|The legislature seems to have saved the worst bills for last, and I voted against most of the ones noted below. My next newsletter will be a review of the entire 2023 legislative session, which will cover amended versions of bills voted on last week that I covered in previous newsletters.
Constitutional amendment to change requirements for a citizen-driven ballot initiative (SJR101 – passed the Senate, failed in the House). The Idaho constitution enables citizens to place a proposed law on the ballot, but empowers the legislature to determine the process for doing so. Over the years, the legislature has raised the bar for placing a citizen initiative on the ballot to a very high level. The current requirement is signatures from 6% of voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. In 2021, the Idaho Supreme Court overturned a law passed by the legislature that raised the requirement to be 6% from all 35 legislative districts, saying that this would effectively nullify the constitutional right for citizen-driven ballot initiatives.
This piece of legislation is an end-run around the Supreme Court by amending the constitution itself, thus making the law they passed in 2021 constitutional. Placing an amendment to the constitution on the ballot requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate and the House. The Governor cannot veto a joint House/Senate resolution. The House vote for this amendment was 38-31, which was nine votes short of the 47 votes needed to reach a two-thirds margin, thus killing it. I voted AGAINST this resolution. The legislature should not be in the business of taking constitutional rights away from the people.
Restore Child Care grants (S1203 – passed the House and Senate, to the governor). This bill restores the funding for Child Care providers through June, which was abruptly cut off in March. I voted FOR this bill, which should have never been necessary in the first place.
Property tax relief fiasco (H292, H198, H376). Here’s the saga of the legislature’s convoluted, overly-complex and not-very-successful attempt at real, meaningful property tax relief:
I originally voted for H292, but after further analysis, I voted AGAINST H292 when I voted to sustain the Governor’s veto. I voted FOR the Senate’s amended version of H198, which was a cleaner bill. I voted AGAINST H376, which was an inadequate fix to the problems with H292. It is disappointing that a majority party that controls 82% of the legislature and 100% of the executive branch couldn’t arrive at a clean, clear bill that provides meaningful property tax relief – instead of the 20-page “Frankenbill” we were forced to consider, and whose ramifications still aren’t fully understood.
- March 14: The House passes H292.
- March 20: The Senate passes H292.
- March 27: The Governor vetoes H292.
- March 27: The Senate “radiator caps” H198 (completely rewrites a bill to create a new version of H292).
- March 28: The House overrides the Governor’s veto of H292.
- March 28: House rejects the Senate’s changes to H198, thus killing it.
- March 28: House passes H376, which fixes a transportation funding issue the Governor objected to in H292.
- March 29: Senate passes H376 (awaiting the Governor’s signature)
- March 29: Senate overrides the Governor’s veto of H292, making it law.
NOTE: H292 includes a hidden gift to for-profit private schools. It gets rid of the March election date for school bonds and levies. This will be a disaster to most public school districts which now depend on bonds and levies to close the funding gap created by the legislature. If bonds and levies don’t pass, public schools will continue to deteriorate – making private and other school choices look better by comparison. I mention this in a broader commentary about the funding of education during a meeting of the House Education committee (CLICK HERE).
Accessory dwellings (H166 – passed the House and Senate, to the Governor). This bill prohibits an HOA from imposing a blanket ban on any accessory dwelling at a residence. However, it allows the HOA to establish certain constraints, particularly requiring that any additional occupancy be contained within or attached to the footprint of the residence. I voted FOR this bill which balances homeowner flexibility with HOA responsibilities.
Change Idaho abortion law to a presumption of innocence instead of guilt (H374 – passed the House and Senate, to the Governor). This bill removed the requirement that doctors provide an “affirmative defense” for their actions if prosecuted. American jurisprudence is based on the assumption of innocent until proven guilty. Idaho’s abortion law was the opposite: guilty until proven innocent. Removing that un-American requirement simply put this law on par with a founding principle of American justice. This bill had a real opportunity to make important, substantive changes to Idaho’s abortion laws, such as:
I would have voted AGAINST this charade that tried to masquerade as real reform to Idaho’s draconian, mean-spirited anti-abortion law. Instead, I chose to walk out of the House Chamber before the vote in protest, along with my caucus colleagues. I don’t take such action lightly. However, there are times when simply casting a vote isn’t enough. This legislature’s love for the pre-born is only superseded by its cruel disregard for the post-born.
- Not throwing doctors in jail for 10 years (and the chilling affect this has on Idaho’s medical profession in general).
- Allow doctors to protect the health of the mother, not just the life of the mother (which would require the mother to be on death’s doorstep before a life-saving abortion could be provided).
Criminalize transportation of a minor to another state to receive a legal abortion (H242 – passed the House and Senate, to the Governor). This so-called "abortion trafficking" bill extends Idaho’s anti-abortion laws into other states. It would allow the father, mother, aunt or uncle of the woman seeking an abortion to sue the doctor for at least $20,000 (up to four years after the fact) and throw the transporter in jail for 2-5 years. I voted AGAINST this forced-birth bill which is likely unconstitutional and will cost taxpayers millions of dollars to defend in court.
Allow brandishing a firearm if one feels threatened (S1173 – passed the House and Senate, to the Governor). This is not a Second Amendment bill, it is legalized murder. If a person carrying a gun feels threatened by someone, they can show that gun as a means to deter or intimidate the other party. What makes it “legalized murder” is when this bill is paired with Idaho’s current Stand Your Ground law. That bill allows you shoot someone dead if you have reason to believe they are a threat to you.
Imagine this scenario: It is 1:00 am in downtown Boise. It's dark. You feel threatened by someone approaching you. You pull out your concealed hand gun to scare them off. The other person now feels you are threatening them because you’re holding a gun. They grab their concealed gun and legally shoot you because – in their mind – you presented yourself as a threat to them. I voted AGAINST this bill, which makes the false assumption that everyone will exercise good judgment and behave reasonably in every confrontational situation. This is just one more step toward allowing any individual with a gun to be judge, jury and executioner. It could be your loved one in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Replace silent prayer with vocal prayer (H182 – passed the House and Senate, to the Governor). This is the sneaky bill that was originally advertised as a “silent prayer” bill, but actually allowed state personnel to lead vocal prayers in schools (e.g. in a team huddle at a football game). I pointed the contradiction in this bill during floor debate. The Senate then amended the bill by changing “silent prayer” to just “prayer.” I voted AGAINST this bill which forces minors of various religious backgrounds to have a different religious belief preached to them by a government employee who has authority over them (such as a high school coach).
Coronavirus Stop Act (S1130 – passed the House and Senate, to the Governor). This is yet another COVID bill that inserts the heavy hand of government into private businesses in regard to vaccination requirements. This bill goes further by extending this decree for any future variant or mutation of the coronavirus, regardless as to its mortality rate (10%, 20%, whatever). That is legalized ignorance. And it ignores the rights of someone who does not want to be exposed to an unvaccinated person. Under this bill, if an elderly family member with a suppressed immune system is receiving in-home care from a private agency, this law prevents that agency from knowing if their employee was vaccinated – thus exposing your loved one to a potential life-threatening risk. I voted AGAINST this bill which fails to balance the rights of an employee with the rights of the business owner, co-worker and customer.