Mark Harris

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In the Senate, we passed some legislation imposing a state-wide ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. This bill, Senate Bill (S 1314) treats the use of an electronic device behind the wheel as an infraction. I did not vote for this legislation. It is largely an urban issue and there should be an aspect of personal responsibility without having to pass a law to influence this behavior. Senate Bill 1314 will now go to the House to be heard and debated.

I had the opportunity to present Senate Joint Memorial 110 (SJM110) on the Senate Floor. This memorial emphasizes the importance of the Columbia- Snake River system and the Port of Lewiston to the economy and livelihoods of Idaho citizens. Idaho ranks as the third largest agriculture state in the west. Nearly 10% of the nation’s total wheat exports move through the four dams on the Snake River via the barge system. These dams also generate clean, affordable power to 22 rural Idaho utilities serving over 137,000 Idahoans. Over the past decade, 3.79 million tons of commodities have been shipped down this river system every year providing an environmentally friendly way of transportation and giving our farmers access to foreign markets. SJM 110 passed the Senate and will be sent to the House.

Property taxes continue to be an issue around the state and the legislature. House Bill 409 (H 409) passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. H 409 places a freeze on the property tax portion of taxing district’s budgets for one year. This bill would affect counties and cities but makes an exception for school districts. There are some questions of whether or not this would help homeowners. It freezes the taxing entity’s ability to collect taxes but will not lower the increasing value of the homeowner’s property. This bill causes concern among rural counties and cities that they would not be able to continue to provide the services we all expect and would hinder their ability to function.

Another substantial bill to come out of the House is House Bill 515 (H 515). This bill deals with medical debt collectors. There are horror stories of people that have had a medical debt of $295 that ballooned to $6,500 with attorney fees. This was caused mostly by some medical debt collectors. H 515 will set some limits on the amount of legal fees that can be collected. Hospitals got caught up in this issue and there will be some added regulations geared toward them. It has been argued that there is a lack of transparency in healthcare, especially in the billing process. Patients have been sued for services they do not remember and doctors they do not know. H 515 will also require hospital providers to submit a bill within 45 days and give a consolidated summary to patients within 60 days. This bill was passed by the House and will now be scheduled to be heard in the Senate.

It is the time in the session where the more controversial bills will begin to show up. I encourage anyone that has a concern to please contact me at mharris@senate.idaho.gov.

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