Reviewing the 2022 Legislative Session

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The 2022 Legislative Session has Adjourned 

Thankfully, the sixty-seventh legislative session didn’t set any new records for length – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without excitement. Legislators took up battles old and new on everything from voting rights and elections to clean energy and open space. As expected, the session was also the start of the campaign trail for the May primaries (all 105 seats are open!), with more controversial statements, grandstanding and jockeying than normal. 

In all, CVI tracked about 85 bills and contacted 15,511 voters this session. Thank you for picking up the phone, emailing your legislators, and encouraging your friends and family to do the same. With opportunities for remote public testimony, local government has become more accessible than ever before. And when you engage, you ensure that your government represents your values. One example: an early bill that could have shut out hundreds of thousands of unaffiliated Idahoans from voting in the primary inspired so much opposition that the sponsor, after hearing from voters, pulled the bill

This session was a whirlwind, so let’s recap. 

Clean Energy 

It’s not often we get to advance proactive legislation and this year, we were delighted to work on proactive legislation that will help bring electric school buses to Idaho school districts. 

Our Legislative and Land Coordinator Hollie Conde worked with Senators Nelson and Den Hartog to introduce SB1319 in the Senate and Rep. Bundy to carry the bill in the House. The bill received unanimous support in the Senate, but passed in the House on a close margin 37-33. SB1319 removed limitations on school bus contracts to enable Idaho school districts to bring electric school buses into their fleets using funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress this past fall. This legislation gives our communities a significant advantage in transitioning to clean transportation, and will lead to significant improvements in the health of the children using these buses.

Unfortunately, we did have to work overtime this year to defend key conservation policies related to the climate and clean energy. 

The building code battle continued again this year. HB614 and HB660 were the latest attempts to undermine Idaho Building Codes, which set minimum construction standards to ensure our rapidly growing population enjoys safe, efficient homes based on the best available information. They have a significant impact on your safety, utility bills, and air quality. HB614 (the worst of the two bills) would have wrested control from the Idaho Building Code Board and local experts and granted it to the legislature. Fortunately, CVI and our partners were able to stop HB614, though HB660 passed both chambers and is expected to be signed into law by the governor. The bill freezes the clean energy standards at the 2018 levels, though it does grandfather in cities with more recent codes already in place. 

For those forward-thinking companies responding to consumer desires for clean energy and equitable pay (among others), the legislature once again assumed control. Much like election fraud, ESG became the new, made-up boogeyman. The legislature worked to quickly advance several pieces of legislation essentially blacklisting companies that use ESG (environmental, social, and government) investment metrics. The move is bizarre, given that many prominent Idaho businesses, such as Simplot and Hecla Mining, already do. Read a great summary of what ESG is, and isn’t, here

Voting Rights & Elections 

The specter of election fraud haunted the Statehouse again this year. Last fall, the Idaho Secretary of State addressed claims of widespread voter fraud, and as expected, found zero discrepancies in his manual recounts and reviews of election results. In fact, the majority of Idaho voters are confident in their elections. Yet this session CVI again saw repeated attempts to restrict how Idahoans access the ballot – burdens on rural, working, military, or elderly voters that came with minimal, if any, benefit to election security. Most notably, Rep. Dorothy Moon, who is running for Secretary of State (the state official in charge of elections), introduced, revised, and resurrected numerous voter restriction bills, though all met their (timely) demise. 

Of the numerous elections bills, the most dangerous were: 

BillSponsorImpact CVI position Bill Status 
SB 1375Sen. Souza (R-Coeur d’Alene) Several, including changed voter ID requirements and absentee ballot request process, as well as  eliminated ballot drop boxesOpposeDead
SB 1376Sen. Souza (R-Coeur d’Alene) Criminalized turning in a non-family member’s ballot OpposeDead
HB 692Rep. Moon (R-Stanley) Total rewrite of our elections codeOpposeDead 
HB 693Rep. Giddings (R-Whitebird)Eliminated Idahoan’s access to safe and secure ballot drop boxesOpposeDead
HB 547Rep. Moyle (R-Star)Criminalized turning in a non-family member’s ballot OpposeDead 
HB 441Rep. Nilsson-Troy (R-Genesee)Barred unaffiliated voters from changing their registration ahead of a historic primary  Oppose Pulled By sponsor

In total, nearly three dozen bills targeted our elections. Many were procedural and non threatening, but some were heavy-handed solutions in search of problems, and based soley on misinformation.

Open Space 

Idahoans love their lands…the legislature, not as much. 

Though 74% of Idahoans recreated on national public lands such as the Sawtooth National Recreation Area at least twice last year, lawmakers not once but twice shot down a simple recognition of the area’s anniversary

And in other public lands news, lawmakers moved forward with a $250,000 contract with AEON IA to assess the value of public land in Boundary, Clearwater, and Canyon counties – for the alleged purpose of extracting more money from the federal government. In reality, by reducing America’s treasures to dollars and cents, they are building support for the wholesale selling off of public lands, and all at the urging of an out-of-state private firm that will directly profit. Determining the taxable value of our nontaxable public lands is a waste of taxpayer dollars. 

Meanwhile, after the Idaho Land Board dismissed Trident’s efforts to develop state lands around Payette Lake, Trident returned with a legislative strategy. HB587 would have added requirements that employees have “significant industry experience,” essentially giving private interests an inside voice into how our public lands would be managed. Fortunately, this bill died. 

Our open space and the tools communities use to balance smart growth also came under attack. HB643 would have put big developers in the driver’s seat and encouraged rampant development in our rural areas, even as a majority of Idahoans are concerned about managing growth. Lastly, inspired by an annexation dispute between Star and Middleton, HB635 would have subverted the traditional land planning process and placed the long-term needs of the community solely into the hands of individual property owners. In the case of HB643, sponsor Rep. Gestrin decided to pull this bill after pressure from constituents. HB635 died on the Senate floor after a long debate.

End of session sprint to the primary 

How did you feel about how your legislators voted when it came to elections, voting rights, open space, and clean energy? For some legislators, the sixty-seventh session was their last, while for others, it was the running start of their bid for reelection or campaign for a different elected office. Thanks to the timing of redistricting, May has the potential to be a political eclipse, with all 105 seats up for election. 

CVI works year-round – not just during the legislative session – to make sure your values are represented at the Capitol.