Week 4 in the Statehouse

Idaho State Capitol building during the day

Week four in the Statehouse was busy one, with new legislation being introduced left and right. Here’s the latest:

District Maps are Final

Last week, Idaho’s legislative redistricting process officially came to a close after a battle in the Idaho Supreme Court. Four challenges to Idaho’s newly-drawn legislative boundaries were brought before the Court. However, last Thursday, the Idaho Supreme Court issued their unanimous opinion that the new boundaries would be upheld, which has significant implications for the legislature and the upcoming primary election in May. With newly-formed districts, many lawmakers will be eager to return home and begin campaigning. The new districts will pit some incumbents against each other, open up seats with no incumbents, and generally change the lay-of-the-land for legislators and new challengers. Be on the lookout for candidates to announce their campaigns – the filing declaration deadline is March 18.

Land, Air and Energy

Lands – Two sister bills were introduced in the Senate last week that would alter how the Idaho Land Board handles land exchanges with the federal government. S1251 and S1252, introduced by Senator Mark Harris, would require the Land Board to obtain written permission from every individual who holds a grazing right prior to approving an exchange. Since dozens of individuals may hold grazing rights on a parcel of endowment land, this bill would add a massive bureaucratic hurdle to what are currently routine transactions. This legislation would also hold the Land Board responsible if litigation arose from an overlooked grazing right. Per Idaho’s Constitution, IDL must get maximum return on the land for the benefit of public schools and other organizations named as beneficiaries. CVI is working to stop these bills and will keep you informed on how you can help. 

Another item to watch on land and water is a budget request from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. IDPR saw a roughly 30% increase in use of the facilities over the past two years. They’re asking for funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to help address a backlog of facility, trail, and infrastructure maintenance. This request will go through the budgeting process. 

Air – Changes may be coming to the emissions testing program in the Treasure Valley. Right now, the Air Quality Board oversees the program, which tests vehicles’ CO2 emissions. Senator Lori Den Hartog introduced a bill yesterday that would alter the program, which some say is now “obsolete” since roughly 93% of vehicles pass emissions tests. Another concern is the patchwork nature of the program. With local, county, state and federal involvement, Treasure Valley air quality monitoring is complicated, to say the least. We’re sorting through the implications of the proposed changes, and strategizing ways to use this bill as an opportunity to improve air quality in Idaho. 

Energy – Clean energy building codes are a legislative battle that seems to come up every session (here’s a recap on the 2021 session’s attacks). Unsurprisingly, they’re back again. Rep. Sage Dixon brought a bill earlier this week that seeks to impose uniform energy code standards across the state. On its face, this doesn’t seem like a terrible idea. But when you dig a little deeper, this could have major implications for Idaho’s clean energy future. This bill would override municipalities and counties who have already adopted cleaner building standards than the current state standards. Those more-ideal energy efficient standards could be lowered to be in line with the state code. Rep. Dixon’s original proposal is likely dead due to a technical error, but we might see this same proposal arise soon.

Pro Democracy Victories

At the end of Week 3, Rep. Priscilla Giddings introduced two voter suppression bills that have thankfully already failed. One, H485, would have eliminated the use of safe and secure ballot drop boxes around the state. Thousands of Idahoans rely on absentee voting, and many prefer to use Idaho’s drop boxes rather than the mail. The other bill, H487, would have allowed for ballot inspection. Idaho’s elections have been proven to be safe time and again and survey after survey shows that Idahoans trust our election system. Both bills were sent to the House Ways & Means Committee – the legislative equivalent of death row. Idahoans have been vocal about their right to vote, and are passionate about standing up to attempts that seek to silence their voice. Keep speaking up!

Thanks to Idaho voters speaking out against harmful voter legislation, H439 – a bill that would have shut out thousands of voters from Idaho’s primary election – has been withdrawn by Rep. Nilsson-Troy. CVI’s Voter Outreach team contacted over 2,000 voters to inform them of this restrictive bill, and put several of them directly in contact with Rep. Troy, who took their concerns to heart and rescinded the legislation earlier this week. Read more about this win for Idaho’s democratic values at our blog here.

Get Involved

Get the most up-to-date information on legislation we’re working on with our Bill Tracker. We update our tracker daily with bills as they are introduced in the Statehouse, as well as our take on specific legislation and opportunities to take action. 

As always, if you want to support our legislative work – including our Voter Outreach Team – you can donate here.

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