Notable new laws in 2023
Idaho Launch Grant program (H24, S1167). This program allows eligible high school graduates to receive a grant of $8,000 to be redeemed at the workforce training provider, career technical program, or community college of their choice. Preference will be given to students pursuing in-demand careers based on the needs of Idaho’s job market. I voted FOR this program, which makes an important investment in higher education for young adults. Note: S1167 was a “trailer” bill that amended and reduced and placed constraints on some of the benefits in the original bill (H24).
Financial literacy (H92). This bill requires teaching a financial literacy course in public high schools. The class would cover the basics of real-world personal finance and how to make sound financial decisions in one’s everyday life. I voted FOR and co-sponsored this bill.
Add career exploration to public school course curriculum (H269). This bill defines a career exploration experience for 7th or 8th grade students to assist them in identifying potential interests and possible career paths. I voted FOR this excellent bill, which complements the fiscal literacy class mentioned above.
Parental rights pertaining to public schools (H163). This bill encourages communication between parents and schools. I voted FOR this bill, most of which covers actions that are currently practiced in most Idaho public schools.
Teacher apprenticeships (S1069). This bill enables the State Board of Education to develop a registered apprenticeship program that enables student interns and student teachers to be eligible for standard teacher certification. I voted FOR this bill with the understanding that teaching standards will not be diminished.
Certain changes regarding charter schools (H113). This bill allows charter school authorizers to consider the student body make up of a charter school (such as disadvantaged students) during the certification and recertification process. It also allows a provider of education services to the charter school to forgive the debt a charter school may owe it, if it helps with the school’s financial stability. I voted FOR this bill with the expectation that the debt forgiveness portion will not result in a private company effectively controlling a public charter school.
Public school bathrooms (S1100a). The purpose of this bill is to force transgendered individuals to use a school bathroom that is consistent with their designated sex at birth. Schools must also provide an alternate, single-occupancy bathroom facility for any student for any reason. I voted against this bill in committee, especially due to the unnecessary and intimidating financial penalties it imposed on school districts. However, I voted FOR the bill on the House floor after receiving convincing support for it from school district trustees and superintendents.
Universal open enrollment across all traditional public school districts (S1125). Open enrollment allows a student residing in one school district to attend classes in a different school district. Current law allows local school districts to not offer open enrollment. This bill would force every school district to offer open enrollment. My concerns with this bill include: excluding most charter schools, favoring families who can afford to transport their children daily, and reducing the number of seats available for students to attend their local school. I voted AGAINST this well-intentioned bill whose detriments outweigh its benefits. CLICK HERE to see my debate in committee.
Displaying the national motto in schools with signs provided by a private party (H202). This bill mandates that schools must display an item provided by a private third party. I voted AGAINST this bill because it sets a dangerous precedent. Official signage in public buildings - of any kind - should come from government entities, not private interests. CLICK HERE to see my debate on the House floor.
Definition of “abstinence” as it applies to sex education in public schools (H228). This bill creates a statutory definition for the word “abstinence.” It was advertised as a ‘simple definition’ but it can have a profound effect on altering sex education curriculum. The result could be turning teachers into preachers, warning against kissing, slow dancing, or other “intimate” acts. I voted AGAINST this bill (CLICK HERE to see my debate).
Allow charter schools to lower their costs by participating in the state’s revolving loan fund (S1043). This bill diverts $50 million available to traditional public schools, making it easier for charter schools to build new facilities while there is still a backlog of approximately $1 billion in deferred or ignored K-12 public school building maintenance. I voted AGAINST this bill which should not be considered until the legislature has first met its financial obligation to public schools.
Make it easier for certain charter schools to qualify for additional funding (S1042a). This bill allows charter schools that do not meet current performance criteria to participate in a state program allowing them to obtain lower interests on bonds. I support school choice, including charter schools. And I would even co-sponsor this bill if there was not such a huge disparity between the condition of charter and traditional public schools. I voted AGAINST this bill because the state’s obligation is to first take care of aging public school buildings before we make it easier for private owners of charter schools to build brand new buildings. I hesitantly supported it in committee, but ultimately voted against it on the House floor (CLICK HERE to see my debate).
Property tax relief (H292 – Governor’s veto overridden by the legislature). This is the legislature’s feeble attempt at property tax relief. It is unclear how much this 20-page bill will actually reduce property taxes. I originally voted for H292, but after further analysis, I voted AGAINST H292 when I supported the Governor’s veto. I voted FOR the Senate’s amended version of H292 (which came in the form of a rewrite of a different bill – H198), which was a cleaner bill, but H198 died in the House. The process that created this “Frankenbill” leaves me questioning if the legislature is functionally capable of crafting a thorough, comprehensive and enduring fiscal policy that can truly meet Idaho’s current and future needs.
