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Legislative Update – Rep. Ronald Nate

2016 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Scott

Rep. Ronald Nate – District 34

Nate

Idaho House of Representatives – 2016

2016 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

It was an honor and privilege to serve again in the second regular session of the 63rd Idaho Legislature. It was hard work and long hours, but I truly enjoyed the experience and did my best to represent the interests and values of District 34 as I completed my first term in the Idaho Legislature.  As promised, I adhered to my commitment to only support legislation that was constitutional, economically efficient, and morally sound.  I am proud of my voting record and was especially pleased to play a key role in some important legislation including the Ultrasound Information Act and the Constitutional Carry bill.

Here is a brief summary of what happened in Boise during the 75 days of the 2016 Legislative Session.

Amid a strengthening economy, the 2016 Idaho Legislature convened in January with a growing revenue stream from taxpayers.  Revenue projections for fiscal year 2017 indicate a sixth consecutive year of economic growth in the state. The Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee, estimated revenue growth of 4.9% for fiscal year 2017 over a 4.1% growth estimate for fiscal year 2016.  Increased tax revenues provided the Legislature with the options of increasing government spending or reducing tax burdens on Idahoans or some combination of both.  Unfortunately, spending usually won out, almost completely.

 

The Legislature addressed funding requests in a number of state agencies.  Specifically, the Legislature increased the appropriation for K-12 education for the second straight year by 7.4%. The Legislature also provided colleges and universities a sizeable increase in funding, with an increase of 8.0% over the prior fiscal year. Other notable increases in appropriations include an 8.7% increase for Community Colleges and a 10.4% increase for Career Technical Education. The Legislature approved $2,000,000 for grants, scholarships, and programs, and another $2,000,000 for startup initiatives that promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education throughout the state.  The Legislature also funded the recommendations of the Joint Change in Employee Compensation Committee, which included a 3.0% merit increase for state employees.

 

Two proposed tax cut bills saw little interest in the legislature.  One was a bill to cut income tax rates across board by a 0.1% point each and increase the grocery tax credit to $110 per person.  The highest bracket would be at 7.3%.  The bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate Finance Committee.  Another proposal was a repeal of the sales tax on groceries altogether—it also failed to get a hearing.

 

So, on the heels of one of the biggest increases in taxes in 2015 (gasoline tax, registration fees, etc.), and bringing in higher-than-projected revenues for 2015 and 2016, there was still little desire in the Legislature to undue any of the burden on Idaho taxpayers.  Instead, spending was the rule of the day.  This was disheartening to me, especially in light of this quote by Herbert Spencer, “We do not commonly see in a tax a diminution of freedom, and yet it clearly is one.”

 

Outside the usual budgeting responsibilities, the 2016 Legislature ran a low-key session.  There were only a few notable actions, including: Constitutional Carry legislation, the Ultrasound Information Act, public defense reform, foster care reform, reading intervention programs in public schools, setting the homeowner property tax exemption at a maximum of $100,000; and conforming to federal requirements for driver’s licenses and ID cards established in the REAL ID Act.

 

Though derailed this session, there are definitely some issues I will look forward to working on in 2017 including:  finding alternatives to Medicaid expansion, revising Idaho’s Blaine Amendment (to advance school choice), repealing Common Core mandates, keeping Idaho from being over-regulated by federal laws (incorporation by reference), reducing Idaho’s reliance on federal spending, reclaiming Idaho lands, and finding ways to reduce taxes and make Idaho more competitive with surrounding states.

 

This session, legislators wrote over 820 pieces of draft legislation, of which approximately two-thirds (more than 550) were introduced as bills–many of them becoming law.  That’s a lot of legislating!  (Maybe too much?)  Let’s take a look at what was accomplished. The next section is a summary list of selected key actions that successfully made their way through the legislative process in the 2016 Legislature.

Key Legislative Actions in 2016

NateEDUCATION

H 477     Provides for a Postsecondary Credit Scholarship for students who earn a minimum number of college credits while in high school.

