Week 10 in the Statehouse

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We’re nearing the home stretch! 

All signs continue to point towards adjournment by the target date, March 25th. With only 7 or so days left to work on the peoples’ business, bills are moving quickly. Most committees will stop meeting this week and floor sessions will be longer as the House and Senate move through legislation on their agendas, called reading calendars

Even with deadlines passed, and sine die coming up next Friday, new bills are still being rushed through the process. Privileged committees (those that can still hear proposed legislation) continue to meet and, occasionally, push bills through several steps at once, going from print hearing to the floor for a debate within hours. Generally, rushing the process yields sloppy legislation, and bad policy. Skipping steps also cuts the public and stakeholders out from fully participating in the legislative process. When a bill is proposed in the morning and read on the floor by the afternoon, there isn’t time to read it, understand it, and thoroughly think through it. We’ll be on the lookout for anything that pops up over the next week. 

The building code battle continues.
House Bills H614 and H660 are 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. 

Currently, we have an effective process to develop building codes that balances thorough public and industry input, technical expertise from the boards, and oversight from the legislature. The process allows local governments to develop standards that meet the needs of their own communities. 

House Bills 614 and 660 would put decision making squarely in the hands of the legislature. Legislators would set the minimum standards alone, removing expert and local control and prohibiting communities from setting their own standards, which might include more energy efficient codes. 

The two bills are in conflict – meaning if they both pass they won’t be implementable. H660 passed out of Senate Commerce and Resources yesterday and H614 will be heard in committee tomorrow, March 17th. You can take action here

Some celebrations! 
Two bills we worked hard to oppose were held in committee last week. S1375 and S1376 would have drastically altered our elections code, and in the process affected hundreds of thousands of Idaho voters. CVI and our partners worked hard in opposition of these bills, and are relieved and happy to see them stopped. 

Yesterday the House passed S1319, which cuts through red tape limitations on school bus contracts and frees up Idaho school districts to bring electric school buses into their fleets, using funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The House vote was the final hurdle for this legislation before Governor Little’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law in the next week. 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.

Other things we’re watching…
Legislation regarding ESG is moving through the Statehouse. The Idaho Press sums up the bills here. ESG is a common tool used by Idaho businesses to distinguish themselves and a way for working Idaho families to make more informed decisions on where their hard-earned savings go.

Many prominent Idaho companies around the state have already adopted ESG or like-minded commitments: 

  • Hecla Mining Company – the largest silver producer in the US, based in Coeur d’Alene  
  • Simplot – Idaho’s Treasure Valley agricultural giant 
  • Green Diamond Company – a fifth-generation, family-owned forest products company 
  • Agri Beef – operated by several cattle ranches in Idaho
  • Idaho Power – serving 500,000 Idahoans with 17 hydroelectric projects

To an Idaho family looking to invest, ESG, like a rate of return, is one of many metrics used to decide where to invest their hard-earned money. Some Idaho families prefer to buy only products that are “Made in America” or “family owned”; ESG is just one more label that can help Idahoans identify which businesses align with their own particular values, such as companies that hire veterans or underserved youth or how good a business is with their water management.