Recapping the 2023 Legislative Session

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Written by Senior Legislative & Lands Coordinator Hollie Conde

That’s a wrap!

The First Regular Session of the Sixty-seventh Legislature has adjourned sine die! As anticipated, we were disappointed to see the legislature engage in harmful rhetoric and legislation that detrimentally impacts Idahoans. We acknowledge the negative impact this session has had on several communities of Idahoans, particularly women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In light of the session as a whole, we are proud to share significant wins for conservation and protection of the right to vote. Over the last three months, CVI has been your eyes, ears and voice in the statehouse on behalf of conservation and democracy. When we give testimony, meet with legislators, attend committee and floor hearings, it is on behalf of all Idahoans who deserve a safe, clean, beautiful environment in which to live, work, and play. We are proud to represent your interests in our work.

The legislation. 

The majority of the eighty-eight days making up this year’s legislative session were fast-paced and fully-booked as legislators moved legislation back and forth across the statehouse. Of the 636 bills, resolutions, and memorials proposed, CVI worked on over 100. Here’s what we’re celebrating: 

  • S1196 is the largest investment in outdoor recreation in Idaho history! This bill appropriates $95 million to the Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation. This funding will bring significant improvements to our beloved state parks by addressing maintenance needs, expanding park capacity, and adding improved accommodations to recreation sites. 
  • SJR101, which would have manipulated Idaho voters into making the ballot initiative process more restrictive, failed to receive the necessary ⅔ majority vote. We devoted a significant amount of time, effort, and resources to defeating this legislation, mobilizing voters to reach out to legislators more than 1,000 times in opposition.
  • H205, which would have restricted no-excuse vote-by-mail to only a small percentage of Idahoans meeting specific requirements, failed on the house floor. More than 42% of Idahoans have utilized mail-in voting in the last two years, the majority of whom are the elderly, come from working families, or live in rural communities. Protecting this safe, secure, and convenient form of voting was a high priority for CVI this session.
  • H263, which would have made Idaho County Highway District races partisan and jeopardized the ACHD’s ability to focus on community safety, died in committee after we mobilized more than 100 comments to the committee. Party politics have no place in the ACHD – we care much more about community safety on the roads and sidewalks than we do about whether the commissioners are Democrats or Republicans.
  • S1051, which will help our outfitters and guides stay in business with updated liability insurance requirements, was signed into law. The last thing a family-run guiding business needs is a liability lawsuit from clients over outdoor conditions that are out of their control. This legislation will provide the same safety net against liability lawsuits that you expect from other states in the West when you raft, hunt, fish, ski, or any other guided recreational activity.
  • H24 creates the Idaho Launch Program, a $102 million fund that provides $8,500 career and workforce scholarships for high school graduates to pursue in-demand careers. This program will be essential for filling the workforce needs of our rapidly growing clean energy economy. With a narrow vote margin, the passage of this program would not have been possible without CVI’s electoral work. 

Of course, the session wasn’t all wins and celebrations. Here’s some legislation that passed despite our best efforts:

  • HB287, a bill that prohibits local communities from adopting energy conservation codes or requirements that differ from or are more extensive than those expressly stated in Idaho code, was signed into law. This legislation undermines the local solutions that Idaho’s local governmental entities can implement to protect our energy grid and lower energy costs for residents. However, the language is unclear as to how this law will be put into practice.
  • HB25, which puts control of the roads surrounding the Capitol building into the hands of the legislature, was signed into law. This legislation is an unwarranted overreach of power that prevents ACHD from making decisions about its own streets, impacting not just those who use the roads, but the businesses that are established here.
  • S1084 removes state oversight of wildlife exhibitions – specifically one roadside zoo that’s been cited multiple times over the past few years. Yellowstone Bear World, located in eastern Idaho, has been cited for both human worker and animal welfare violations by numerous federal and state agencies and convinced legislators to bring a bill to lessen oversight and “red tape” over their establishment. 

Holding Idaho Legislators Accountable

Legislators have one thing in common: their job is to represent their constituents to the best of their ability. When Idahoans speak out on issues that are important to them, it is the duty of the legislature to use their feedback to make thoughtful, informed decisions. When legislators listen to their constituents, we are able to move past political posturing and harmful rhetoric, and pass legislation on the issues Idahoans truly care about. That is why CVI has worked so hard to elevate your voices and successfully pass legislation that protects your right to vote, invests in our clean energy economy, and supports the wild spaces we love. 

This session, Idahoans contacted their legislators more than 1,200 times through our action tools. CVI built relationships with the large freshman class of lawmakers, deepened our partnership with allies, and celebrated significant wins in the Statehouse. It wouldn’t have been possible without your voice and support. Thank you for all the times you contacted members, testified in committee, or engaged in the process any other way – it made a tangible difference for all Idahoans. 

What comes next?

Throughout the summer and fall, I’ll be traveling around the state talking to legislators in their home districts. If you have a conservation or democracy issue you’d like me to bring to their attention, let me know. I’m building a list of priorities for next year, and want to uplift your ideas to those in positions of power. Also, if you’re curious about legislative work and want to know what serving is like, send me a note. Idaho depends on thoughtful, community-focused individuals representing their neighbors in the local and state government. In our mission to elect these individuals into office, we offer candidate training to provide the tools you need to run for office with confidence. 2024 will be here quickly. Let’s get started now. 

Idaho is worth fighting for, it’s worth the time and effort we put into saving it. Thank you for being engaged in Idaho’s democracy and our work to prioritize the natural environment in our political environment.

In addition to the above bills we highlighted, below is a full list of legislation we prioritized most significantly throughout the session. If you have any questions about these bills, feel free to email me for more details.