Idaho Legislature

Thursday, April 16, 2015

UPDATE: Otter Vetoes Cannabis Oil Bill

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 5:50 PM

UPDATE: April 16, 2015

After a long, emotional fight through the 2015 session of the Idaho Legislature where proponents of Senate Bill 1146aa ultimately secured passage of the measure which would provide a legal defense for parents of children who use cannabis oil for relief from severe epileptic seizures, Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter vetoed the bill in the late afternoon hour of April 16, 2015.

The bill had been the subject of some of the most emotional testimony of the recently-wrapped legislative session and, on more than one occasions, the bill appeared to be dead. Yet proponents of the measure kept pushing on, until both the Idaho House and Senate agreed that it should become law.

But Otter, who had sent his top drug czar to testify against the bill during committee hearings, said "There were too many questions and problems and too few answers and solution in this bill to let it become law."

"Of course I sympathize with the heartbreaking dilemma facing some families trying to cope with the debilitating impacts of disease," wrote Otter with his veto. "[The bill] asks us to legalize the limited use of cannabidiol oil, contrary to federal law. And it asks us to look past the potential of misuse and abuse with criminal intent."

UPDATE: April 6, 2015

Monday afternoon, the Idaho House approved in a 39-30 vote the much-debated Senate Bill 1146aa, which provides a legal defense for parents, grandparents and guardians of children who suffer from severe epileptic seizures when they choose to use a non-psychotropic cannabidiol oil for relief.

"You're going to hear a lot about how the sky is falling if we do this," said sponsor Iona Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher when he introduced the measure to the House floor.

And indeed, opponents pushed back hard in a two-plus hour debate, saying that approval was a "slippery slope" toward legalization of marijuana. But the bill, otherwise known as "Alexis' Law," doesn't legalize anything. Instead, it allows parents and guardians of children who suffer from extreme seizures to formally talk with their physicians, almost always neurologists, about the possibility of using the oil for relief. To date, it has been illegal for Idaho doctors to consult with their patients regarding the oil.

Rexburg Republican Rep. Dell Raybould told a heartbreaking story about how his granddaughter had died in his wife's arms after suffering through seizures through most of her five years.

"She suffered these seizures time and time and time again,' said Raybould. "Had this product been available then, we would have done everything in the world to use it."

But Democratic Rep. John Rusche, a physician, said he would vote against the measure.

"We need to know what we're doing here," said Rusche. "And the scientific study on the use of this drug is sadly lacking."

Boise Republican Rep. Lynn Luker called the issue, "the most difficult of the session and I have to vote no."

But Burley Republican Rep. Fred Wood, a former physician, said his yes vote "wasn't difficult for me at all. I'll sleep well tonight when I vote in favor of this."

Ultimately, Rusche was the only Democrat to join 29 Republicans in voting against the bill.

Monday's vote came less than one week after a stunning reversal from the Idaho House State Affairs Committee, which initially killed the measure in a tie vote but then picked the bill up again and passed it, sending it to the full House. The bill has already passed through the Idaho Senate and now it heads to the desk of Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter who has publicly voiced his opposition to the measure.



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Idaho Officials: 'Human Crisis,' 'Unintended Consequences' In Child Support Debacle

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 12:10 PM

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Calling the recent debacle surrounding the failure of the Idaho Legislature to align Idaho with federal child support standards as a "human tragedy," Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong confirmed Thursday morning that more than 150,000 letters would be sent to Idaho households that receive child support payments.

In effect, the letters warn that Idaho is at risk of not being able to collect and/or process non-voluntary child support.

Idaho has received a 60-day notice from federal officials, warning that the state needs to cure its child support enforcement problem, caused by a Idaho House committee's vote to kill a measure that would have brought Idaho in line with federal standards.

In a prepared statement on Thursday, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said there was still "unfinished business," indicating that he was laying the groundwork to call a special session of the Legislature to deal with the outstanding crisis. Otter confirmed that Idaho has until June 12 or June 14 to come up with a solution, "otherwise we're going to suffer the unintended consequences."


