Week 8 in the Statehouse

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It’s been a very challenging week at the Statehouse. This morning in House State Affairs, two pieces of legislation attacking Idahoans’ right to vote advanced out of committee. They’ll both head to the House floor. 

House State Affairs on Wednesday… not a fun place 
HB692 is a near total rewrite of our elections code, the laws that govern how Idaho conducts elections and voting. The bill does many, many things that infringe on our constitutional right to vote, but some of the top line issues include disallowing the use of student IDs and voter ID affidavits, and changing required documentation necessary to prove not only identity, but citizenship. This bill would affect everyone – not to mention, it has a fiscal note of $200,000. 

HB693 makes ballot drop boxes illegal in the state of Idaho. Drop boxes are safe and secure, and widely used in Idaho as an alternative to using the USPS to return a ballot. They’re especially helpful for working people and those living in rural areas. 

Both of these bills (and everything coming from the House this session) have an emergency clause, which means they would go into effect immediately should they pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor. That means they’d immediately change how Idaho elections function, with less than two months to go before Idaho’s primary election on May 17th. 

CVI, along with several other individuals and county clerks, testified in opposition of the bills. There was no testimony in support of the legislation. HB692 and HB693 will be heard on the House floor. 

You can take action to oppose these bills here.  

HB696, a bill that would remove attorney general representation from the Idaho Department of Lands, was supposed to be up in House State Affairs this morning. However, with so much testimony against the voter suppression bills, it was taken off the agenda for now. This legislation would bring a large additional cost to taxpayers, and mandates that IDL only use private attorneys – rather than deputy attorneys general – to represent the agency in legal issues. This would not only pose an exorbitant cost to the taxpayer, but would also act as an open invitation for private interests to meddle in Idaho’s endowment land and resource issues. When HB696 gets a full hearing, we’ll testify in opposition. 

Related to endowment lands, the Federalism Committee will meet this afternoon to discuss contract bids for HCR008, a resolution that passed in last year’s legislative session. The bids today will be from private firms who aim to put a price tag on our public lands. You can read more about this issue here

Efficient homes? Who needs them! Not the legislature. 
Building codes are a complex issue, but something that’s been an ongoing battle for the past several legislative sessions. This year, two bills – HB660 and HB614 – advanced out of the House Local Government committee. They both undermine the Building Code Board’s authority in setting standards, giving more authority to the legislature in deciding what’s best in building practices. As clean energy technology advances, Idaho will be stuck waiting on approval from the legislature to stay up to speed, costing Idahoans money as we lag behind other states. HB660 is on its way to the Senate after a nearly party line vote on the floor. HB614 should be heard sometime soon.

There’s some good news! 
SCR117, a resolution celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Sawtooth National Recreation Act and Area, passed out of the House Resources & Conservation Committee. Its last step to passing is a vote on the House floor. Concurrent resolutions do not need to be signed by the Governor. We’ll keep you posted on when this positive piece of legislation reflecting Idahoans’ love for public lands gets a full vote.

HB587, a bill that would have imposed several bureaucratic hurdles to the Idaho Department of Lands’ hiring practices (during a staffing crunch), has officially died. The bill sponsor, Rep. Terry Gestrin of Donnelly, officially pulled the bill off the agenda and has asked that it not move forward. 

Calendars and deadlines
The target date for the legislature to adjourn sine die (the Latin term for ending the session) is Friday, March 25th. With the calendar already into March, that means the window for advancing legislation is shrinking. The transmittal date, which is when all bills need to be to the opposite chamber from where they started, is Monday, March 7th. As a reminder, a bill must go through both the House and the Senate before being signed into law by the Governor. It’s important to remember that these dates are not firm, but are more like guidelines. With the May primary election right around the corner, most legislators are eager to return to their home districts to campaign. All signs point to an average number of days in this legislative session (fingers crossed!). 

We’ll keep you up to speed until sine die.