Executive orders reduce regulations. Gov. Brad Little has signed two new executive orders aimed at reducing state regulatory burdens on Idaho citizens and businesses.

Executive Order 2019-02, the “Red Tape Reduction Act,” requires state agencies that have authority to issue administrative rules to identify at least two existing rules to be repealed or significantly simplified for every one rule they propose.

“Excessive regulation at all levels of government can impose high costs on businesses, inhibit job growth, and impede private sector investment,” Governor Little said in the executive order.

Idaho’s administrative code includes 736 chapters and 8,278 pages of regulations and at least 72,000 total restrictions. The three most regulated areas in Idaho are economic development with 3,018 pages of regulations, natural resources with 1,815 pages of regulations, and health and human services with 1,666 pages of regulations.

Executive Order 2019-02 also requires agencies to submit a business/competitiveness impact statement that identifies the impact any proposed rule will have on individuals and small businesses. It requires agencies to designate an existing employee as a Rules Review Officer to undertake a critical and comprehensive review of their administrative rules and identify costly, ineffective, or outdated regulations. The Division of Financial Management will provide Governor Little an annual report on “outlining the progress made in eliminating burdensome regulations and streamlining state government.”

Governor Little also signed Executive Order 2019-01, the “Licensing Freedom Act of 2019.” The executive order puts in place sunrise and sunset processes for future occupational licensing laws. The recommendations came from a report then-Lieutenant Governor Little finalized in 2018 outlining the scope of occupational licensing in Idaho. The report found at least 442 different occupational license types administered by 13 executive branch agencies and 47 boards and commissions and at least 204,000 licensees in Idaho. The report identified 241 recommendations for improvement, modification, or elimination of licensing requirements or other regulatory burdens.

“Onerous and outdated regulations in state government present barriers to independence and prosperity for Idahoans,” Governor Little said. “The two executive orders I signed today help simplify Idaho state government and make it more accountable to citizens.”

House GOP caucus applauds deregulation. The Idaho House Republican Caucus supports Governor Brad Little and his executive orders that will reduce state regulatory burdens on Idaho’s citizens and businesses.

The House Business Committee, led by Chair Sage Dixon and Vice Chair Gayann DeMordaunt, has been moving forward in enacting change to licensing requirements.

Less than a month into the session, the House Business Committee heard testimony from a number of occupations that are directly affected by licensing regulations as they work to eliminate the burdens and reduce costs that ultimately trickle down to the employee.

“Our constituents elected us to ensure that cumbersome government burdens are eliminated, and the House Business Committee is committed to doing just that,” said Chair Dixon. “We need to ensure that we are reducing the amount of red tape that it takes someone to actually get to work. We are committed this session to remove barriers and ensure wage growth in Idaho.”

Before the session started, the Occupational Licensing and Certification Law Interim Committee explored ways to reduce occupational licensing requirements. A hearing earlier this month, the Business Committee heard specifically from Certified Public Accountants, morticians, and land surveyors. The cut in burdensome requirements will help a variety of professions from plumbers to real estate brokers, midwives to police officers and more.

Hundreds of professions and trades will be positively affected by this Act. One group that the Committee looked at was the licensing portability for military and military spouses. 

“Nearly one-fourth of our active duty military and their spouses report that the portability of their licenses is the greatest challenge to their employment,” said Vice Chair DeMordaunt, who serves as co-chair of the Interim Committee. “We ask these men and women to serve our country but make it difficult for their spouses for find work. It is imperative that we reduce obstacles to high wage job growth and opportunity.” 

The Interim Committee along with Governor Little’s Licensing Freedom Act was recognized nationally. In October the committee was selected to participate in a multi-year working consortium supported by the National Conference of State Legislators, Council of State Governments and the National Governors Association. Legislation that will eliminate regulatory burdens making it easier for people to be licensed or re-licensed in Idaho will be brought before the Idaho Lawmakers later this session.

Bayer appointed to Senate seat. Gov. Little has appointed Regina Bayer of Meridian to fill the Senate seat for Legislative District 21. Bayer’s son, Cliff Bayer, vacated the seat when he accepted the position of chief of staff for Congressman Russ Fulcher.

Regina Bayer is a small business owner and has more than 30 years of experience as a real estate agent and broker. She was a former president of the Boise Regional REALTORS®. Regina Bayer’s term continues until the next general election when the term of office expires.

“I greatly appreciate Regina’s willingness to step up and serve the people of Idaho and District 21,” Little said. “She shares our vision of making Idaho the place our children and grandchildren want to call home.”

Legislation clarifies administration of Naloxone. Republican Rep. Fred Wood, chair of the Health and Welfare Committee, is championing House Bill 12, which calls for clarification on language in past legislation regarding who can administer the opioid antagonist, Naloxone. 

HB 12 more clearly states that anyone can administrator the injection when someone is on the verge of an overdose and needs immediate help. “This increases the ability to save a life,” said Wood, retired physician from Burley.  “This simple legislative change will clarify all that.”

The Food and Drug Administration is in the review process to potentially convert Naloxone from a prescription drug to an over-the-counter-medication which would ultimately make this legislation void. Until then, Wood says we need to be certain that first responders and the public know they are within their legal right to get the medicine, carry the medicine and use the medicine in a crisis.

“We have an opioid problem here in Idaho.  While we figure out a way to combat this growing addiction, we need to let our neighbors know that there is help at their fingertips if they have a loved one in need. This could be the first step to helping someone into recovery,” said Wood. More information on HB 12 can be found at https://legislature.idaho.gov/sessioninfo/2019/legislation/H0012/

Minimum wage community event. On Wednesday, Feb. 6, organizations representing constituencies directly impacted by low wages in Idaho will address the implications of Idaho's minimum wage on individuals, workers, families and the economic stability and health of the state's economy.

