As the session is winding down, we are placing a priority on voting on several Senate and House Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) bills. Several Legislators are still working on a series of tax and transportation bills we want to get finalized before we leave Boise. The House passed House Bill 332 (H332) this week, which is a proposal that gives a $389 million tax cut. If approved by the Senate and the Governor, this would be one of the biggest tax relief bills in Idaho history. The funds from this tax cut would come from the state general fund and be retroactive to January 1, 2020. This would also include $169 million in ongoing tax breaks and give a one time tax rebate of $220 million. H332 will now come over to the Senate to be heard and debated. We must be cautious and weigh this tax bill with the transportation bill that we are hearing about that includes bonding in the $57 million range and uses approximately 4.5% of the sales tax. Though I believe tax cuts are great, I do not think we want to overdo it. With the policies coming out of Washington DC, the future is uncertain. My dad always said, “It’s the good years that break you.” There is still a lot of work to do in these areas.
In the Senate State Affairs Committee, we introduced and passed out of Committee, Senate Bill 1183 (S1183). S1183 is a new rendition of what is known as the “Fetal Heartbeat Bill.” This bill prohibits abortion procedures when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. A detectible fetal heartbeat, in law and medical practice, is the indicator and sign of life of a baby. If passed, this legislation would become effective upon any decision by a United States Appellate Court upholding a restriction or ban of an abortion of a baby with a heartbeat. This bill is now on the Senate Floor and will be debated soon.
One bill that came late in this session is House Bill 316 (H316). This bill places a limit on a county’s medical indigent program and the State’s Catastrophic Health Care Fund. This would prevent anyone who qualifies for Medicaid or insurance from receiving any assistance through these programs. H 316 also eliminates state aid for public health districts and would give this responsibility to the counties. This bill was brought to us by the counties with some input from the health districts. I worry about the impact to our hospitals with some of the language in this bill as it may result in the hospitals not getting paid in some cases. H316 may have to be amended to address these concerns. This bill passed the House and will be heard in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this week.
Legislation is moving fast in what we hope are the final days of this Legislative Session. However, we still have questions on how the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) from the federal government, will affect us in Idaho. As of right now, we are still unsure what stipulations will be on those federal dollars, when they will come, and how long the Legislature will have to stay in session to appropriate those funds. We have developed plans on how to deal with this uncertainty, and we may have to adjust those plans as we finish up finalizing budgets and other important bills that will affect the lives of the citizens of Idaho.