GOP House Caucus Responds to SB 1159.  The Idaho House Republican Caucus supports SB 1159 to expand voter involvement in the initiative and referendum process.

The legislation increases the number of districts needed to get an issue on the ballot from 18 to 32, leveling the playing field for rural communities by giving them a bigger voice in the process rather than simply allowing urban communities to dictate Idaho policy.

“We have a legislative responsibility to look at policy to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all Idahoans,” said Rep. Jason Monks. “These new requirements would not hinder the referendum process; only create more concise standards for statewide ballot questions.”

The purpose of this bill is to increase both transparency and voter involvement in the initiative and referendum process.

Idahoans have stated that they want the initiative process to be more thorough. SB 1159 requires more detail in the process including a proposed funding source, a non-binding fiscal impact statement and it ensures clarity during the signature process and at the polls.

“Prop 2 passed, and we want to adhere to the will of the voters. But Prop 2’s language did not give lawmakers direction on how to fund the program and ensure its longevity. Because of that lack of guidance, a lot of questions still exist on how to make the will of the people possible,” said Rep. Sage Dixon.  “These changes will help improve the implementation process for future initiatives.”

Erpelding’s Theater Bill is Signed into Law.  Rep. Mat Erpelding’s/(D-Boise) Theater legislation has signed into law by Gov. Little. The law permits theaters that were built before 1950 and are on the Historic Registry of Theaters to sell beer and wine. The theater would also need to apply for a beer and wine license. There are approximately 13 theaters that were built before 1950 in Idaho.

Rep. Erpelding was excited to see this legislation signed into law. “After traveling the state, I came to understand the importance of these historic theaters,” he said. “In many towns, the theater in the center of the action. The theater holds plays, movies, special events, and all sorts of other events. It’s a place where people can come together as a community to be entertained, informed, or just to celebrate.”

GOP Statement on HB 276 Vote. “The Idaho House Republican Caucus is sensitive to the issue and the nature of this piece of legislation, but we must tread cautiously. We want to make ourselves clear, we do not support any sexual assault or sexual battery on any person at any age. We do support laws already in place that ensure a convicted offender, at any age, is prosecuted to the full extent of the law and is required to register as a sex offender. As defenders of the 2nd amendment, and the Idaho Constitution, we must always act with care when dealing with any type of legislation that might come into conflict with our basic constitutional rights.”

Rep. Wintrow’s Sexual Battery of a Minor Bill Heads to the Senate. Rep. Melissa Wintrow’s/(D-Boise) Sexual Battery of a Minor (H276) bill has passed the House with a 37-31 vote.  Sexual exploitation of a minor child and lewd conduct with a child under 16 are already felony crimes that disqualify a convicted felon from owning a firearm. However, sexual misconduct with a minor child 16 or 17 years old are not currently covered under Idaho law and seem to have been left of the list of crimes that disqualifies a convicted felon from owning a firearm. The bill now heads to the Senate for a full hearing in committee.

“In the past, the legislature has made some very disappointing decisions when it comes to children’s safety,” Wintrow said. “But, today was a very big step in the right direction. There is no reason that a child predator should have access to a gun. I am pleased that many of my colleagues in the House realize that. Today was a good day for Idaho government. We worked together and came to a compromise that prioritizes child safety. This is an important first step protecting Idaho children from sexual violence.”

House of Representatives Requests Capitol Restoration and Renovation Agreement from 2008 be Recognized.  The Idaho House of Representatives is asking Idaho State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth to not stall a negotiated compromise set more than a decade ago in an effort to save taxpayers money during the remodel.

During the Capitol renovation and restoration in 2008, legislative leadership at the time and former Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter struck a deal to eliminate the expense of adding a second level in the underground wings, reducing its request of a needed 50,000 square feet of space down to 25,000 square feet. The negotiated compromise gave the executive branch control of the entire second floor and ceded the first, third and fourth to the legislative branch. (see Idaho Statute 67-1602)

“Our request is not unrealistic or malicious. All other Constitutional officers have made the move and understand the growing need in Idaho, we ask the same of Treasurer Ellsworth,” said Speaker Scott Bedke. “If you look at the opportunity provided to the Treasurer, the negotiated space provides the Treasurer’s office with an additional 150 square feet of space.”

Even though the statue (67-1602) was changed in 2007, House leadership allowed former Treasurer Ron Crane the opportunity to continue to remain in his office on the first floor on a temporary basis or until his retirement. Now the House is simply asking the Treasurer’s office to adhere to the existing law while still allowing the ceremonial office, where the historic vault is located, to remain. The move will allow for easier access for those doing business with the Treasurer’s office by consolidating staff to one more accessible location.

