As you know, I have had a total knee replacement and have missed about two weeks of the session. The shutdown we had for COVID -19 affected my scheduling of the knee surgery. Long story short, I had a deadline to complete the surgery, or would have to have all the prep work repeated. The surgery went very well and I’m back up and around. I was able to watch the Legislative session every day and I was able to pair on many of the votes while I was recovering. I did make a trip Boise for the Ethics vote to expel a member who was found guilty of behavior unbecoming of a member of the legislature. That was a vote that I couldn’t pair on and had to be present to cast that vote. Minutes before the scheduled vote the Representative resigned. This has been a very unfortunate occurrence for all involved. The most important issue to me was to preserve the integrity of the House of Representatives, for those members who have served before, for those serving now, and for the those who will serve in the future.
The last few weeks have been fast paced with several bills coming at the end of session. That seems to happen every year. Tax policy was the topic that was on everyone’s mind when we arrived in Boise. H 380 is a tax bill that will help anyone that pays state income tax. The bill lowers the rate and sets Idaho’s highest rate for both individuals and corporations at 6.5 %. H 389 deals with property tax and should help most everyone with the property tax burden. The Legislature can set the policy for property tax, but the reality is your property taxes are set by the City and County governments.
The last few days the Senate passed S 1211 which is a bill that provides more tools to help control the wolf population. Most Idahoans believe that we have too many wolves. The current population is estimated is 1750 wolves and that population is growing by about 30% per year. Governor signed S 1211 on May 6th. The State has been criticized for this new bill by many groups. Newspaper articles have stated that we are trying to reduce the population by 90%. This is not true, but we didn’t handle the public relations of the new bill as well as we should have. The wolf plan that was written in 2002 called for Idaho to have 150 wolves and the wolf lovers are using this number to install fear in the general public about this new legislation. The goal is to stabilize the population. No one wants to see the wolves relisted as endangered species.
We have spent considerable time on trying to limit the Governor’s powers in time of emergency. So far, the Governor has vetoed all those efforts. There are four more bills that are in the Governors’ office that clarifies what can be done during an emergency. The governor’s staff has helped draft S1217. There were three House bills H391, H392, and H393 that also limited the Governor’s power. We are recessed until Wednesday to see what action he takes on these bills. I have not supported any of these bills to limit the Governor’s ability to act during an emergency. During this session, I don’t believe that the Legislature has demonstrated that we would be able to make the swift decisions needed in times of emergency.
There have been some highlights during the session concerning Idaho’s water. There was $50 million for the IDWR’s for water projects. Some of this money should be used in the Bear River Basin to help enhance the water supply. The Governor signed the Cloud Seeding bill and with the drought that we are currently in, I am hopeful that we can get some cloud seeding in the Bear River Basin this fall. In the short, I keep looking to the skies and praying for rain!
This has been the longest session in history. It has been the most contentious of the thirteen sessions that I have been associated with. It continues to be an honor to serve as your Representative. I am sure the we will all be happy to see the State return to more normal conditions and the COVID pandemic runs its course. We are we fortunate that Idaho has continued to lead the United States in this recovery as our economy has remained strong.