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Sunday, April 12, 2015

UPDATE: War of Words Ignites Among Idaho GOP In Wake of Defeat of Child Support Measure

Posted By and on Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 2:27 PM

UPDATE:  April 12, 2015

Factions of the Republican majority are blasting one another in the shadow of the defeat of a child support measure in one of final acts of the 2014 Idaho Legislature.

Rep. Lynn Luker, Boise
  • Rep. Lynn Luker, Boise
One side, voiced by Boise GOP Rep. Lynn Luker, was against the bill, saying the media had it all wrong when it focused on comments from another legislator who linked the proposal to Sharia Law. But another side, voiced by Coeur d'Alene Rep. Luke Malek, said the scuttling of the bill was "heavy handed opportunistic theatrics."

One day after the GOP-led defeat of Senate Bill 1067, which was designed to bring Idaho in line with federal regulations on child support payments, Luker pushed back against numerous media reports that some members of his party were uncomfortable with the bill's alignment with agreements from the Hague International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance.  In particular, Cottonwood Republican Rep. Sheryl Nuxoll pointed to countries listed in the international treaty "that have recognized Sharia courts as quasi-courts."

"A few citizens who testified at the hearing raised concerns about SB1067 leading to enforcement of Sharia law in Idaho, which ended up as the major focus in news article. That was not the reason for holding the bill." wrote Luker, in a press release that was pushed out April 11th by the Idaho House Majority Caucus. "The bill and treaty have serious risks and flaws."
Rep. Luke Malek, Coeur d'Alene
  • Rep. Luke Malek, Coeur d'Alene
But Coeur d'Alene Republican Rep. Luke Malek fired back against Luker's comments. Sending out his own communique on April 12th, Malek, who is also a former deputy prosecuting attorney for Kootenai County, pulled no punches.

"Representative Luker does not speak for Idaho or me. Scuttling SB1067 without debate was heavy-handed opportunistic theatrics at the expense of single-parents and children, the most vulnerable in our society," wrote Malek. "I do not support the erratic behavior that will lead to the dismantling of our child support system, nor the implication that this mockery of a legal analysis in any way represents our Republican caucus."

Additionally, Nampa Representative Robert Anderst said he wouldn't speak to the specifics of the legislation, "However I will not allow Mr. Luker to be perceived as speaking for me or the caucus. Rep. Luker may be right, he may be wrong, but on an issue that affects so many and so drastically, he does not speak for me especially at this time."

Burley Republican Rep. Fred Wood added, "Rep. Luker is entitled to his opinion, legal and personal. It is not my opinion; I do not want to be associated in any way with it."

Late Sunday, April 12, a statement from Cindy Agidius, Communications Director for the Idaho House Republican Caucus said, "The editorial sent out written by Lynn Luker is his personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of the entire House GOP Caucus."

ORIGINAL POST: April 11, 2015

A bill that would have helped Idaho track and enforce child support payments stalled Friday in the House Judiciary and Rules Committee over concerns that it would allow Sharia law into the U.S. Court system.

Senate Bill 1067 would have brought Idaho up to date with federal regulations, allowing the Gem State to use the government's system for tracking and enforcing child support payments.

The federal system is tied to the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, which requires states using the federal tracking system to conform to 2008 amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.

Therein lay the rub for some Idaho lawmakers, including Cottonwood Republican Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, well known for her comments comparing the Affordable Care Act to the Holocaust and deriding Hinduism as "a false faith with false gods."

Rep. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, told House committee members to oppose a bill to track and enforce child support payments because it could lead to Sharia law.
  • Rep. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, told House committee members to oppose a bill to track and enforce child support payments because it could lead to Sharia law.
Amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act include agreements with the Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance, which has among its members Muslim-majority countries such as Bosnia and Albania.

That was enough for Nuxoll and others to see an inroad for Sharia law into Idaho's justice system.

Quoted by the Associated Press, Nuxoll told House committee members, "There is no specific language in the bill that would protect the rights of those dealing with parentage, child support and support orders from a foreign country that would contradict our laws here. There are other countries listed in the treaty—France, Belgium— that have recognized Sharia courts as quasi-courts. So I just feel that you should be aware of those facts."

The failure of the bill means that more than $16 million in federal funds to Idaho have been lost, and up to $30 million may be lost to the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, according to Idaho Reports.