“As leader of the House of Representatives, it is my duty to abide by the agreement and we are at a point that House members need the additional space to conduct the people’s business. We needed the space when the renovations were happening, but the House graciously waited. Now our state is growing, and the elected officials need offices that will allow them to conduct meetings with their constituents and an ability to get the people’s work completed in an even more efficient manner,” said Bedke.

Currently the Attorney General and Secretary of State hold ceremonial offices in the Capitol but much of their staff are in other state buildings. The Controller has completely relocated, as has the Idaho Supreme Court.

Chew’s Legend Drug Donation Bill Signed into Law. Rep. Sue Chew’s (D-Boise) Legend Drug Donation bill was signed into law by Gov. Brad Little. The legislation was among the most popular of the session, passing unanimously in both the House and Senate. The bill updates the existing Legend Drug Donation Act to allow individuals to donate drugs to places like medical clinics and health centers. However, it does not allow for controlled substances like opioids to be donated. The legislation goes into effect on July 1, 2019.

“I am so pleased that the legislature realized the importance of this legislation,” said Chew. “Many Idahoans are suffering on a day to day basis because drug prices have increased so dramatically and they cannot afford medications they desperately need. There are also so many Idahoans who are holding onto potentially lifesaving drugs because they want to donate them but they aren’t allowed.”

McCrostie Reacts to Equality Act. Last week, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, and House Democrats introduced the Equality Act. The landmark bill clarifies and expands legal protections to millions of LGBTQ Americans. The Equality Act provides LGBTQ individuals and their families protections nationwide in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. Idaho Rep. John McCrostie (D-Garden City) applauded the proposed legislation.

“I deeply appreciate Congressional House Democrats introducing the Equality Act,” he said. “Millions of LGBTQ people in the United States are not afforded the same protections as other Americans. We are vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace, in public places, and even in our homes. It’s past time that something is done.”

Idaho has been having a similar debate with the Idaho Human Rights Act. Several Democratic legislators have been working for years to the Idaho Human Rights Act so that LGBTQ individuals will be protected from discriminatory actions. Despite that fact that 68% of Idahoans and 69% of all Americans favor laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, there have not been updates to the Idaho Human Rights Act. 

“Idaho LGBTQ families have very few protections from discrimination,” McCrostie said. “We can be refused service, fired, and even kicked out of our homes. When the legislature fails to take action to protect the lives of a large group of Idahoans, they send a message that they don’t care about us. I hope that today’s introduction of the Equality Act will send a message that all Idahoans deserve the same treatment.”

Little makes more appointments. Gov. Brad Little has announced appointments of Jim Thompson of Sandpoint and Robert Hoff of Idaho Falls to serve on the Idaho Transportation Board, and Betty Coppersmith of Eagle to serve on the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Jim Thompson, P.E., will serve as the District 1 representative on the Idaho Transportation Board. Thompson is a heavy construction manager with more than 30 years of experience in construction, including owning his own company. He is a registered civil engineer in Idaho and California and a graduate of the University of Idaho.

Robert Hoff will serve as the District 6 representative on the Idaho Transportation Board. Hoff is a pilot who started an aviation business at the Idaho Falls Airport that continues to operate today. His family’s farm and ranch operation also is still in operation. He served on the Idaho Aeronautics Board from 1998 to 2012. Hoff graduated from the Idaho State Technical School.

Betty Coppersmith will serve on the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Coppersmith retired in 2016 after a 30-plus year career working for Chevron, Texaco Exploration and Production, Inc., and various other energy companies. Coppersmith received her M.B.A. from California State University-Bakersfield and her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University.

Burgoyne Launches Postsecondary Financial Assistance Exploration. Sen. Grant Burgoyne (D-Boise) has unveiled draft legislation to provide “last dollar” financial support to Idaho students seeking education and training beyond high school. He also announced that, over the next several months, he will discuss the proposed legislation with key stakeholder groups including K-12 and postsecondary educators and administrators, state and non-profit agencies, business leaders and the general public.

“For many Idaho students, the gap between the financial resources they have and the actual cost of attending college or workforce training is just too wide,” Burgoyne said. “This legislation will help fill that gap, improve enrollment and completion rates in Idaho’s public postsecondary programs, and thereby, jumpstart the state’s workforce readiness.” 

