Bill giving historic theaters right to sell alcohol heads to House floor. On Monday, Rep. Mat Erpelding’s bill to allow historic theaters to sell alcohol passed in committee. The bill will allow a theater that was built before 1950 and on the historic register to sell alcohol. Currently, there are approximately 13 historic theaters that could benefit from the legislation, if they choose.  

Erpelding explained the importance of the legislation: “Most historic theaters have historic and cultural value in their communities, and many are multi-purpose. They offer concerts, plays, and other special events. Historic theaters can use the opportunity to increase revenues, which will help them remain viable in their local communities. Providing revenue opportunities that offer historic value to communities is important, and it is why I sponsored this bill.” 

Rep. Erpelding expects that the bill will have bipartisan support on the floor because the theaters that would be affected are spread out across the state. “There are historic theaters who are asking for this legislation from Boise to Moscow to Sandpoint. I think we all understand the value of historic buildings and want to do everything possible to keep them afloat. The way I see it, this is the best thing we can do to ensure that we keep historic theaters in Idaho.” 

House Republicans reach across aisle on redistricting. In the spirit of cooperation, the Idaho House Republican Caucus is pulling back a plan to eliminate gridlock on the redistricting commission. Republicans are anxious to move forward and eliminate wasteful spending from lawsuits, but Democrats are requesting more time to examine the plan, or help create a new one. Republicans are willing to reach across the aisle and do that.

“We are excited about what we’re sure will be a good collaborative discussion,” said Republican Majority Leader Mike Moyle. “Idahoans want a redistricting commission that actually produces results. We want that too. We’re happy that Democrats are now working with us to move the redistricting process forward.”

HJR2 would increase the number of appointees who serve on the redistricting commission from six to seven. Currently, there are three from each party. But, in 2012 the first Commission was in a deadlock that ended up costing $300,000 in legal fees with no outcome. A second Commission tried again, but its plan was struck down by the Supreme Court. House Republicans want to end that gridlock and wasting of taxpayer dollars.

Newly released inmates get ID cards. Following a three-year effort by a homeless advocate and state legislator, several of Idaho’s state prisons are issuing state ID cards to newly released inmates. The purpose of the program is to ensure released inmates have identification so they may secure employment, obtain vital documents like birth certificates or social security numbers and otherwise participate in a society which requires photo identification for any number of functions.

Rep. Melissa Wintrow was instrumental in forming a working group to tackle this issue which included officials from the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC), Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) and the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD).

“Honestly, if you think for a minute about how many things we do in our everyday lives that require photo ID, it’s almost impossible to function without one,” Wintrow said. “This is a low-cost and logical step we can take to reduce recidivism, integrate people who have paid their debt back into society, and increase public safety.”

The catalysts behind this program was Jodi Peterson, Executive Director of the Interfaith Sanctuary in Boise. She contacted Rep. Wintrow following a six month-long odyssey to obtain a photo ID for a homeless former inmate who was offered a job, but lacked proper identification. Peterson’s efforts were the subject of a TED Talk in 2017.

‘Hot Dog’ bill gives first responders right to save furry friends. Rep. Elaine Smith’s “Hot Dog” bill (HB 79) is headed to the House floor for a vote. The legislation was passed in committee by a 9-5 vote. The legislation would give first responders the ability to save an animal locked in a car during extreme temperatures. Smith hopes that this legislation will give first responders the opportunity to save the lives of Idaho animals.

“The ‘hot dog’ bill is a necessary protection for our furry friends.” She said. “Our first responders need to have the ability to save a life in an emergency. When they see a dog or cat who is in danger, they must have all the tools necessary to make the best decisions. Idaho’s first responders are among the best in the nation, we have to trust them to make the right choices. First responders have the ability to save us when they believe we are in danger. We should give them the same rights when it comes to our most beloved friends.”

Under current law, if a first responder saves an animal from a car, they can be prosecuted for a crime. Smith’s proposed legislation would give a first responder legal immunity if they took action with the belief that they were saving a life.

Chew’s legend drug donation bill passes House. A bill to expand the scope of prescription drug donations in Idaho cleared a key hurdle, passing in the House unanimously. The Legend Drug Donation Bill would broaden the types of organizations that can accept donated prescription drugs which would then be prescribed to low-income Idaho residents. It also would allow members of the general public to donate unused prescription drugs so long as they meet specifications under the law.

Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Sue Chew/(D-Boise) long term facilities, nursing homes, community health centers, free medical clinics, designated regional behavioral health centers and certain state charitable institutions could accept donations of prescription drugs, so long as they meet certain standards laid out in the legislation.

“Prescription drug costs are out of control in this country and they’re only going to get worse,” Chew said. “If we can establish a system where unused medications can help those who can’t afford them, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Little signs bill expanding access to lifesaving drug for opioid overdose victims. Gov. Brad Little signed House Bill 12 into law during a bill signing ceremony to highlight the benefits of a medication called naloxone in saving the lives of people experiencing opioid overdose. He also reminded Idahoans of his forthcoming executive order to address opioid addiction in Idaho.

