Week 9 in the Statehouse

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It’s crunch time! 

With the transmittal date passed, legislation is flying fast. The transmittal date is when bills should be moved across the rotunda from one chamber (Senate or House) to the other. This isn’t so much a deadline as a guideline, so things are moving at lightning speed with legislation getting hearings in morning committee, and floor votes by the afternoon. If a bill doesn’t clear all the hurdles – print hearing > full hearing > floor vote in one chamber > full hearing in the other chamber > floor vote > governor’s signature – it doesn’t become law. The process is intentionally complicated, with many places a bill can fail along the way. 

Voting rights (again). 

Back in October, the Idaho Secretary of State addressed claims of widespread voter fraud. As predicted, he found zero discrepancies in his manual recounts and reviews of election results. Due to the proliferation of the “big lie” dialogue, we have seen well over 40 bills dealing with our elections since the beginning of the session. Some are absurd, many are dangerous, and a few are simply code clean-up or slight fixes recommended by the Secretary. Here are a few of the particularly harmful bills we’re currently working fighting: 

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. The bill has passed the House and awaits a hearing in the Senate. 

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 are 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 of taxpayer dollars. After multiple iterations and changes, this bill has been sent back to House State Affairs, again, for amendments and will likely get another hearing soon. 

SB1375 combines several aspects of the two bills above by rewriting much of our elections code to change ID requirements, require proof of citizenship, and disallow the use of ballot drop boxes. One line in the legislation would require county clerks to do home visits to check voter identification, which is a red flag and was not included in the fiscal note. It is expected to get a hearing in Senate State Affairs soon. 

SB1376 is similar to other legislation we’ve seen this session in that it criminalizes ballot collection. Having more than 6 ballots would be a criminal act, which could impact rural communities, people with disabilities and Idahoans living in care facilities. If I drop my ballot in the office mail pile and someone carries it down to the box, will they be charged with a crime? If this passes, they could be. Similar legislation passed in Montana and Arizona is being challenged in court. SB1376 is expected to get a hearing in Senate State Affairs soon. 

Idahoans love their lands. The legislature, not as much. 

SCR117, a celebration of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area’s 50th anniversary, failed to advance in an 18 – 51 vote Wednesday morning on the House floor. Representative Ned Burns (D-Bellevue) presented the resolution, which had already passed the Senate unanimously. No real concerns were raised with celebrating the Sawtooths, but some legislators voted against the resolution, citing their opposition to Idaho’s public lands and protected wilderness areas within the SNRA. 

SB1372 is similar to another bill we discussed last week, HB696, in that it would remove Attorney General representation from the Idaho Department of Lands. This invites less oversight and more industry involvement in managing our natural resources on endowment lands, and at a higher price tag for citizens. SB1372 is expected to get a hearing in Senate State Affairs soon. 

Not everything is loud… 

With the flurry of legislation being introduced, it’s been a whirlwind to keep up with everything. A lot of sensational legislation coming from the House has been widely reported on and is known to the public, but some bills are sneaking through committee largely unnoticed. Here’s two examples:

HB737 prohibits state agencies from contracting with companies that have limited their investments in mining, fossil fuels, agriculture and timber. Basically, this is an anti-ESG bill. ESG is a common tool used by businesses to distinguish themselves as “clean” or socially and environmentally responsible. It is both a branding tool and a smart investment strategy for businesses, while also helping investors identify which companies align with their particular values. HB737 should have a hearing in the House Business Committee on Friday. 

HB727 allows the State of Idaho to nullify federal regulations that go beyond its own definition of constitutionality. It’s an example of the power struggle between the state and federal governments. Unfortunately for the bill sponsor, that’s not how the United States Constitution works. One state does not have power to override the federal government, and federal law trumps state law. HB727 has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee. No hearing has been set.  

There are many other pieces of legislation we’re working on right now. To find out more, visit our bill tracker. We are hopeful our legislators will keep to their intentions of sine die on March 25th, but until then we will continue putting all our efforts into protecting Idaho values in the Statehouse.