Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Idaho House, Senate GOP Leadership Eye March Sine Die

Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 3:19 PM

Sen. Hill, left, and Rep. Bedke, right, offered their take on the Idaho Legislature thus far.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, left, and House Speaker Scott Bedke, right, offer their take on the Idaho Legislature thus far during Tuesday's Idaho Press Club forum.

Idaho's Senate and House majority leadership think the Idaho Legislature could adjourn as early as this month, barring unforeseen issues.

"I still don't see anything that should keep us here after the end of the month," Rexburg Republican Sen. Brent Hill, president pro tempore of the Idaho Senate, told members of the Idaho Press Club during a Tuesday forum.

Hill and Oakley Republican Rep. Scott Bedke, speaker of the Idaho House, offered up their lunch hour to discuss the state's pressing issues still on the docket before sine die, ranging from the proposed rollback of the business personal property tax, a state health insurance exchange still mired in uncertainty, and the fate of Idaho's federal lands.

"It seems to me that, when I was just a regular member of the House, you could feel the wind shift or the mood change, and it's my perception that the members are ready to be done," said Bedke.

Both Hill and Bedke agreed that House and Senate members are specifically anxious to move through the property-tax and insurance-exchange proposals before packing up to go home. Talk of introducing a proposal to mirror Utah's controversial House Bill 148, attempting to transfer federal lands to state control, may have to wait until the summer.

"The State of Idaho's land management model is on par with, if not better than, the federal land management plan," said Bedke. "The question that all Idahoans should ask, and maybe all Americans, too, is, is that land management scalable? We do that level of land management on 2 million acres, could we do it on 4 million acres?"

Bedke said the issue would get due consideration at a June meeting, during which interim committees will be assigned.

The fate of Girl Scout cookies, however, is less certain. Though a bill to remove Idaho's 6 percent sales tax from the sugary snacks passed a House committee on Monday, Hill said he doesn't expect the bill will even get a hearing in the Senate.

Those same Girl Scouts who want a little extra money for camp this year, "they're going to be mothers going out to the grocery store" down the road, said Hill, where they'll pay a sales tax to feed their families. He said that while the proposal is a "worthy cause," adding more sales tax exemptions isn't the answer.

"Let's not pick and choose by who hired the best lobbyists, or who had the best in with a lawmaker, or who has a sad story," said Hill.

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