Income tax relief for household and dependent care services (H288). This bill increases the individual state tax deduction for dependent care to $12,000 per year. I voted FOR this bill which provides important tax relief, especially for families dealing with significant hardships.
Withhold tax revenue from cities in certain instances (H22). This bill was written to specifically punish the City of Boise and its citizens because their duly elected leaders issued a statement in support of those who may need to terminate a pregnancy (e.g. due to rape or incest). I voted AGAINST this punitive, spiteful bill that would raise property taxes in Boise by denying the city millions of dollars in tax revenue that it would otherwise receive.
Health and Welfare
Permanent coverage for first-responder victims of PTSI (H18). This bill removes the sunset clause of the law passed in 2019 that provides medical coverage (via worker’s compensation) for victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) affecting Idaho’s first responders. I voted FOR this important bill that makes permanent our commitment to help those who put their lives in harm’s way to protect us and our loved ones.
Criminalize reporting child abuse under certain circumstances (H66a). I originally voted against this bill due to some problematic language in the original version. However, I voted FOR this bill after it was amended in the Senate.
Rural nursing loan repayment program (H213). This bill helps create an incentive for nurses to seek employment in rural Idaho communities. I voted FOR this bill. It is essentially a form of employee compensation that helps address a critical community need that the free market is unwilling or unable to provide.
Provide regulations for surrogacy contracts (H264). This bill establishes consistent standards and procedural safeguards for the protection of parties to gestational agreements (surrogate parents) and clarifies the parentage of children born under the terms of gestational carrier agreements. I voted FOR this bill, which brings important regulation to this activity.
Prohibit treatment of minors with gender dysphoria (H71a). This bill makes it illegal for parents to allow medically approved, non-surgical procedures to be used when treating a minor with gender dysphoria (I do not oppose the ban on surgical procedures on minors). I voted AGAINST this offensive bill for several reasons:
CLICK HERE to see my debate against this bill (note the multiple attempts to interrupt me).
- The hypocrisy of the legislature asserting that it knows what’s better for a child than their parents.
- The arrogance of the legislature to think that its medical knowledge is universally superior to that of real doctors.
- The draconian punishment of throwing doctors in jail for 10 years.
- This law will motivate doctors to leave Idaho or be hesitant to come here.
Change Idaho abortion law to a presumption of innocence instead of guilt (H374). This bill removed the requirement that doctors provide an “affirmative defense” for their actions if prosecuted. However, It failed miserably to seize a real opportunity to make important, substantive changes to Idaho’s abortion laws. I would have voted AGAINST this charade pretending to reform Idaho’s abhorrent anti-abortion law (I left the chamber before votes were cast). The legislature’s love for the pre-born is only superseded by its cruel disregard for the post-born.
Criminalize transportation of a minor to receive a legal abortion in another state (H242a). It is one thing to write laws that apply to the State of Idaho. It is quite another to extend Idaho’s laws beyond its boundaries. I voted AGAINST this bill, which pushes an uncompromising anti-abortion orthodoxy to an unprecedented and odious level.
Remove Idaho state license requirements for telehealth mental and behavioral health care providers (H61). This was a difficult bill to vote against. There is a real need for increased access to mental health services, especially in rural Idaho. I voted AGAINST it because it lowers Idaho’s standards to those of the least rigorous in any other state, which is not the way to solve a problem.
Designate all family members as “essential caregivers” of a relative in assisted living (H193a). This bill forces a facility to allow every family member of a resident to visit them in-person. However, it doesn’t allow a resident to prevent a specific family member from visiting them. Not every family member gets along with each other. I voted AGAINST this bill because it was too one-sided.
Prohibit vaccination status as a condition for visitation in a care facility (H244). This bill says that in-person visits at an extended care or assisted living facility shall not be precluded on the basis of a visitor's vaccination status. It forces a person sharing a room with another resident to be exposed to visiting strangers who are not vaccinated. I voted AGAINST this bill, whose real purpose is to codify distrust of future vaccines for new diseases into law.
Coronavirus Stop Act (S1130). This bill prevents the private sector from setting employee vaccination policies. It goes further by extending this decree for any future variant or mutation of the coronavirus, regardless of its mortality rate (10%, 20%, etc.). I voted AGAINST this bill which fails to balance the rights of any one employee with the rights of the business owner, co-workers and customers.