Sen. Burgoyne’s effort builds on work in other states such as Tennessee, Georgia, New York, and Oregon to provide students targeted financial assistance and the supports needed to promote student success. The legislation would be available to students of all ages and incomes and target those who wish to enroll in one-year certificate and two-year associate degree programs.  “Programs like this can offer a student a relatively quick route to the workforce or a major stepping stone to a four-year degree,” Burgoyne noted.  “We are stuck in neutral when it comes to meeting the state’s goal of having 60% of its 25 to 34-year-olds having postsecondary credentials.  This program will help us achieve that goal,” 

Events in Gov. Brad Little’s Weekly Schedule

TUESDAY, March 19, 2019

Governor Little chairs the State Board of Examiners and State Board of Land Commissioners meetings in the Boise City Council chambers at 9 a.m.              

WEDNESDAY, March 20, 2019

Governor Little will issue a proclamation for Small Business Development Center Day in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at 2 p.m.

Governor Little will sign HB 153, a bill to increase starting teacher pay and salaries in the first three cells of the residency rung on the career ladder, in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at 3 p.m.

Rubel’s Solar Panel Bill Passes in Committee. The Homeowner Solar Rights bill, sponsored by Reps. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) and Randy Armstrong (R-Inkom) has passed unanimously in Senate State Affairs. The legislation now heads to the Senate floor for a vote. The bill has already passed overwhelmingly in the House, so the Senate floor will be the final hurdle before going to Gov. Little to be signed into law.

Rubel said, “The current law ignores important innovations in solar panel technology. In the past, Homeowners Associations (HOAs) have restricted their use because they were considered ugly and obtrusive. Now, solar panels are nearly undetectable to the naked eye. Every other state in the West has passed similar legislation, and we need to catch up.”

Erpelding’s First Responders Bill Signed into Law. Following nearly a year of work, legislation covering Idaho’s first responders for psychological injuries under the state’s Workers’ Compensation program is now law. At the bill-signing ceremony, House Democratic Leader Rep. Mat Erpelding/(D-Boise), who led the push for the change and sponsored the legislation, said Idaho can sleep a little safer tonight. “We depend on our police, fire, dispatchers and emergency workers every day. This is going to improve their health and everyone’s safety,” Erpelding said. “This legislation is long overdue. I am grateful for the part my colleagues on both sides of aisle played in getting this bill passed. As elected leaders, we can never forget how vital Idaho’s first responders are to our well-being.”

Veteran Fertility Memorial Clears Final Hurdle. Rep. Brooke Green’s (D-Boise) Veteran Fertility Memorial has passed unanimously on the Senate floor. The memorial calls on the federal government to amend the Veteran Affairs (VA) healthcare to include fertility treatments for veterans and their spouses when they suffer an injury that affects their ability to procreate. Under current law, fertility treatment is not covered by VA healthcare if the veteran cannot produce their own biological material. Unfortunately, this policy has resulted in veterans all over the country being forced to spend thousands for fertility treatments or not have a family at all.

“When I found out that the VA was not covering fertility treatments for injured veterans, I was shocked and disappointed,” Green said. “When a soldier goes to combat, they should expect to come home and be taken care of. They should be able to start a family. I am so glad that my colleagues in the House and Senate unanimously supported this resolution because it shows they value the service that these individuals have given us. This memorial was a necessary first step to get the federal government to change their discriminatory policy.” 

The memorial will now be sent to Idaho’s Congressional Representatives to urge them to change the federal policy. Rep. Green will also be reaching out to Congressman Mike Simpson to see what steps he can take to ensure that veterans get the fertility care they deserve. 

Nelson’s E-Bike Legislation Signed into Law.  E-Bike legislation sponsored by Sen. David Nelson (D-Moscow) has been signed into law by Gov. Little. The bill passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. The legislation clarifies Idaho code with regard to a new category of bicycles; the “e-bike.” These bicycles use a small electric motor to give a boost to the rider when extra speed is desirable.

Pet Friendly License Plate Signed into Law. Former Rep. Hy Kloc’s Pet Friendly bill was signed into law by Gov. Little. All the proceeds from the special “pet friendly” license plate will go to the Idaho Humane Society to benefit low-cost spay and neutering services in rural Idaho. During the 2018 legislative session, Rep. Kloc attempted to bring the legislation but it was defeated in the House on a tie vote. This year, it had overwhelming support in both the House and Senate.

“I have been working on this legislation for the last several years with little success, but our legislature has finally realized its value.” Kloc said. “I am so excited that this license plate will soon be available to Idahoans who love our dogs and cats. Now we will be able to give them the care that they deserve so that there are fewer animals living on the street.” 

Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise) sponsored the legislation on the House floor and has been working closely with Rep. Kloc. She appreciated all of his hard work to make sure that this legislation became law.