H 512     Provides for Community College Trustee Zones within a community college district and requires trustee representation in each zone.

H 570     Establishes the Local Innovation School Act that allows a certain number of public schools to become innovation schools by entering into an agreement that exempts the schools from the governance of certain Idaho Code statutes, rules promulgated by the State Board of Education and local district policies.

HCR 33   Authorizes the Legislative Council to appoint a committee to undertake and complete a study of the public school funding formula and to make recommendations.

S1293     Affirms parental rights in education by defining the reasonable accommodations to be offered to parents and guardians.

S1334     Repeals the Idaho Education Network and establishes the Education Opportunity Resource Act to provide broadband and related resources for Idaho’s education and library systems.

S1342     Permits the use of religious texts, including the Bible, in public schools for reference purposes to further the study of enumerated topics where an understanding of religious texts may be useful or relevant.

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY

H 331     Prohibits the possession, sale, purchase and use of powdered alcohol and provides for the revocation of liquor licenses held by violators.

H 494     Reclassifies a first offense for underage alcohol possession or consumption from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

H 495     Provides that a one-time violator who uses, possesses or dispenses alcohol and is under 21 may have a finding of guilt vacated and the court records sealed if the violator does not have an alcohol; or drug-related finding of guilt within five years following the violation.

H 504     Authorizes the Public Defense Commission to promulgate rules for indigent defense standards; requires compliance with indigent defense standards; provides grant money to counties to assist in providing public defense; provides procedures for noncompliance with indigent defense standards; and revises reporting requirements for defending attorneys.

H 521     Provides limited immunity from a misdemeanor offense of possession or consumption of alcohol to a minor who acts in good faith in seeking emergency medical help for himself or another.

H 524     Provides that torture of a companion animal may be a felony on the first offense and provides that a court, may order a presentence investigation that includes a psychological evaluation.

H 528     Provides that the Idaho State Police Forensic Services Laboratory shall test sexual assault evidence kits within 90 days.

H 555     Provides that certain forms of “sexting” by a minor to another minor shall be a misdemeanor for the first offense, thereby eliminating the risk that the “sexting” results in registry as a sex offender. Repeated distribution or using material as a form of extortion shall be a felony.

H 580     Provides that a victim of rape need not offer resistance where the victim has a well-founded belief that resistance would be futile or that resistance would result in the use of force or violence.

S1351     Provides that prisoners in a county jail may be required to labor on community service projects.

S1389     Allows persons who are not otherwise disqualified to carry concealed weapons without a license.

 

ELECTIONS

S1297     Provides for an electronic voter registration system that allows any qualified elector who has a current valid driver’s license or identification card to register to vote by submitting a completed voter registration application electronically.

 

TRANSPORTATION

H 513     Provides the state shall meet the requirements for the federal REAL ID Act.

S1229     State of Idaho to allow vehicle combinations with a gross weight of 129,000 pounds or less on Idaho’s interstate highway system.

 

GENERAL GOVERNMENT

H 341     Updates the Patient Freedom of Information Act to require that certain information about health care providers, including their licensure status and professional disciplinary record, is made available to the public online.

H 372     Prohibits any local prohibitions, regulation or taxation of auxiliary containers, such as bags or boxes or Styrofoam containers used by restaurants and retail stores.

H 406     Provides for the annexation of and withdrawal from recreational water or sewer districts, and authorizes the creation of board of director zones and member appointments.

H 463     Prohibits political subdivisions from establishing a minimum wage that is higher than the minimum wage provided by state law.

H 541     Creates an exception to local government purchasing laws for contracts entered into by the State Division of Purchasing.

H 556     Enhances the role of the courts in the decision-making process regarding adoption choices and placement of foster children, and outlines circumstances by which foster children can be moved from one foster home to another.

HJR 5     Proposes an amendment to the Idaho Constitution that provides for the legislative review of administrative rules and clarifies that such legislative review is not subject to veto by the Governor.

