Local legislators defend their votes on controversial legislation

Doug Ricks (center) answers questions about property tax relief coming to Idahoans in the next year. Photo credit: Abigayl Finch.
Doug Ricks (center) answers questions about property tax relief coming to Idahoans in the next year. Photo credit: Abigayl Finch.

Legislators representing Madison County met with their constituents on April 15 to discuss the highs and lows of the legislative session and answer citizen questions about laws that were passed. 

Representative Britt Raybould expressed hope for the future of the state as a result of the progress made during the session. 

“I can look at 2023 as an opportunity for the state of Idaho to not only continue making forward progress but to continue making investments for the future that will pay dividends for future generations,” Raybould said. 

Over 88 days, the Idaho Legislature passed 317 pieces of legislation. Photo credit: Abigayl Finch.

Property Tax Relief

All three legislators agreed that one of the greatest achievements of the session was $355 million in property tax relief for Idahoans. Senator Doug Ricks, chair of the Local Government and Taxation Committee, said that property tax relief is something that has been desired and requested a lot over the last several years. 

HB 292 was one of only four bills to get vetoed by the governor. However, both the House and Senate overrode the governor’s veto. The legislature also passed HB 376 to address the governor’s concerns.

“In a way, it kind of felt good to override the governor’s veto,” Ricks said. “It’s been 16 years since the legislature has been able to override the governor’s veto.” 

Ricks said the property tax relief from the legislature will be listed separately on one’s property tax statement so citizens will be able to know how much was given to reduce their property tax.

Ricks said citizens should expect to see a 13% to 20% decrease in property taxes, but that the exact amount will depend on how much cities, counties and school districts allocate for their budgets.

Each year, a city, county and school district is allowed to increase its budget by up to 3%. However, the more they increase their budgets, the less property tax relief will be felt by citizens.

“They’ve got quite a range there. If they start accelerating that a little higher, it’ll negate a lot of the amount,” Ricks said. “So we’re hoping those taxing districts will hold on and help out here.”

Idaho Launch program

Citizens asked for clarification on why Raybould and Weber voted in favor of the governor’s launch program, a bill many Republicans voted against. 

Raybould said that the bill is targeted at students who might not pursue the traditional college education and instead might pursue technical training and other in-demand trades and giving them financial aid to fund these activities.

“I want to ensure that we are not ignoring those students,” Raybould said. “We want kids to be successful. We want them to feel like there’s an opportunity for them to pursue and receive training in this state so that they can have jobs in this state and build their families in the state.”

When one citizen critiqued the bill as a “Biden-type jobs bill” and that the bill had “Marxist values” and that students wouldn’t have the incentive to work hard, Raybould reassured citizens that students would still have skin in the game. 

“To provide some additional context, it can only cover costs up to 90% of the cost of tuition, so we’re still asking students to have skin in the game,” Raybould said. “We also still have good outcome-based metrics in place that essentially say if students were to walk away from a program or to fail the program then the state would get the money back. Essentially, we’re saying that if we’re going to make an investment with taxpayer dollars, we expect there to be a positive outcome as a result of that investment.”

When pressed about whether there was any requirement for students to stay in Idaho after the program was completed, Raybould said the legislation did not include that. 

Weber also defended his vote for the program. 

“This is an investment in Idaho in our minds,” Weber said. “We take an investment, it comes back. I’m a firm believer that as we sit here, we can look back and we see those that have gone before that have made similar sacrifices to where we are today, and we pay it forward.”


Governor Little vetoed HB 314, a veto many in attendance were hoping would be overridden. However, the override failed by one vote. 

The bill would have required public schools and community libraries to take reasonable steps in restricting children’s access to obscene or harmful material. According to the bill, any minor, parent, or legal guardian who prevailed in an action brought against a school or public library may recover $2,500 in statutory damages as well as actual damages and any other relief available by law. 

While Weber agreed he didn’t want children exposed to pornographic material and voted for the bill, he didn’t agree with the level of prevalence with which the problem was being presented. 

“Every one of us sitting here will say we do not want that material exposed to our kids,” Weber said. “Representative Raybold and I agree with that. We voted for it. But to the level that some of these folks put it, we were like, ‘Is this coming in from out of state?’ A lot of these bills come into our state and they’re saying we got to get ahead of this. You better pass legislation.”

Weber also said the issue wasn’t the government’s role to try and legislate on. 

“It starts in the home and we have to have parents that re-engage in reaching their kids,” Weber said. And we’re not exempt from it, it’s the world we live in. It’s out there. We can go to a library. We can go wherever and the parent has to re-engage and teach and help them understand. I mean, for heaven’s sake, you catch your kid looking at inappropriate material. How did you handle it? Do you out like it’s the end of the world or use it as a teaching moment? It’s up to you. Government shouldn’t control that, parents should control that.” 

Raybould agreed that the issue should be decided at a local level with school boards as much as possible before calling for state-wide legislation.

“They’re supposed to be listening,” Raybould said. They’re supposed to be working with the folks that they represent and that policies are in place that represent the local community. So why wouldn’t you take the path of saying, ‘Let’s figure out whether or not we can solve this at the local level’? If it can’t be solved at the local level, then escalate as opposed to automatically jumping to the next level of, ‘let’s just legislate as opposed to attempting to find a local solution’.”

She compared it to how the state addressed concerns about students not using the bathroom related to their biological sex.

“There were different policies around the state and there was a lot of concern about how those policies are being implemented back to the point of school districts weren’t listening to what the community was telling them,” Raybould said. “Now there is a uniform policy in place that requires students to use the bathroom that goes along with their assigned gender. That is now law in the state of Idaho and it’s uniform for every school district in the state.”

Raybould said that the next town hall meeting will likely be held in the fall as the next legislative session approaches. To learn more about what local legislators are doing in the meantime, visit their respective websites: 

— Jon Weber

— Doug Ricks 

— Britt Raybould