Require fees imposed on residential tenants to be reasonable (S1039a). This bill requires rental fees to be enumerated in a lease agreement and that the fees be reasonable. It also requires a written 30-day notice of the change in a fee, fine, assessment, interest, or other cost. I voted FOR this important consumer protection bill.
Strategic initiatives grant program for transportation projects (H132). This important bill provides funding to assist local government to mitigate the impact of state highway projects on local roads. I voted FOR this bill which will help local governments deal with some of the financial consequences of growth.
Add catalytic converters to the list of regulated items pertaining to scrap dealers (H142a). This bill is in response to the alarming growth in theft of catalytic converters used to control air pollution in automobiles. I voted FOR this bill, which is a good example of how government can use regulations to address a real problem.
Accessory dwellings (H166a). 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 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 control.
ESG bills (H190, H191). I voted AGAINST H190 because it limits state and local governments from maximizing the return on taxpayer dollar investments, invites retaliation against Idaho, and will likely generate numerous lawsuits. However, I voted FOR H191, which does not dictate the outcome of a business decision based on an ESG score.
Limit the private sale, lease and transfer of state-issued liquor licenses (S1120). This bill attempts to solve a problem the state created by artificially controlling the number of liquor licenses. Since the waiting list for a liquor license can be over 10 years, the private transfer of these licenses has raised the cost to well over $200,000 for a single license. This bill can severely devalue the huge investment a small business made to obtain a license via a private transfer. I voted AGAINST this bill. I do not support solving a state-created problem at the expense of local business owners.
Remove local control of building codes (H287). I voted AGAINST this bill which fails to recognize that Idaho is not a one-size-fits-all state when it comes to geology and climate. It takes a chainsaw to the law where a scalpel would be more appropriate.
Universal licensing (H74). This bill essentially lowers Idaho’s standards for most professional licenses to the lowest level among the other 49 states. Regulations and professional certifications are a form of consumer protection. They help ensure certain minimum standards of competency are in place. I voted AGAINST this bill which is both unnecessary and potentially harmful to consumers.
Clean Slate Act (H149). This bill allows those with minor non-violent misdemeanor or certain possession convictions to petition the court to have one conviction on their record sealed from public disclosure. It gives qualifying individuals who demonstrate rehabilitation a second chance at establishing a normal, productive life. I voted FOR this excellent bill.
State Public Defender Act (H236). This complicated bill is in response to an Idaho State Supreme Court ruling that held that the governor’s office is responsible for public defender services in Idaho. It creates the office of a State Public Defender who oversees district public defenders. I voted FOR this important, albeit imperfect bill.
Use firing squads to execute inmates sentenced to death (H186). This bill would allow the use of a firing squad as a form of execution. There is absolutely no need for this bill. It is a knee-jerk reaction to a temporary inability in obtaining the chemicals necessary to execute an inmate by lethal injection. I voted AGAINST this barbaric bill.
Allow brandishing a firearm if one feels threatened (S1173). This is not a Second Amendment bill – it is legalized murder. If a person carrying a gun feels threatened by someone, they can show their gun as a means to deter or intimidate the other party – who may then perceive you as a threat. What makes it “legalized murder” is when this bill is paired with Idaho’s Stand Your Ground law. That bill allows you shoot someone dead if you have reason to believe they are a threat to you. I voted AGAINST this bill, which makes the false assumption that everyone will exercise good judgment and behave reasonably in every confrontational situation.
Prohibit state employees from using or downloading TicTok on state-issued devices (H274). There are legitimate reasons to distrust the motives and actions of the government of China, which exerts control over Chinese companies such as TicTok. I voted FOR this bill in the absence of any demonstrated need for TicTok to be installed on a state-owned device.
Prohibit ranked-choice voting in Idaho (H179). There are strong passions on both sides of this issue. I’d like to see how this plays out elsewhere before supporting this major change to the voting process in Idaho. I voted FOR this bill.
Prohibit student IDs as proof of voter identification (H124). This voter suppression bill makes it more difficult for a student to vote. I voted AGAINST this fear-based bill that lacked any evidence of voter fraud in Idaho.
Public prayer (H182a). This sneaky bill was originally advertised as a “silent prayer” bill, but actually allowed state personnel to lead vocal prayers in schools (CLICK HERE). 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 power over them (such as a high school coach).
