The Senate Floor calendar is getting cleared off and it seems the legislature is winding down. There are some education appropriations bills the House has voted down that still need to be addressed and passed before the legislature can adjourn. It is unfortunate that these bills are being voted down because of policy disagreements. These disagreements should be addressed in the germane committees, not the Finance and Appropriation Committee. We are Constitutionally required to pass the budgets before we can leave. Some of these appropriations are the largest in our state budgets and are ones that need to pass. The K-12 budget for example, includes a $1.1 billion budget to pay the teachers in the state. Killing these budgets prolong the legislative session and really do not accomplish much.
While waiting for the House to finish the approving budgets, the Senate has a tax bill and a transportation bill to hear and debate. The transportation bill, House bill 362 (H362) uses 4.5% of sales tax revenue to provide the Idaho Department of Transportation $80 million dollars to go toward roads and infrastructure. Any money above the $80 million would go to counties and cities. Over time this fund would grow to give counties and cities more each year. The bill also allows IDT $1.6B in bonding capacity over the next 20 years. Idaho is still one of the fasted growing states in the nation and our infrastructure is struggling to keep up. This is needed legislation.
House Bill 332 (H332) is a 2021 tax relief bill that will reduce all the income tax brackets. It sets the top individual and corporate tax brackets to 6.5%.
It provides $169 million in ongoing tax relief and gives a onetime $220 million return. There was a discovered math error found in the bill when it came from the House that will change the numbers some. To fix this error and possibly add more amendments, H332 was sent to the Senate Amending order by the Senate Local Government and Taxation committee. We will be taking this bill up soon as we wait to see what the final budget numbers will be.
Four significant bills that deal with the powers and authority of the Executive branch have reached the Governor’s desk. Senate Bill 1060 (S1060) that gives county commissioners a say in public health orders in their respective counties was signed by the Governor and is now law. Senate Bill 1139 (S1139), that clarifies the duties of the Director of Health and Welfare and defines the terms “quarantine” and “isolation”, has passed both legislative bodies and has been sent to the Governor. Senate Bill 1136 (S1136) that deals with extreme emergency declarations, and House Bill 135 (H135) that deals with emergency declarations, have both been passed by the Senate and House and are awaiting action by the Governor. Both S1136 and H135 balance power between the Legislature and the Governor during times of emergencies. Both bills limit the amount of time an emergency can be declared without the concurrence by the Legislature. Both bills also state that all Idahoans that work and pay taxes are “essential” and both bills protect Idahoan’s rights to peacefully assemble and worship as well as protect Idahoans right to bear arms. The Governor’s Constitutional authority with regards to the National Guard is also affirmed in these bills. As the Legislature looked at these statutes, it was apparent that they needed to be updated from the time they were originally written. We will now wait and see what the Governor does with them.
It has been an interesting session and it circumstances here and in Washington DC seem to keep to be keeping us here longer than we should be.