“My administration is fully committed to fighting the scourge of opioid abuse head on,” Little said. “We look forward to coordinating with all public and private entities to reverse this epidemic.”

There were 116 known opioid overdose deaths in Idaho in 2017, up from 44 just more than a decade ago – a 163 percent increase.

If an individual has an opioid overdose, a quick administration of naloxone can reverse the overdose and bring the patient back to life. A study found when access to naloxone is enhanced there is a nine to 11 percent decrease in opioid-related deaths.

House Bill 12 gives Idaho one of the broadest naloxone access laws in the United States, and it avoids the red tape some other states have placed around the drug. In 2015, Idaho passed a law to ease access to naloxone, and House Bill 12 expands upon this successful foundation.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Fred Wood (R-Burley), as well as Sen. David Nelson (D-Moscow) and Office of Drug Policy Administrator Melinda Smyser joined Little during the signing ceremony.

“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,” Wood said.

“I was excited to sponsor this piece of legislation on the Senate floor. This bill saves the lives of moms, dads, brothers and sisters. We give Idahoans the chance to seek treatment and focus on recovery,” Nelson said.

Bill to test all sexual assault kits heads to House floor. HB 116, a bill to “test all” sexual assault kits with only rare exceptions won unanimous committee approval and goes to the House floor for a vote. The legislation is part of a larger body of work by Rep. Melissa Wintrow who has been working toward this policy for the last several years. She has passed several laws to improve how sexual assault kits are handled during her time in office.

“I am extremely excited about this piece of legislation.” Wintrow said. “For myself and the groups I have been collaborating with, testing all sexual assault kits has been our ultimate goal. We are very eager to take this necessary step to make sure that we are giving victims as many tools as possible.”

Little signs HB1, solving Treasure Valley water issues. Gov. Brad Little has signed House Bill 1 into law, praising House Speaker Scott Bedke for his determination and months of collaborative efforts between diverse water interests in the Treasure Valley to move the policy forward.

“House Bill 1 is about Idaho’s most precious resource – our water,” Little said. “House Bill 1 is proof yet again that Idaho excels at bringing together diverse interests to chart a path forward on contentious issues so everyone benefits.”

“I am committed to water, water rights, and water storage. These are incredibly sensitive and challenging issues, and they are vital to our state and our agricultural communities. House Bill 1 is part of a comprehensive solution that ensures we are proactive in protecting Idaho’s water storage rights,” Bedke said.

House Bill 1 resolves serious concerns of water users in the Boise River Basin and outlines the role of the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) director in authorizing water rights for new water storage. House Bill 1 specifies how IDWR will account for stored water following the release for flood control and, if the water is released, how those with water rights will be satisfied.

The issue had been discussed and litigated extensively leading up to the drafting of House Bill 1, which passed with unanimous support of the Idaho Senate and House of Representatives this session. More information about House Bill 1 can be found here.

Former Rep. Hy Kloc works to pass “pet friendly” license plate bill. The ‘pet friendly’ license plate bill was passed unanimously our of committee and sent to the House floor. HB105 would create a pet-themed license plate that would give all proceeds to the Idaho Humane Society. The funds would benefit low-cost spay and neutering programs in rural Idaho. Former Rep. Hy Kloc has been working on this bill for several years but was met with opposition when he brought it last year. With the assistance of a number of co-sponsors this year, he will try again to pass this bill which would help control our pet population and support rural veterinarians to accomplish this work.

“I am very excited to be back in the Legislature working on such an important piece of legislation. Kloc said. “This is an issue that is very close to my heart. I sincerely hope that the current legislature will take advantage of this opportunity to manage our pet population.”

Bill introduced to give fertility treatments to veterans. Rep. Brooke Green has introduced a memorial calling on the federal government to take action on an outdated policy. Her legislation asks Congress to provide fertility treatment to veterans who have been injured or disabled in ways that affect their ability to have children. The bill was printed and will now have a full hearing in committee.

Green stressed the importance of changing this policy: “If a veteran sustains an injury that hurts their ability to have children, under current policy they will have to pay for treatment out of pocket. That’s not right. Our service members risk their lives for us and should not lose their ability to have children when we have the means to help them. These individuals have made the ultimate sacrifice and they should be able to start a family when they return home.”

The issue was brought to Green’s attention by retired Army Captain Micah Andersen. He sustained complex blast injuries while serving in Afghanistan that impacted his fertility. Unfortunately, Andersen has been forced to pay thousands of dollars to have children because fertility services are not covered by the Veterans Administration healthcare. 

Gov. Brad Little weekly schedule:

TUESDAY, February 19, 2019

Governor Little will issue a proclamation for Engineers Week in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at 2 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, February 20, 2019

Governor Little will speak at the Idaho Press Club Southwest Chapter's breakfast at 7:30 a.m.

Governor Little will issue a proclamation for Health Awareness Day in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at 10 a.m.

Governor Little will issue a proclamation for Idaho State Police Day in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at 11 a.m.