A Tale of Two City Bills
Rep. Ronald Nate – District 34
The Revenue and Taxation Committee is one of my most important assignments. Any bill regarding tax issues must originate in the House, and therefore in the Revenue and Taxation Committee. This week we deliberated on bill H103, regarding forgone tax balances; and soon we will be considering bill H66, a bill regarding short-term vacation rentals (like Airbnb) regulation and taxing.
First, House Bill H103. Most people in Idaho don’t know this, but state law limits how much counties and cities can increase property tax rates each year. Because there is a limit to increasing taxes, many counties and cities would want to max out their increase each year in order to “get it while they can.”
However, another state provision called “forgone balances” allows local government to forgo raising taxes up to the limit and build a balance of taxing authority to be used later if so needed. These forgone balances remove the incentive to “tax to the max” each year, because counties and cities can exercise the forgone authority in a later year. The balances are not money, rather they represent the amount of taxing ability (measured in dollars) forgone by the county or city.
So, currently counties and cities have two options: raise taxes by the maximum allowable amount, or keep tax increases lower (or zero) and therefore build forgone balances (taxing authority) to be used later if needed. When local governments build forgone balances, they often exercise the forgone authority later (in an emergency or in a spending spree) by dramatically raising taxes all at once because they can.
H103 provides a third option: counties and cities could choose to disclaim forgone balances and therefore commit to not raising taxes based on those forgone balances. The bill allows for government to assure their communities they will not suddenly raise taxes by large amounts. It gives counties and cities another tool of good governance–or another degree of freedom. Citizens will be able to ask their officials to disclaim forgone balances and show their commitment to tax stability for the immediate future. It is a win-win for both government and the people.
The committee considered H103, and despite some testimony from city officials who were worried about their own councils and commissions over-committing to tax stability, it passed committee and is now headed to the House floor for consideration.
The other “city” bill is H66, commonly referred to as the Airbnb bill. This bill adds definitions regarding online lodging marketplaces and short-term lodging host (typically individual homeowners). The bill also creates the framework to apply taxes to the online marketers while keeping homeowners in the clear. Finally, the bill will prevent local governments from prohibiting short-term lodging activities, but would allow regulation of them in certain key areas (safety, privacy, etc.).
The Airbnb bill is currently in the Revenue and Taxation Committee waiting to be scheduled for a full hearing. When and if the full hearing comes, it will probably be a packed room of interested parties. You will probably want to keep an eye out for H66.
Bills to Follow:
Increasing Freedom and Transparency, and Reducing Fees
Yesterday, the House voted to repeal the higher registration fees on many “hybrid” vehicles. The 2015 Transportation bill, H312, raised gasoline taxes by 7 cents per gallon, and also raised registration fees on hybrid vehicles to $100 per vehicle.
Besides the obvious problem about taxes and fees being raised so much, the bill created other problems because there was no clear definition of what a hybrid vehicle is. Many cars marketed as “hybrids” didn’t really function as hybrids and therefore had lower gas mileage, but were still charged the higher registration fee. (Note: the higher registration fee was intended to offset the lower gasoline taxes paid by hybrid car owners.)
The bill passed unanimously in the House yesterday, it is H20, and it removes the higher registration fees on hybrids. However, the higher registration fee still applies to electric or electric/gas cars which are able to be plugged in for recharging. The bill is now on to the Senate, so let your senators know if you too are interested in removing the higher registration fees from many hybrid vehicles.
Personally I am working on several bills all at once to increase freedom, transparency, and citizens’ ability to change unwanted ordinances:
The electrical work bill will allow homeowners to do electrical work in, on, and around their homes and property without requiring them to get a license to do so (they still need a permit and inspection though). The current law only allows work in their homes. This is odd, because a homeowner would be allowed to rewire a kitchen, but not fix their doorbell button.
I have three bills relating to local government. One allows government entities to post all their public notices online on their official websites rather than pay the high expenses of publishing public notices in newspapers. One county said it would save taxpayers $60,000 annually. Another bill allows city initiatives and referendum elections to take place in any year (not just odd years as is now the rule). This will allow citizens to be able to change or undo unwanted ordinances in a few months rather than having to wait nearly two years in some circumstances. The third local government bill is about transparency in taxes and bonds. It will require tax notices to include information about each specific bond project for individuals’ tax bills. This will allow taxpayers to know just how much a new school bond for example, actually added to their tax bill for the year and the previous two years.
As you may have already heard, I am working on a bill to remove the requirement for a front license plate on cars not already equipped to display a front license plate. This saves car owners and new residents the expense and inconvenience of having to buy a bracket and/or modify their cars when they don’t already have front plates. The bill is H110, and you can follow it by clicking on it.
Another bill from a citizen is about allowing and encouraging gun safety classes to be taught in high schools as an elective. It has been shown in other states how gun safety classes will decrease deaths and injuries by young people who are unfamiliar with guns and their proper use and handling. Hopefully, this new law will lead to more gun safety classes and will have similar life-saving results in Idaho.
Here is an update of some of the bills I am working on. All of them have come from constituents who have an interest in getting something done, or more often, getting something undone in government.
Require Informed Consent on Abortion Pills (to give women information about how to reverse a chemical abortion, therefore saving some babies before it’s too late) – In drafting stage. Hearing next week.
Repeal Common Core – Education committee chairman has the bill.
Repeal the SBAC Test – Education committee chairman has the bill.
Resolution to allow/encourage gun safety classes in high schools – Revisions, print hearing forthcoming.
Front license plates optional on some vehicles – H110 – On House schedule for a floor vote this week.
Allow electronic publishing of government public notices – Revisions, committee hearing this week.
Allow city initiative and referendum elections in all years – H109 – Revisions, committee hearing forthcoming.
Fix omission in law allowing homeowners to do electrical work on their property – Committee hearing this week.
Transparency in bonding costs on tax notices and assessments – Revised, Committee hearing this week.
Repeal the state Health Insurance Exchange – Health and Welfare committee chairman has the bill.
Other tax cut bills – In drafting stage.
…plus more to come!
Growing Freedom – Get Involved!
Please visit the Growing Freedom Idaho website to help all citizens be more involved with what is going on in the Idaho Legislature and how to effectively make their voices heard. The site includes a Freedom Agenda of legislation brought to the legislature by citizens and is what liberty minded legislators are pursuing this session.
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 click here for representatives, and here for senators.