Mark Harris

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To date, Idaho has no cases of Coronavirus. This is expected to change as the virus seems to be spreading across the country. The legislature appropriated $2 million to be added to the $4.5 million from the federal government to be used to fight the spread of this virus. Governor Little has organized a task force to address the issue and take measures to test and treat when there is an outbreak in Idaho. In the meantime, it is wise to keep washing our hands and if you are sick, stay home.

This week has been busy for the Senate State Affairs Committee. We had three hours of testimony over two days hearing House Bill 500 (H 500). This bill ensures that girls and women continue to have opportunities to compete in girls- or women- only sports. The bill prohibits boys and men from participating in these sports because of their physical differences, such as size, and strength. The bill is receiving attention because it bars transgender people from participating in girl’s or women’s only teams. There were many who showed up to testify on both sides of the issue. The committee voted to send the bill to the amending order in the Senate where it was amended and will be heard and debated on the Senate floor.

Another bill that has generated some controversy was House Bill 440 (H 440). This proposed legislation prohibits the State of Idaho from discriminating against or granting special treatment to any person based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, or national origin. In other words, when hiring a person, the State of Idaho would have to treat everyone equal and hire on ability and qualifications for the job. There were problems with some language in this bill that would have affected federal funding with the Department of Labor. This bill was amended and will be debated on the Senate Floor.

A third bill that gathered a large crowd was Senate Bill 1385 (S 1385), also nicknamed the “Trigger Bill”. If the United States Supreme Court returns the ability and authority back to the states to prohibit abortion, this bill will make abortion illegal in Idaho, with the exceptions of rape and incest. This bill was passed by the Senate State Affairs Committee on a party line vote and sent to the Senate Floor.

Next on the agenda for this committee are two bills relating to firearms. One bill deals with allowing any legal citizen of the United States to legally carry a firearm in the State of Idaho. The other bill allows school employees, who have an enhanced carry permit, to be able to carry in schools as long as they notify the school administration.

With the escalation of bills comes more interesting debates on the Senate Floor. One bill dealing with freezing property taxes, House Bill 409 (H 409), was debated on the Senate floor this week and was defeated. As you may remember, this bill would freeze a taxing entity such as a county’s or city’s ability to collect taxes but will do nothing to lower the increased value of property. This hinders the ability of our counties and cities to provide services and function properly, especially in the more rural counties that have already tightened down their finances. Besides this fact, it is the responsibility of the local government to collect and administer property taxes. This is not a function of the state legislature.

This week a group of legislators were honored by Blue Cross “Steps for Schools”. I am pleased to say, Representative Christensen, Representative Gibbs and I were all participants and winners of this program. Every year I pick a different school within our district to donate to. This year the school I selected is Swan Valley Elementary. They will receive a check for $500.

I am honored to serve as your District 32 State Senator. The filing time has come for those who wish to serve. I have filed for re-election and with your permission and vote, I would love to continue to serve you. Please contact me with any questions or concerns at mharris@senate.idaho.gov.

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