This year’s Idaho Legislature will be known for two things: 1) The coronavirus pandemic swirling around the session and 2) The failure to enact property tax relief for homeowners.
The virus’ role was unsurprising in that it spread to Idaho and shut down most activities. In my lifetime I’ve never seen anything impact daily life so quickly.
The lack of legislative accomplishment on the property tax issue was a bit of a surprise. The Idaho House sought to couple a tax freeze with a sharp reduction in local budgets. The Idaho Senate wanted to focus on reducing the tax burden on those of limited income and offset the shift from commercial properties to residences through the 2016 cap on the homeowner’s exemption. In the end, neither gave ground and the only thing that emerged was an interim committee to study the issue. I suspect voters may express frustration at the May 19 primary.
Still, the spotlight was drawn to hot button issues like restricting transgender activity in sports and modifications to birth certificates, an abortion ban if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, etc.
But there are a series of substantive bills that, in my estimation, deserve attention. Of note, some of these have yet to be signed by Gov. Brad Little (he could still veto one or more).
HB 354 — Forgone revenues. This measure requires local governments to pass a resolution reserving the right in the future to take revenues allowed but not taken in the current year.
HB 461a — Seize property of evicted tenants. Allows a landlord to dispose of the property of a tenant evicted within 3 days of the eviction hearing for residential leases and after 7 days or more for commercial ones.
HB 464 – Protecting debtor property from creditors. Idaho currently protects up to $100,000 in home equity from the reach of collecting creditors, plus $7,000 for a vehicle, $7,500 in household goods and $2,500 in tools used in connection with a trade. This measure was almost singlehandedly pushed by Twin Falls bankruptcy attorney Alex Caval. It ups the amount of home equity protected to $175,000 and protects $10,000 in value for a car and tools of the trade.
HB 589 — First time homebuyer savings account. This measure allows a first-time homebuyer to save up to $15,000 a year ($30,000 for a couple) free of Idaho taxes toward buying a first property. Governor Little pushed the idea and it was heavily promoted by the Idaho REALTORS. This measure will improve future affordability for first time buyers.
HB 594 — Notice before a rent increase or failure to renew a lease. This bill requires 30 days notice before a landlord fails to renew a lease or boosts rent.
HB 538 — Regulates vaping. After a close vote of 38-32 in the Idaho House, this measure easily passed the Idaho Senate. It treats vaping like tobacco from a regulatory perspective. Given the rapid expansion to young people of this vice, this measure may help turn the corner in Idaho.
SB 1264 — Self storage facilities. Idaho has seen a multitude of these built. This measure revises procedures that have to be followed, including allowing a facility operator to have a trailer or vehicle removed after 60 days of default on rental agreement and also allows denying access to a unit for failure to pay rent, or for not removing items at the end of the lease.
SB 1309 — Emergency absentee ballot. Allows an Idaho voter who is hospitalized 5-11 days before an election to request an absentee ballot at the last minute.