Note: This section covers bills not addressed in my previous newsletters. The final disposition of pending bills previously discussed will be covered in my final newsletter for the 2020 legislative session. You’ll also see more Senate bills in this newsletter as the ones originating in the Senate have started to make their way to the House.
Raising career ladder minimum salaries for experienced teachers (HB523 – passed the House, in the Senate). This important and significant bill sponsored by the Governor adds a new “advanced professional” rung to the teacher pay career ladder with increased salaries across the entire ladder over the next five years (see page 7 of the bill). This complements the Governor’s 2019 bill that increased starting teacher pay. Even with the salary increases in this bill, Idaho still lags in providing competitive teacher pay, but it is a step in the right direction. I voted for this bill.
Appropriations budget for higher education (HB603 – failed in the House). The House voted down the entire higher education budget, with 10 members of the House Education committee voting against it. This is what happens when legislators treat education as an expense to be minimized instead of an investment in our kid’s future. I voted for this appropriation. A new bill will have to be written.
Reduced technology funding for larger school districts (HB576 – passed the House, in the Senate). This bill takes technology funding from large school districts and redistributes it to smaller ones. It changes the disbursement of funds from student enrollment to grants of up to $50,000 on a first-come, first-served basis. This bill will significantly reduce funding for the West Ada and Boise school districts (which are both in District 15). I voted against this divisive bill.
Enabling industry professionals to become CTE teachers (SB1329 – passed the Senate and House, sent to the Governor). This bill enables the recruitment and retention of industry professionals to teach in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. I voted for this bill.
Reduction in teacher certification requirements (HB599 – passed the House, in the Senate). This shortcut bill is yet another attempt to reduce the requirements to become a certified teacher in Idaho. While a reasonable case can be made for revisiting and simplifying some of the current requirements, simply creating an easier path without fully vetting it with the State Board of Education is both reckless and inconsiderate. I voted against this bill.
Transfer management of data management within education (HB625 – failed in the House Education committee). This bill was an attempt to expose a politically motivated action against the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Sherri Ybarra). The Appropriations committee (JFAC) decided without notice to transfer K-12 data management responsibility from Ybarra’s office to the State Board of Education. The consequences of reassigning this critical function was never analyzed. I voted for this bill in committee. We need to eliminate petty politics and personality differences from decision-making processes.
UPDATE: Property Tax Freeze bill (HB409 – passed the House, failed in the Senate). The Senate killed this deceptively named property tax bill that would have likely increased property taxes for many residential homeowners (click here for more). I voted against this bill.
Remove deadline for applying for a homestead exemption (HB562 – passed the House, in the Senate). This bill removes the April 15 deadline for a homeowner to apply for their homeowner’s exemption, enabling them to apply for it at any time of the year. I voted for this reasonable bill, which provides a modest level of property tax relief for at least some people.
First-time home buyer’s savings account (HB589 – passed the House, in the Senate). This bill sounds good but is misleading and riddled with loopholes. In addition to taking millions of dollars away from education and infrastructure each year, this bill could allow wealthier people (who are not likely to be first-time home buyers) to shelter tens of thousands of dollars from taxes. It also fails to address the real problem for first-time home buyers, which is the cost for a new house right now. I voted against this bill.
Sales tax exemption for data center servers (HB521 – passed the House, in the Senate). This is yet another special sales tax exemption that reduces general fund revenue that is needed for education, transportation and other vital state-funded services. I voted against this bill.
Notification of rent increase (HB594 – passed the House, in the Senate). This bill requires landlords to provide 30-day advance written notice prior to increasing one’s rent or if they intend to not renew a lease. I voted for this bill.
Tenant eviction (HB461 – passed the House, in the Senate). This bill allows any landlord to forcibly evict a tenant and remove their possessions within 72 hours upon a court order of eviction. The problem is that it doesn’t let a judge grant more time based on extenuating circumstances (i.e. illness, disabilities, family emergencies, etc.). I voted against this bill, but would have been more supportive if it allowed for some judicial discretion.
Tenant walkthrough and security deposit protections (HB595 – failed in the House). This bill would have defined a process for both the landlord and tenant to conduct a walkthrough at the time of move in and move out, and ensure the tenant received an itemized receipt for the costs of repairs and cleaning before withholding portions of a security deposit. I voted for this bill.
Health and Welfare / Consumer Protection
Limitations on reporting child abuse (HB455 – failed in the House). This bill would have prevented certain people who observed signs of child abuse from being required to report it to Child Protection Services. I voted against this bill, which would have put more children at risk.
Unlicensed substance abuse treatment facilities for teens (HB340 – passed the House, in the Senate). This bill exempts a residential treatment facility for teens from state licensure. It risks putting the most vulnerable girls and boys in close proximity with other troubled individuals without proper state oversight. I voted against this dangerous bill, which was primarily for the benefit one facility owner – who is also currently a Representative from Legislative District 2.
Daycare safety (HB549 – passed the House, in the Senate). This is a revised version of HB312 which failed earlier in the House. It updates child care licensing to comply with federal regulations and the Idaho Child Care Program standards. Some of the safety measures in the original bill were removed, but passing this bill will secure millions of dollars in federal funding. I voted for this bill.
Occupational (universal) licensing (SB1531 – passed the Senate and House, sent to the Governor). This much ballyhooed bill is a bad solution to the growing problem of filling openings for skilled jobs in Idaho that require state certification or licensing. It allows people licensed in a different state to be employed in Idaho – regardless as to the other state’s licensing standards. This effectively lowers Idaho’s standards to the lowest standards in the country. It also keeps wages low by attracting workers with lower qualifications than their Idaho-licensed counterparts. I voted against this bill due to its long-term risk to public safety and potential impact on wages.
Self-service storage facilities (S1264 – passed the Senate and House, sent to the Governor). This bill is fine – except for three words. If you click on the link and look at page 2, line 45, you’ll see the words “regardless of cause.” This appears to absolve the operator of a self-storage facility of any negligence on their part. I don’t nit-pick bills, but sometimes a few words can make a world of difference, especially when it could deny a consumer legitimate protections. After consultation with the bill’s sponsor, I voted against this bill, but I would have voted for it had those three words been removed.
Government and Judicial affairs
Access to public lands (killed in the House). This is one of the major disappointments of the current session (click here for more). Some changes in the composition of the legislature will have to take place in order to restore your right to fully access and enjoy your public lands without intimidation.
Limitations on records requests by the public (HB601 – passed the House, in the Senate). This bill runs counter the public’s demand for more transparency in government. It allows legislators to legally hide documents from public view, including: requests for analysis to other government entities, certain personal communications between legislators, and identification of citizens communicating with a legislator. I voted against this bill.
Opting out of a water or sewer district (HB609 – killed in the Local Government committee). This was a careless bill. It would have changed the process for administering water and sewage districts statewide without prior consultation with the state or local agencies affected by it. I voted against this bill. Stopping bad legislation is as important as passing good legislation.
Mandatory sentencing for trafficking in heroin and fentanyl (HB469 – passed the House, held up in the Senate). This is a sneaky bill. It slightly raises the minimum quantity of heroin possession to trigger mandatory minimum sentencing, but it creates new mandatory minimum sentencing for fentanyl possession. It’s like saying “I’ll fix your broken arm if you let me amputate your leg.” I voted against this bill which exacerbates the underlying problem of mandatory minimum sentencing that takes reasonable discretion away from judges and increases taxpayer costs for prisons.