Supporters of the bill have said that failing to pass SB 1067 would make Idaho a safe harbor for people avoiding paying child support because the state would not have the resources to enforce collections. Its detractors, including Coeur d'Alene Republican Rep. Kathy Sims, Boise Republican Rep. Lynn Luker and Nuxoll, said that its ties to international law are too close for comfort. Luker, who is an attorney, advised against passing the bill.

"We don't need to invite foreign law in Idaho," Sims said, according to the Coeur d'Alene Press. "Rep. Luker is a very fine attorney, and I trust him."

According to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, the notion that the bill would open the floodgates to other legal systems, including Sharia, is baseless. Attorney Scott Keim, who advised legislators about the measure over the phone, said the bill would not have allowed any foreign government or justice system to have jurisdiction over an Idaho citizen unless that person moved to a foreign country. What's more, he told lawmakers that no countries currently involved in the Hague Convention operate under Sharia law.
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Long Night at Idaho Statehouse Ends with Passage of Transportation Funding Bill, 2015 Legislative Session

Posted By on Sat, Apr 11, 2015 at 10:17 AM

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It was past 1 a.m. on April 11, but Idaho lawmakers successfully passed a transportation funding bill, HB 312aa, in a 51-19 vote in the House.

The bill was hammered out by a conference committee including members of the House and Senate, who wrangled increasing vehicle registration fees and fees for hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as an increase in the state's gasoline tax. The bill will raise almost $95 million for transportation, including $63.2 million from a 7-cent increase in the Gem State's 25-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and $26.8 million from increased registration fees. 

The bill's passage was last-minute: The Senate voted 26-9 in favor of the measure at just before midnight, and the House took it up shortly after midnight, with both chambers adjourning sine die at after 1:30 a.m., ending the 2015 legislative session.

Several lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction with the bill. According to Boise Democratic Rep. John Gannon, the bill should have raised fees on extra-heavy trucks, while Rexburg Republican Rep. Dell Raybould countered that heavy truck drivers pay more in gas taxes. In a Spokesman-Review report, others said that the bill simply didn't adequately address transportation issues in Idaho.

"This is about a third of the urgent need that's been identified to us," Boise Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel.

Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness told lawmakers in February that the state needs $262 million "just to preserve the system in the condition it's in." Ultimately, Ness said, "transportation in Idaho is underfunded by $543 million annually."
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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Exit Strategy: Idaho Legislature Wrangling With Grocery, Gas Taxes and 'Surplus Eliminator'

Posted By on Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 1:22 PM

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As one of it final efforts of the Idaho Legislature's 2015 session, the Idaho House voted 68-1 Thursday to approve House Bill 330, increasing the state's food tax credit by $10 per eligible citizen, resulting in a $13.8 million impact to the General Fund. Burley Republican Rep. Fred Wood was the only House member to vote against the measure. 

The current credit of $120 for seniors and $100 for everyone else would be bumped up immediately if it finds approval from the Idaho Senate and Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter.

Meanwhile, a conference committee consisting of select members of the House and Senate, is spending the better part of Thursday wrangling a transportation funding bill, including a number of puzzle pieces such as higher vehicle registration fees, increased fees for electric and hybrid vehicles, and a possible increase in gasoline tax. Additionally, lawmakers are considering a so-called "surplus eliminator," proposed by Nampa Republican Rep. John Vander Woude, which would split unanticipated state revenue surpluses between transportation needs and the state's rainy day account.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

$127M Transportation Bill Paves Way Home for Idaho Legislature

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 2:38 PM

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The "going home" bill of the 2015 edition of the Idaho Legislature—a $127 million transportation funding measure—made its way out of what is presumably one of the last committee sessions of the year, when the Senate Transportation Committee sent House Bill 310 to the full Senate on Wednesday with a "do pass" recommendation.

The bill shifts nearly $16 million away from the General Fund—which is currently earmarked for Idaho State Police—toward road work, something Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has publicly said he would not support. However, Otter refused to come up with his own transportation funding plan, opting to leave the task to the Legislature.

"I will not entertain proposals that compete for General Fund tax dollars," Otter warned the Legislature in his State of the State Address on Jan. 12.

