Legislative Wrap Up

Fish eye view of the Boise Capital building

By Hollie Conde, Public Lands and Legislative Coordinator

Like so much in the past eighteen months, Idaho’s sixty-sixth legislative session was unprecedented. Quiet halls mostly devoid of everyday citizens, the unchecked spread of illness and unexpected recesses, and political drama divorced from policy ruled this tumultuous gathering of lawmakers. One common theme repeatedly seen from January to May: the legislature’s endless drive to take away power from everyday Idahoans. 

CVI closely tracked about seventy-five bills this session. Legislation early in the session targeted the executive branch, seeking to take power away from the governor’s office. As a conservation organization, we were particularly concerned the legislature could unknowingly create major hurdles for emergency response to dangerous wildfires, major flooding, and other natural disasters. 

CVI worked on a variety of bills this legislative session. Voting rights dominated, but we also spent time on public lands, wildlife, water, electric vehicles, clean energy, and preserving the balance of power. CVI helped stop several bad bills in committee, including legislation dealing with electric vehicles, the AG’s office, and voting rights. 

Our team, along with partners, defended against three particularly dangerous attacks on voting rights. Representative Brandon Mitchell, R-Cambridge, early in the session proposed two nearly identical pieces of legislation that would have purged voter rolls and changed voter ID laws, impacting at least 200,000 Idahoans. A third bill, proposed in late April, would have added several hurdles to voter registration, purged voter rolls, disproportionately affected young people or those without up to date identification, and endangered volunteer poll workers. HB344, which we testified against and rallied our supporters, was stopped in committee along with the two others earlier in the session.

Voting Rights

  • HB255/HB219 
    • Oppose
    • Purges voter rolls, changes voter ID requirements, adds unnecessary burdens on voters.
    • Died in committee, House.
  • HB344 
    • Oppose
    • Voter suppression 101 – purges voter rolls, suppresses young voters, and potentially endangers poll workers by requiring them to take photos of voters. 
    • Died in committee, Senate.
  • HB223/HB88  
    • Oppose
    • Criminalizes collecting ballots for any non immediate family member.
    • Died in the House. 
  • HB299/HB244/HB121 
    • Oppose
    • Prohibits offering extra credit for voting in a university course.
    • HB299 Signed into law. 
  • SB1110 
    • Oppose
    • Requires 6% of registered voters from each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts to qualify an initiative or referendum for the ballot. 
    • Signed into law. 
  • HB105
    • Oppose
    • Allows only votes cast in person on election day to count for presidential electors.
    • Died in committee, House.
  • SB1111/HB319
    • Oppose
    • Moves local elections to even years to coincide with larger, statewide and national races, increasing partisanship and diluting attention on local issues.
    • Died in the House.

Conservation

  • SB1211 
    • Oppose
    • Chips away at Idaho Fish & Game’s authority to manage our wildlife. Sidesteps science and serves industry by allowing a 90% kill off of the wolf population. 
    • Signed into law. 
  • SJM103 
    • Oppose
    • A letter of support for the lower Snake River Dams to the Biden Administration. 
    • Passed. Does not require an executive signature. Transmitted to Washington, DC. 
  • HB113 
    • Support
    • Reauthorizes operation of the Big Payette and Lake Cascade Water Quality Councils at no taxpayer expense.
    • Died in committee, House.
  • H99 
    • Support
    • Authorizes the Department of Environmental Quality to create a water pollutant trading program.
    • Signed into law.
  • HB154 
    • Oppose
    • Allows counties to opt out of vehicle emissions testing programs.
    • Died in committee, Senate. 
  • HB361/HB360
    • Oppose
    • Drastically increases registration fees for electric vehicles.
    • Died in committee, House.
  • HB254 
    • Oppose
    • Changes electrical codes for builders.
    • Died in committee, House.
  • HCR8 
    • Oppose
    • Authorizes spending $250,000 in taxpayer money to study taxable value of nontaxable public lands.
    • Does not require an executive signature. Transmitted to the Secretary of State.

Balance of Powers

  • HB118/SB1090/HB101 
    • Oppose
    • Allows agencies to sidestep using legal representation from the Attorney General’s office, increasing costs to taxpayers dramatically and weakening AG power.  
    • Died in committees, House and Senate
  • HB135/SB1136 
    • Oppose
    • Curbs executive authority to manage emergencies.
    • Vetoed. Veto upheld in the Senate.
  • HB391/HB392/HB393 
    • Oppose
    • Curbs executive authority to manage emergencies. Similar to HB135, but broken into separate pieces of legislation.
    • Signed into law.

We worked side by side with partners on all issues and strengthened relationships across the state. Citizens from all over Idaho skipped traveling to Boise to testify. It was a slow start, but by the end of the session remote testimony was the norm. Conservation Voters for Idaho also worked round-the-clock calling, texting, and emailing Idahoans to provide information about legislation moving through the Statehouse. We then connected them with lawmakers to engage in the process and make their voice heard.

Throughout the session, CVI testified remotely at committee hearings on voter rights, public lands, and ballot initiatives. We co-hosted a press conference with Justice Jim Jones when he spoke out in opposition to SB1110 and dropped off 50,000 signatures asking the Governor to veto the bill. Testimony from CVI staff was quoted by media outlets across the state and beyond. Dozens of zoom meetings and phone calls replaced hallway meetings between CVI and lawmakers. Text messages were constant. While none of this communication was equivalent to being inside the Statehouse, it did show adaptability under pressure. What the next session brings is anyone’s guess, especially considering the sixty-sixth legislative session is not yet technically complete.  With the House not fully adjourned, they could attempt to call themselves, and the Senate, back into session. While House Leadership has denied any motives around tinkering with district boundaries or the delayed redistricting process over this extended recess, CVI remains vigilant against any possibility of changing the rules ahead of the upcoming 2022 primary. We will play a pivotal role in ensuring redistricting remains fair and balanced. 

Conducting the people’s business looked very different this year. Lawmakers addressed few, if any, of Idahoans’ biggest policy concerns like property taxes, education, and the rising cost of living during Idaho’s longest legislative session. Precedents set in the sixty-sixth session should not define the new normal at the Statehouse. Power is an ugly theme, and cannot be allowed to dominate the lawmaking process in the future as it has throughout 2021. We’re gearing up to make sure it doesn’t. 

To stay in the loop during this extended recess, sign up for our email list here. We’ll keep you up-to-date on redistricting, an integral piece of the 2022 elections. You can also follow along with any movement on public lands issues, which are likely to arise before the next legislative session.

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