This community and press event comes on the heels on the seventh introduction of a bill to slowly increase the state's minimum wage, this year printed as a personal bill by Rep. Sue Chew. For almost a decade, grassroots organizations and labor groups along with lawmakers have sought a public hearing on similar and identical bills first championed by Senate minority leader, Michelle Stennett, then House minority leader, Mat Erpelding, followed by Senators Cherie Buckner-Webb and Maryanne Jordan, and now Rep. Sue Chew. 

The coalition of organizations seeking an increase in minimum wage, LIFT UP, Idaho! was formed in 2001 by United Vision and United Action for Idaho in partnership with labor groups, specifically The AFL-CIO of Idaho and Idaho Building and Construction Trades Council. Partners in the coalition include organizations representing disability, sexual and domestic violence, housing justice, health and issue advocacy, and numerous other stakeholders seeking a legislative solution. Over the years the coalition has garnered a good amount of bipartisan support to hold a public hearing, yet each year the chairpersons of each committee have stalled the bill from advancement. 

Minimum wage should not be confused with a living wage, which would be $14.85 in Idaho today. The proposed bill is very conservative, designed as a bipartisan approach and one which provides businesses ample time to adjust.

Adrienne Evans, executive director of United Vision and United Action stated, "We've had very productive conversations with legislators from both parties over the years. There are very specific reasons why this issue resonates with everyone, most agree that legislators would be well served to hear directly from the people of Idaho. That said, there are still a lot of myths to dispel. Once we have the conversations, it is clear that substandard wages affect all of us directly and indirectly."

The bill printed by Rep. Sue Chew gradually adjusts the minimum wage over three years to $12 per hour by 2021, then ties the wage to the CPI; consumer price index or inflation. Additionally, the bill as others previously proposed would stagger a rise in the tipped wage over the same period to $7.35, then tying the wage to the CPI. The bill strips one of the most egregious parts of Idaho labor law which entitles employers to pay workers under the age of 20 an hourly wage of $4.25 for a period of 90 days. For the full minimum wage report, visit United Vision for Idaho at www.uvidaho.org.

 

Local government  and state mandates. A report released from Idaho’s Office of Performance Evaluations (OPE) details the strains that state mandates put on Idaho’s counties and the ongoing struggle local governments face in providing services for their residents. A survey of county commissioners representing 37 of Idaho’s 44 counties shows that providing public defense for indigent clients and maintaining adequate jail facilities are among the most difficult mandates. The report also shows these mandates hit rural communities particularly hard.

“This report shows how the state continues to shirk its constitutional obligations to local government and then blames the counties when things don’t run smoothly,” said Rep. Mat Erpelding who co-chairs the Joint Legislative Oversite Committee (JLOC) which ordered the report. “When you restrict a county’s ability to fund basic court and jail services, you’re creating a public safety issue where there doesn’t have to be one. This is especially true for rural communities who don’t have a lot of options when it comes to raising revenue.”

In fact, the report details just how limited counties are when it comes to raising revenue to pay for everything from indigent health services to issuing drivers licenses. The largest contributions to county budgets come from property taxes, followed by a mix of sales tax revenue, PILT payments and grants. When asked whether state mandates “improve the quality of life for people” in their counties, 48% of commissioners answered “rarely” or “never.” Only 10% responded “usually.”  

“We’ve been pushing for years to give local governments more options when it comes to running their cities and counties. This report spells out why,” said Rep. Elaine Smith of Pocatello. “When you pile mandates on cities and counties and then don’t give them the tools to implement them effectively, this is what you get – frustration and eroding confidence in state government.”

The three most popular policy initiatives favored by county commissioners to help relieve the strain of state mandates were (1) creating an index to measure fiscal stress in counties (58%) (2) reviewing the revenue sharing formulas (57%) and (3) allowing counties to utilize local option taxes (52%). A link to the report is here.

 

Bill on donated prescription drugs advances. The Idaho House Health and Welfare committee has voted unanimously to advance legislation designed to expand the types of organizations that can accept donated prescription drugs, and the people who qualify to receive them. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sue Chew (D-Boise), will get a full hearing before the committee later this session.

Among the key amendments to the Idaho Legend Drug Donation Act being proposed is an expansion of the types of facilities that could accept donated drugs, including community health centers, free medical clinics, designated regional behavioral health centers and certain state charitable institutions.

“With prescription drug prices so out of control, we have to do everything we can to ensure that Idahoans who can’t afford medicine can be helped,” Chew said. “I believe this is a safe and meaningful way to offer that kind of relief to the people who are least able to afford prescription medication.”

Substance abuse prevention grants available. The Idaho Office of Drug Policy (ODP) is accepting online applications for fiscal year (FY) 2020 Substance Abuse Block Grant (SABG) Primary Prevention Programs. 

The grants support substance abuse prevention efforts at both state and local levels. The program empowers communities to design solutions to specific drug and alcohol problems experienced locally. Public entities and non-profit organizations are eligible for funding and encouraged to apply.

Approximately $1.6 million is available for evidence-based Direct Service Programs and Community Programs/Activities designed to reduce the impact of substance abuse on our youth, families and communities across Idaho.

“We are pleased to continue this important grant program focused on the primary prevention of substance abuse in Idaho,” ODP Administrator Melinda Smyser said. “The implementation of evidence-based prevention strategies by passionate, dedicated prevention providers and community members make Idaho a safer and healthier place. “ 

The ODP awards annual primary prevention grants through a competitive application and review process. To learn more about the SABG Primary Prevention Grant Program including how to apply, please visit:

https://prevention.odp.idaho.gov/