S1202     Provides that all employees of the STEM Action Center, the Office of Species Conservation, the Office of Drug Policy and the Office of Energy Resources shall be non-classified employees.

S1317     Amends existing law to provide that attorney’s fees and costs may be collected, as well as a lien filed for attorney’s fees and costs by a homeowner’s association, only after being awarded in an amount found to be reasonable by a court of competent jurisdiction.

S1360     Requires that state agencies proposing changes to materials incorporated by reference in administrative rules must provide a synopsis of those changes.

Health and Human Services

H 481     Implements the Right to Try Act, which allows terminally ill patients to make use of investigational drugs.

H 516     Amends existing law to provide that the Department of Health and Welfare shall compile a list of providers that perform free ultrasounds, and shall state that a patient has the right to obtain a free ultrasound, and view an ultrasound image and hear heart tone monitoring.

S1322     Provides that epinephrine auto-injectors may be prescribed and dispensed to authorized entities, such as universities, sports arenas or employers, so that the auto-injectors are available at the location if a person experiences life-threatening allergic reactions.

 

NATURAL RESOURCES

S1213     Prohibits the use of unmanned aircraft systems (drones) for hunting, molesting or locating game animals, game birds and furbearing animals.

S1237     Provides the Department of Environmental Quality with additional flexibility allowed under Clean Water Act regulations to take factors such as department resources and data quality, in addition to severity of pollution and uses of water bodies, into consideration when prioritizing total maximum daily loads of water bodies.

S1239     Provides requisite statutory provisions for Idaho to submit an application to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting authorization to implement a state National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program.

S1339     Provides a procedure relating to requests for permits and authorizations to drill or treat wells for oil and gas and provides that the Department of Lands shall have specified responsibilities associated with spacing units and unit operations.

S1344     Requires the Department of Fish and Game to contract with a private entity to conduct drawings for controlled hunt permits and tags.

 

TAXATION

H 353     Allows employers who only have one pay period per month to pay income tax withholding on a monthly basis.

H 357     Creates an income tax credit for a charitable contribution to the Idaho STEM Action Center.

H 361     Removes the sunset clause for a sales tax exemption on airplane parts for private aircraft owned by nonresidents and repaired by Idaho mechanics.

H 386     Exempts from sales and use tax the removal from storage of agricultural crops by a farming operation.

H 425     Updates references to the current Internal Revenue Code and adds language regarding marriages recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.

H 431     Sets the homeowner property tax exemption at $100,000 and removes cost of living adjustments to the exemption amount.

H 606     Revises the makeup of boards and to allow for an elected board; to provide that urban renewal plans be submitted to the State Tax Commission; and to provide for the effect of an ordinance to modify an urban renewal plan.

S1347     Allows county commissioners to notify parties in interest and to transfer the responsibility of handling excess proceeds from tax deed sales to the State Treasurer.

 

Stay in Touch!

As always my goals are to best represent District 34’s views and interests, keep my oath to protect and defend the U.S. and State Constitutions, restrain government influence, keep taxes low, and support legislation that is constitutional, economical, and moral.  I always appreciate feedback from voters and citizens.  As you probably know, citizen input is very important and influential.  When you and others contact legislators, they have the power and incentives to protect rights and keep their oaths.  Together, we can keep Idaho great and free.

 

You and your friends can contact your legislators to make your views known by emailing or calling them.  To find your representatives’ and senators’ contact information you can go here, http://legislature.idaho.gov/about/idmap2.pdf   and here to get the addresses and phone numbers for them:  http://legislature.idaho.gov/house/membership.cfm   http://legislature.idaho.gov/senate/membership.cfm

Rep Ronald Nate

NateDistrict 34

Committees:

  • Revenue and Taxation
  • Judiciary, Rules, and Administration
  • Environment, Energy, and Technology

 

State Capitol  |  P.O. Box 83720  |  Boise, Idaho 83720-0081  |  (208) 403-3609