Things are getting a bit testy here in Boise. Tempers are flaring upon our side of the rotunda. Members of the public that come to the Capitol to participate in the legislative process are also becoming unruly. We have had a controversial bill that lead to a demonstration that ended up with a few people being arrested. Rep. Chaney, Chairman of the Judiciary and Rules Committee, had protesters outside his home in Caldwell. The protesters had torches and pitchforks. They remained outside his house for about two hours. They left a stuffed animal dressed in a tee shirt with his name on it with a hangman noose on his doorstep. I am grateful for the increased presence of the Idaho State Police here in the Capitol. They bring a calming atmosphere and can stop protests before they get out of hand. The bill that caused some concern outlawed protests or picketing at legislators or elected officials homes. That is one advantage I have living in Niter!
The House had H135 before the floor on Tuesday. The bill limited the Governor’s ability to act during a declared emergency. This was the fifth or sixth rewrite of the bill. There are some very good parts of the bill. The bill says that all jobs are essential and I liked that part of it. I find fault with that part of the bill that limits the Governor’s ability to act on an emergency after the declaration has been issued for 60 days without consulting the legislature. I can imagine situations where this could be a problem. I don’t believe that you manage emergencies by a committee. I voted NO on this bill for that reason. I am in hopes that the Senate will amend the bill and remove that provision.
There is a group of Legislators with very high Idaho Freedom Foundation Scores. This group has established one of their priorities removing the sales tax on groceries. The removal of the sales tax on groceries will cost about $135 million dollars. Their legislation has not been introduced. As a result, they started objecting to a procedure that speeds up the legislative process. They have required that bills be read before the House. As you can imagine, this slows up the process, as some bills are very long. You can visualize a fifty-page bill that we change one word in having to be read. That takes about two hours and accomplishes nothing. The people requesting that the bills be read are out running a round the Capitol while the bills are being read. This is a tactic that has little use except to make everyone a bit angry.
H199 is a tax bill that Chairman Harris introduced in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. The bill does two very important things. It lowers the sales tax on all purchases for 6% to 5.3% and it also lowers the income tax rate from 6.95% to 6.5%. This bill gives about $252 million of tax relief but doesn’t remove the sales tax on groceries. The bill is waiting for a hearing in the Rev and Tax Committee. In all of my analysis, this is a better tax relief bill than removing the sales tax on groceries. The ICC will only be satisfied when we remove the sales tax on groceries. I am convinced that the only thing that matters is how much money I have left in my pocket after all the taxes are paid, not whether I paid sales tax on groceries. H171 is a tax bill I have sponsored. It was on the floor for a hearing today. This bill puts the burden of an audit on the individual issuing a ST 191 sales tax exemption form.
The cloud seeding bill that I been working on is still in the drafting stage and the interested parties are quite a ways apart. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get a bill that we have agreement on. I will keep you posted.
Let me finish by saying that I talk a lot better than I write. If you have an issue or want to talk about how I vote on a bill, drop me a note or give me a call. Our votes are a matter of public record. I am in hopes that we can move forward and learn to disagree without becoming disagreeable. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you in this Legislative process. I sincerely do value the notes, emails, and phone calls offering your opinion. My contact is 208-547-7447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.