The House has already passed HB 310 by a 39-31 vote. Meridian Republican Rep. Jason Monks, the bill's sponsor, told the Senate Transportation Committee that the fuel tax was "a dying tax" and "it's not going to be enough." Instead, he said, the Legislature should look at the General Fund as a source for transportation funding.

The $127 million funding bill, however, falls far short of Idaho's needs. Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness told lawmakers in February that "$262 million is needed just to preserve the system in the condition it's in." What's more, according to a 2010 legislative task force, "transportation in Idaho is underfunded by $543 million annually," Ness said.

Ultimately, there was no debate in the Senate Transportation Committee, and members voted 6-3 to forward it to the full Senate.
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UPDATE: Resort-Only Liquor License Bill Passes Through Full Idaho Legislature

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 12:13 PM

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UPDATE:  April 8, 2015

The Idaho Senate voted 18-16 April 8 to approve House Bill 318, a measure designed to create special liquor licenses for conference or event cities in Idaho resort communities. Lobbyists regularly pointed to Ketchum as the the first community which could benefit from the special law.

Voting against the bill, all Republicans, were Sens. Steve Bair, Cliff Bayer, Dean Cameron, Bart Davis, Lori Den Hartog, Lee Heider, Brent Hill, Dan Johnson, Abby Lee, Fred Martin, Dean Mortimer, Jim Rice, Jeff Siddoway, Steve Thayn, John Tippets and Steve Vick.

The bill now heads to Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter for his consideration.


ORIGINAL STORY: April 7, 2015 

With only a few days left for the 2015 session of the Idaho Legislature, the Senate State Affairs Committee met early Tuesday to consider some last-minute business.

After a previous effort to redistribute state liquor licenses to benefit Idaho resort communities stalled in early March, lobbyists returned to the Statehouse Tuesday to push House Bill 318, which would allow the creations of special liquor licenses for conference or event centers.

But Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bart Davis kept pushing back against the measure, saying "words matter," and was particularly concerned about formal definitions of what constitutes a "conference" or "event" instead of a convention.

"I can't support this motion because of the absence of defined terms," said Davis.

Rexburg Republican Sen. Brent Hill sided with Davis, saying, "Terms matter. We've passed statutes in the past where people have taken the intentions of that statute and taken those words to use them to go beyond what the intention of the legislature was. I'm going to be more careful in the future."

But the bill's sponsor, Fairfield Republican Rep. Steven Miller, promoted the measure by saying any special liquor license would be for in a resort city with a population of less than 10,000, and the facility must have at least 4,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as a commercial kitchen. Additionally, the license would be non-transferable.

Ketchum developer Chip Fisher is keeping his fingers crossed. He owns the Walnut Avenue Mall off of Sun Valley Road in Ketchum. He's hoping to turn the property into a conference and event center, but said a liquor license is imperative for its success.

Ultimately, Davis, Hill and Terreton Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway were the only members of the committee that approved the bill with a do-pass recommendation for the full Senate. The Idaho House has already given its approval to the measure.
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Monday, April 6, 2015

Otter Vetoes 'Historic Horse Racing' Gambling Devices After Pocketing Lobbyists Money

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2015 at 3:59 PM

PATRICK SWEENEY
  • Patrick Sweeney
UPDATE: April 7, 2015

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's veto of a bill that would have forced removal of hundreds of "historic horse racing" gambling devices will stand.

Hours after learning of Otter's veto of the previously-passed Senate Bill 1011, the Idaho Senate voted 19-16 to bypass the governor's veto, but that was five votes short of an override.

Meanwhile, Otter says he wants a moratorium on any new instant racing machines being placed at Idaho race tracks. He also indicated that he wants a special investigative team to look into whether the machines violate the Idaho Constitution which forbids slot machines. To date, three race tracks, including Les Bois Park in Garden City have nearly 250 historic horse racing gambling machines installed.


ORIGINAL POST: April 6, 2015

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter dusted off his veto stamp to kill legislation that would have pulled the plug on hundreds of so-called "historic horse racing" gambling machines which opponents said were too much like slot machines.

Senate Bill 1011, which repealed the Idaho Legislature's prior approval of the devices, passed through the Idaho House by a 49-21 vote and the Idaho Senate by a vote of 25-9. 

