Idaho’s First Family to host Capitol Christmas tree lighting. Gov. Brad Little and First Lady Teresa Little invite all to join them on the evening of Monday, December 2, for the annual lighting of Idaho’s Capitol Christmas Tree on the Capitol steps beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Brenda Mee and Kevin Mee of Boise radio station 101.9 The Bull will emcee the event. The Andrus Ambassador Honor Choir from Meridian’s Cecil D. Andrus Elementary School and Idaho’s 25th Army Band will provide festive entertainment.

Immediately following the ceremony, guests are invited inside the Capitol to view holiday decorations and visit with Idaho’s Constitutional Officers.

This year’s tree is donated by Cory and Chelsea Skinner, whose live at 5830 N. Garrett Street in Garden City. After the tree is trimmed and set, it’s estimated to stand about 30 feet high. The Blue Spruce was planted when the house was built in 1977; the Skinner family has lived at the residence since 2016.

“Donating the tree is an amazing opportunity to be part of the state’s history,” Chelsea Skinner said. “We can’t wait to see the whole process, from cutting it down to lighting it up.”

The relocation process is a joint effort. The Idaho Department of Lands will cut and rig the tree for lifting, Boise Crane will load, and the Idaho Transportation Department will haul the tree to its destination at the Statehouse. Boise City Police will provide the escort.

Cutting begins about 9 a.m. on Monday, November 25. It’s journey to the Statehouse is estimated to begin sometime around 11:30 a.m. The Idaho Department of Administration’s Facility Services crew will begin stringing thousands of LED lights on the tree and decorating the interior of the Capitol the next morning.

“The holidays are a time of the year when the things that are truly important in life become evident,” Little said. “I am happy to join with my fellow Idahoans to reflect on the year and celebrate all the joy and blessings this year has brought us.”

Little issues executive order addressing interstate transportation of hemp in Idaho. Gov. Brad Little has issued an executive order to resolve conflicts between state and federal law related to the interstate transportation of hemp across Idaho. The executive order serves as a stopgap measure until the Idaho Legislature enacts a more permanent solution. It does not authorize or legalize the production of hemp, its byproducts, oils, or any other derivative prohibited by Idaho law.

Recent changes to federal law prevent states from prohibiting the transportation or shipment of hemp produced in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill. In late October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued interim final rules regulating the production of hemp in states that have legalized it. Upon publication of those interim final rules, Idaho law now likely conflicts with federal law with respect to interstate transportation of hemp.

Executive action was needed to ensure the laws of the State of Idaho as written are faithfully executed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Idaho residents from the illicit drug trade.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture, Idaho State Police, and Idaho Transportation Department will promulgate temporary rules and work cooperatively to carry out the executive order.

“From the start, I have stated I am not opposed to a new crop such as hemp, but that we need to be sure the production and shipping of industrial hemp is not a front to smuggle illicit drugs into and around Idaho. We expected new federal rules would eventually result in hemp lawfully traveling across state lines. My administration has prepared for this development, working with partners in law enforcement and other interested parties. As it turns out, the rules were published at a time when the Idaho Legislature could not quickly respond. My executive order is a stopgap measure to address the narrow issue of interstate transportation of hemp until the Idaho Legislature develops a permanent regulatory framework around hemp,” Little said. Executive Order 2019-13 can be found here.

Idaho Republicans Continue Threats to County Operations. The Interim Property Tax Working Group recently met and focused on describing how property taxes are used in counties throughout the state and how that is changing due to unprecedented statewide growth. 

Rep. Mat Erpelding (D-Boise) voiced his concern at some of the sentiments that were expressed by the Republican members of the committee.

“Today’s meeting was centered around understanding why property taxes are necessary to Idaho’s counties,” Erpelding said. “Experts from numerous counties in various stages of growth came here to tell us that property taxes are necessary to their survival and future prosperity. Idaho counties are pleading with the legislature to understand that property tax dollars are essential to their daily operations. Unfortunately, Republicans attacked the few economic development tools available to cities and counties and belittled county officials' needs for new jails and coroner offices to keep their citizens safe and cared for.” 

He said, “We heard that property taxes keep state and county prisons and jails open, Idaho’s police and firefighters able to respond to emergencies, our water clean and drinkable, and numerous other public services operational. The Idaho legislature has the ability and responsibility to give property tax relief to citizens statewide. However, Idaho Republicans are looking to scapegoat the counties for their own awful and unfortunate statewide policies. There is no doubt that if we continue to rob counties of the resources desperately needed to provide essential services, every Idahoan will suffer.”

Little sets date for meeting of Shared Stewardship Advisory Committee. The first meeting of Gov. Brad Little’s Shared Stewardship Advisory Committee is set for December 3 in Coeur d’Alene, 1 to 4 p.m. PDT at the Idaho Department of Lands, 3284 Industrial Loop.

Little will provide introductory remarks. In October, Little announced the members of the broad-based group he created to advise the implementation of Shared Stewardship in Idaho, an initiative that aims to reduce wildfire risk, improve forest health, and support jobs through additional, coordinated active land management projects.

A list of committee members and other information about the Shared Stewardship Advisory Committee are available here. An agenda will be posted closer to the date of the meeting.

Part of the Shared Stewardship goal is to double the number of acres treated on federal forests in Idaho by 2025. Using mechanical treatments, commercial forest restoration treatments, and prescribed fire, partners will focus treatments on the 6.1 million acres that have been federally designated for insect and disease infestation.

In July, Little announced the identification of two largescale project areas – one in northern Idaho and one in southern Idaho – where federal, state, and private land management activities will align to reduce wildfire risk to communities, create and sustain jobs, and improve the health of Idaho’s forests and watersheds.

Little accepts Broadband Task Force recommendations. The Idaho Broadband Task Force that Gov. Brad Little assembled earlier this year has completed and submitted its recommendations and full report to improve broadband connectivity for communities and businesses across Idaho.

The task force was charged with developing a plan to improve broadband access, speed, and infrastructure across Idaho. Over the past six months, the task force worked diligently to come up with actionable recommendations to improve broadband level connectivity in both rural and urban Idaho.

“In a data-driven society, connectivity is imperative for a vital economy. Improved broadband infrastructure ensures both urban and rural Idaho will be connected and well-positioned to attract business and enhance our citizens’ quality of life,” Little said. “The task force members worked under an accelerated timeline to come up with the recommendations, and I appreciate them for their hard work.”

The task force’s recommendations include updating the state’s broadband plan for maximizing federal funds, establishing a state broadband office, formalizing “dig once and hang once” policies for substantially lowering investment costs, and some specific calls to action in some of the most underserved rural areas. Ongoing regional activities are also planned for the near term. The full report is available here.

The Governor will review the recommendations and determine which ones will be included in his budget and policy recommendations for the 2020 legislative session.

"Broadband connectivity and high-speed internet are strategic and economic priorities for Idaho," Idaho Department of Commerce Director Tom Kealey said. "Our task force developed meaningful recommendations for Governor Little that will dramatically improve connectivity and service levels for communities, businesses and citizens across all of Idaho. We thank all task force members and those interested parties across Idaho that contributed to the recommendations for the Governor.” To learn more about broadband in Idaho, click here.

Gov. Little’s public schedule this week

MONDAY, November 25, 2019

Governor Little will issue a proclamation for Alpha-1 Awareness Month in the Ceremonial Office at 3 p.m.

TUESDAY, November 26, 2019

Governor Little will host Capital For A Day in Glenns Ferry at the Historic Opera Theater, 148 E. Idaho Ave., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.