Idaho House of Representatives
Rep. Joe Alfieri’s bill would require Idaho school districts to only hold bond and levy elections in May or November. Similar legislation was introduced in 2021 and 2022, but each got stuck in the Senate.
Current Idaho law allows school districts to hold elections on four days throughout the year: The second Tuesday in March, the third Tuesday in May, the last Tuesday in August and the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Alfieri argues his bill will increase voter turnout and lower costs for the state since there will be fewer elections to run each year.
Property Tax Relief
Members of the House proposed three different solutions to provide property tax relief to Idahoans.
Sen. C. Scott Grow wants to use a portion (4.5%) of the state’s sales tax collection to reduce homeowners’ primary residence. The bill proposes using $150 million of the state’s projected budget surplus in order to offer property tax reductions in the current fiscal year.
Rep. Bruce Skaug’s bill would reinstate the homeowner’s property tax exemption index. The homeowner’s exemption states 50% of the value of your home and up to one acre of land — maximum: $100,000 — is exempt from property tax.
The legislation increases the percentage of assessed valuation eligible for exemption from 50% to 55%.
Skaug said the removal of the index led to increases in property taxes for owners even as nonhomeowner properties and commercial properties experienced property tax reductions.
The final proposal for property tax relief came from Speaker Mike Moyle. The bill introduces several solutions, including increasing the homeowner’s exemption from $125,000 to $150,000.
According to the bill’s statement of purpose, Moyle said “The purpose of this legislation to provide immediate, ongoing, and permanent property tax relief.”
Relieving property taxes is only one focus of Moyle’s bill. The legislation also increases funding for schools based on average daily attendance and eliminates the March and August election dates for school bonds and levies.
Sen. Doug Ricks said the legislature likely won’t adopt all three pieces of legislation.
“They’re kind of competing,” Ricks said. “It wouldn’t make sense to pass all three.”
Moving Idaho/Oregon border
Rep. Judy Boyle and Barbara Ehardt sponsored House Joint Memorial 1, a nonbinding petition inviting the Oregon Legislature to begin discussions with the Idaho Legislature about the potential to relocate the border between the two states.
“For quite a few years now, eastern Oregon has been quite unhappy with their state — Portland seems to run everything there — and they have been asking for quite some time if they could move the border and become part of Idaho,” Boyle told the House State Affairs Committee.
The desire to relocate the border has gained a lot of traction in the Greater Idaho movement, which seeks to add counties in eastern Oregon to Idaho to add more conservative counties and help those conservatives living in eastern Oregon feel more represented.
In order for the border to change, the Idaho Legislature and Oregon Legislature would have to sign off, and it would require an act of Congress.
Treating gender dysphoria equals genital mutilation?
The Vulnerable Child Protective Act amends the existing state ban on female genital mutilation to include puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sex reassignment surgeries when administered to children struggling with gender dysphoria.
Eliminating “no-excuse” absentee ballots
Rep. Alfieri introduced legislation to limit the use of absentee ballots in Idaho.
According to the bill’s statement of purpose, Alfieri said “With the increased use of Absentee ballots — as high as 30% of the vote total in the most recent election — it is important that we specify the reason and purpose of the absentee ballots. Though the use of absentee ballots has been expanded in recent years, largely because of the Covid-19 scare, its original intent was to provide access to voters who were physically unable to vote for reasons beyond their control. Its use was never intended as a convenience, which is what it has most recently become.”
If the bill passed, the following people would be eligible for an absentee ballot:
— Active service members in the military.
— People with an illness, disability or hospitalization.
— Electors unable to be at the polls due to work or attending a university.
— Electors out of the county on Election Day due to a religious mission.
The bill received pushback from Republicans and Democrats, arguing the legislation could lead to voter suppression and increased lines on election day.
Amending the constitution for ballot initiatives
The Senate introduced a constitutional amendment expanding the requirements needed to put initiatives on the ballot. Currently, those wanting to put an initiative on the ballot need signatures from 6% of registered voters in 18 of Idaho’s voting districts. The proposed amendment would require signatures from all 35 districts.
Similar legislation received the governor’s signature in April 2021. However, the Idaho Supreme Court overturned it.
The amendment will be put on a ballot for Idahoans to vote on in November 2024 if the resolution passes. In order to pass, the amendment needs to receive a supermajority — two-thirds — vote in the House and Senate.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Ricks said. “Rather than just putting that question in the hands of a legislature, it puts it to the people of Idaho through a ballot question, so I don’t see a problem with it.”
Ricks expressed concerns that the current law allows people to get all the signatures from the four urban areas in the state (Coeur d’Alene, Twin Falls, Boise and Idaho Falls).
“The argument some people have is ‘What about the smaller counties and the smaller cities?'” Ricks said. “The big cities tend to be a little more liberal-leaning, whereas people in more rural areas would not have a say on that question. I like the idea that it spreads out and allows more of the smaller cities and counties and districts that have a voice as well on that.”
You can receive updates on legislation during the session here.