More than a few opponents of the machines pointed to a report that came out earlier in the day Monday from Betsy Russel of The Spokesman Review that detailed how supporters of the devices—lobbyists for a Post Falls race track and operators of Les Bois Park in Garden City—had pushed more than $92,000 into Otter's campaign war chest. That's more than four times more than the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, which opposes the machines, gave to the governor's campaign.
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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cannabis Oil Bill Passes Idaho House Committee

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 1:50 PM

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The House State Affairs Committee voted 12-4 on Thursday, April 2 to approve a bill that would provide a legal defense for the use of non-psychotropic cannabidiol oil to treat intractable epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

Senate Bill 1146aa was passed by the Senate on March 24 but stalled in the House State Affairs Committee on an 8-8 vote March 30. In a surprising move, the committee decided to revisit the legislation April 2, when several lawmakers switched their votes.

Reps. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs; Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls; and John McCrostie, D-Garden City, reversed their "nay" positions on the bill and were joined by Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, who was absent for the March 30 vote. 

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, who opposed the measure on March 30, was not present for the April 2 vote.

Though unusual, the practice of returning to a bill after it has been voted on isn't unheard of.

"Any time a bill is held in committee it can be brought back by a member," said House State Affairs Committee Secretary Kelsey Winder.

McCrostie, who was the only Democrat on the committee to side with Republicans to hold the bill, requested that it be reconsidered.

Otherwise known as "Alexis' Law," SB 1146aa is named for 10-year-old Alexis Carey, who suffers from an intractable form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. Her mother, Clare, has lobbied the Legislature for several years to pass a bill that would open the way for parents to legally obtain cannabidiol—a low-THC extract of cannabis—which has been shown to lessen seizures in children with similar conditions.

The bill met with stiff opposition from Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's drug czar, Idaho Office of Drug Policy Director Elisha Figueroa, who told lawmakers on March 30 that "this is not hemp oil you can buy at the Co-op. This is marijuana, a Schedule One drug, and Idaho will be violating federal law if this passes."

Supporters of the bill, including parents and pediatricians, argued during an emotional, marathon public hearing March 30 that cannabidiol offers substantive relief from the symptoms of life-threatening seizure disorders.

Speaking of her 11-year-old daughter Marley, who experiences between two and 100 seizures per day, Natalie Stevens said on March 30 that, "‘Seizure’ means Marley can never be out of my sight; it means that she has scars from biting her tongue all the time; it means that her breathing stops, it means missing school and missing work; it means sleepless nights and agonizing days. Seizures are our prison. We’ll gladly risk this. We’re already in prison. We would rather be arrested and have an affirmative defense."

SB 1146aa now heads to the full House for consideration. According to Winder, that could happen as early as Monday, April 6. 

Here's the full breakdown of the votes on April 2:

Ayes: Reps. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs; Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens; Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls; Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls; Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer; Tom Loertscher, R-Iona; John McCrostie, D-Garden City; Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton; Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home; Kathleen Sims, R-Coeur d'Alene; Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello; Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise

Nays: Reps. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder; Lynn Luker, R-Boise; Joe Palmer, R-Meridian; James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian.

Absent: Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

UPDATE: Idaho Senate Stalls Sweeping Tax Reform From House Majority Leader

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2015 at 9:55 AM

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UPDATE: March 31, 2015

Idaho House Majority Rep. Mike Moyle's elaborate tax proposal, which would have seen a 7-cent bump in gasoline tax, the elimination of the grocery tax credit, and lower taxes for Idaho's wealthiest citizens, was DOA when it hit the Idaho Senate.

Following a caucus meeting, Senate Republican leadership sent the bill back to committee where it is expected to permanently stall.

"The majority of the Senate isn't inclined to support the legislation," said Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bart Davis.


UPDATE: March 30, 2015

The full Idaho House has voted to approve a fast-tracked House Bill 311, House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle's elaborate plan to eliminate Idaho's grocery tax credit, remove sales tax from groceries, raise fuel taxes by 7-cents per gallon and lower the top tier income tax rates for Idaho's wealthiest citizens (the top tax bracket would drop from 7.4 percent to 6.7 percent).

