deep interest in law and government and have tried to stay aware of the issues currently affecting me and my community. Because of this, I am always trying to learn more about how our communities are organized and how they are impacted by policy, both new and existing. I believe that the public’s active involvement in and knowledge of current events taking place in their government is the best way to make for a more mutually beneficial and effective government for all.

That being said, I used to be under the impression that opportunities for a citizen to be involved in and learn more about how our system works are somewhat limited. That is why I am so thankful to have had the incredible opportunity to participate in Idaho Farm Bureau’s legislative internship.  

This program allowed me to follow Farm Bureau’s Government Affairs team for a week out of this year’s legislative session at the state capitol. Being around this team, I witnessed their tireless efforts to take the will of the people and bring it to our elected officials.

Throughout the week, I was able to witness every step in the creation of new law, from its first draft to its time in committee hearings where it would be testified for and against to weigh its benefit, a process that is open to any member of the public that wishes to participate. If the bill was approved, I got to see it brought to the floors of both the House and Senate, where it would be debated, amended, and voted on, either failing or making its way to the Governor to be signed into law.

While I was happy enough to meet some of my representatives, this program went a step further, letting me sit in on meetings with my legislators and their policy advisors to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of our government.

I have seen in the government affairs staff a true commitment to helping our people be heard and to make our state a better place to live. I implore anyone who is interested to take part in this program and similar opportunities if you are ever given the chance to.  Wesley Van Etten, Butte County



IFBF Legislative Intern - Sheila Hasselstrom


Carving out time for personal growth can be a difficult thing to do. But this is exactly what we must do. We must push ourselves to learn all aspects of Agriculture in Idaho.

This week I did just that. I spent the week with our Idaho Farm Bureau lobbyists at the Idaho State Capitol. Walking from one wing of the capital to the other, to meet with our representatives and move very important pieces of legislation for our Idaho Farmer. Alongside of our Government Affairs team, I was able to participate in bill recruiting support for bills, proposed bill amendments, committee hearings, tell a bit of my farm story and watch the house and senate cast their votes.  It truly was an eye-opening experience.

What impressed me the most was the collaborative effort of our Ag commodity groups. We think of ourselves (ag producers) as the most important voice in Idaho.  That may have once been the case, but not so true anymore. Without the collective efforts of our ag lobbyists, many of these bills would not make it to a second reading.  There is a disconnect in agriculture and it is misunderstood.  These men and women carry our story and defend our way of life.  Kinda of heroic? No, just another day at the Idaho State Capitol.

What I have taken away from my experience is that we, the producer, are needed in this process. Whether you testify by video, respond to an Action Alert or you make the trip to be here in Boise, face to face. Your input and experience is important.

Take a week, push yourself, tell your story. Our industry needs you!

Sheila Hasselstrom

Lewis/Clearwater, Farm Bureau County President



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