The 53-17 vote included 53 of the Republican majority's 56 votes, with only three GOP legislators - Reps. Neil Anderson, Gayle Batt and Wendy Horman - joining all 14 Democrats to vote against the measure.

Calling the bill "irresponsible," Pocatello Democratic Rep. Elaine Smith said, "Many of our senior citizens are in the middle class, on fixed incomes. And I'm in that group." Smith concluded by saying Moyle's bill was raising taxes on middle class and working families.

But Moyle argued that the tax bill would help "make us more competitive with surrounding states."

The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy challenged Moyle's fiscal note attached to the bill which says that there would be a gain in General Fund Revenue in Fiscal year 2016. But ICFP says says that there would be a $50 million loss to General Fund Revenue. UPDATE: March 27, 2015

Following a full morning of testimony, including objections from the Interfaith Roundtable Against Hunger, Catholic Charities of Idaho and the Idaho Public Employees Association, the Idaho House Revenue and Tax Committee approved -along party lines - House Bill 311 which would raises taxes on gas by 7-cents per gallon, remove the tax exemption for groceries, lower the top tiers of income taxes and eventually remove sales tax from grocery items.

"When all the provisions in HB 311 are balanced out, the net change is a tax increase for 80-percent of Idaho taxpayers," said Darcy James, Vice Chair of the Interfaith Roundtable Against Hunger. "The grocery tax credit is removed retroactively to the beginning of 2015, while the sales tax on food continues until October 1st. This amounts to double taxation on most Idahoans."

James also pushed back at the tax break for Idaho's wealthiest citizens.

"HB 311 upends the long-standing principle of a graduated income tax," she argued. "Under the proposed flat tax, Idaho's highest tax brackets would enjoy an income tax reduction at the expense of lower brackets."

James later Boise Weekly that she was surprised to be accused of "demagoguing" by Idaho House Speaker Mike Moyle, sponsor of HB 31. "I thought that was a bit unusual coming from him, but the committee was courteous and I appreciate that." 

James told BW that she wasn't surprised by the party-line vote, "But our view is that we have to bring these issues to the public, and let lawmakers know that there is another view."

Meanwhile the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy revealed its analysis of the tax package, challenging Moyle's fiscal note attached to the bill which says that there would be a gain in General Fund Revenue in Fiscal year 2016. But ICFP says says that there would be a $50 million loss to General Fund Revenue.

And IFCP argued that the current grocery tax credit ($100 for individuals and $120 for seniors) is, in fact, a bigger benefit to lower wage earners than an overall sales tax exemption on food. The isolate impact of both of the changes would mean a small increase (about $15 to $30) in taxes paid by the lowest 40 percent of wage earners, according to IFCP. The change would also decrease overall General Fund revenue.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, a co-sponsor of the measure, says he expects HB 311 to come up for debate and vote before the full House by Tuesday, March 31.


ORIGINAL POST: March 25, 2015

No, hell did not freeze over. No, the sun didn't rise in the West this morning. But House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle, the reddest of the red state legislators, proposed a tax increase Wednesday morning.

"With all due respect," Pocatello Democratic Rep. Mark Nye told Moyle. "This is a tax increase proposal by the majority party."

But Moyle, speaking this morning before the House Revenue and Tax Committee stood his ground.

"Yes, it is in fiscal year in 2016," said Moyle. "But in 2017, it changes and it's a tax cut."

Moyle's elaborate proposal, which comes in the final days of the 2015 Idaho Legislature, would increase fuel taxes by 7 cents beginning Oct. 1 of this year and then remove sales tax from groceries and repeal the food tax credit—$100 for most individuals and $120 for seniors. The sales tax on groceries would also be eliminated on Oct. 1 and the removal of the grocery tax credit would be effective Jan. 1, 2016.

While some fellow Republicans questioned Moyle's figures, the majority leader said, "You pick your economist, I'll pick mine."

"If you remember at the beginning of the session, House Speaker (Scott) Bedke told us that we were here to take care of education and to markedly make Idaho a better place to do business," said Moyle. "This bill does it all, except for the education part."

The committee agreed to set a full hearing on the measure, which should attract more than a few supporters and detractors.

"There's something for everyone to love and something for everyone to hate," said Moyle.


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