Notable bills that didn’t pass in 2023
Bills I wrote
Repeal the grocery tax (H33 – denied an introduction). This bill would have had Idaho join the other 44 states who don’t tax groceries. House leadership refused to allow this bill to be introduced in committee, thus preventing the legislature from voting on it.
Protect access to public lands (H43 – denied an introduction). This bill would allow a civil action to be taken against those who intentionally obstruct access to public lands. House leadership refused to allow this bill to be introduced in committee, thus preventing the legislature from voting on it.
Allow local municipalities to raise the minimum wage within their jurisdiction (H48 – denied a full hearing). This bill repeals a restriction the legislature imposed on local governments that prevents them from raising the minimum wage higher than the state minimum wage of $7.25/hour. This flexibility is particularly important to resort communities and cities that border neighboring states. The bill was assigned to a committee that refused to give it a full hearing, thus preventing the legislature from voting on it.
Require public schools to furnish feminine hygiene products in girl’s bathrooms (H313 – failed on the House floor). This bill would have required the state provide feminine hygiene products in girls restrooms in K-12 public schools (in addition to currently providing toilet paper, paper towels and soap). It was argued that the state shouldn’t issue mandates to schools. CLICK HERE to see my debate against the anti-mandate argument. I voted FOR this long overdue bill.
Enable the State Board of Education (SBE) to protect a failing state community college (H226, H320, H321 – died in the House). These bills are in response to the debacle at North Idaho College (NIC). NIC’s accreditation is at serious risk of being revoked due to the irresponsible actions by a slate of political extremists elected to its Board of Trustees. The consequences of losing accreditation would be devastating to students and the local community. I voted FOR these bills, which takes necessary steps to protect the state’s academic and financial interests at NIC.
Require training for school board members (H268 – failed on the House floor). This bill would require all elected members of a school board to receive basic training in regard to the responsibilities and legal requirements of the position. I voted FOR this common sense bill.
School voucher/ESA program (S1038 – failed in the Senate). This bill would take a massive amount of money away from public schools and make it available to for-profit private and religious schools. Since it did not pass the Senate, I did not get to vote on it in the House. However, a draft of another voucher bill (RS30436) did fail in the House Education committee. I voted AGAINST introducing this draft bill which would have made over $2.2 billion of taxpayer dollars available to private sector interests – almost the entire annual public education budget.
Ban certain content in libraries (H314 – vetoed by the Governor). This bill usurps the responsibility of local library boards by enabling the Attorney General to sue and impose financial penalties on any local library if it contains content deemed “harmful to minors.” This bill is not about pornography in libraries – it is about the legislature deciding what you and your children can’t read. I could have supported this bill if it was limited to defining a process libraries must use to address citizen complaints. However the bill went way overboard in imposing fines, defining homosexuality as obscene (gay marriage is legal), and weaponize the Attorney General’s office to intimidate libraries with prosecution. I voted AGAINST this latest “culture war” bill fueled by social media hysteria.
Change student participation in sex education classes from opt-out to opt-in (H272 – killed in the House Education committee).This bill changes the process for attending a sex education class from “opt-out” to “opt-in.” This would cut student participation from about 97% to below 50%. It was advertised as a “simple process change.” But the debate in favor of the bill made it clear the purpose was really about course content, not process. I voted AGAINST this bill, which also had a penalty clause (CLICK HERE to see my debate).
Require the State Board of Education to be selected via regional partisan elections (H293 – failed on the House floor). This bill had only one purpose: to further politicize education in Idaho. What was most revealing about this bill was requiring the elections to be partisan. If anything, government would benefit from fewer partisan elections which are driving us to become a rancorous “us-versus-them” society. I voted AGAINST this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bill.
Allow religious colleges and universities to create charter schools (H290 – failed in the House Education committee). This bill would allow any religious institution of higher learning to authorize a public charter school if they were accredited by a “nationally recognized accrediting agency.” The problem is that there are a lot of agencies that fit under that broad description which are not associated with education institutions in Idaho. I voted AGAINST this bill which blurs the line between church and state, and opens accreditation of public schools to unknown and potentially dubious sources.
Allow parents to teach drivers education to their children (H133 – vetoed by the Governor). This bill allows any parent with a valid driver’s license to teach their child how to drive on any Idaho road, highway or interstate. No safety protections or precautions such as dual brakes or signage are required. My district is bordered by three of the busiest, most dangerous roads in Idaho: U.S. Highway 20 (Chinden Blvd.), Idaho Highway 55 (Eagle Rd.), and Interstate 84. I voted AGAINST this bill to protect the safety interests of those who drive in cities with higher population densities.
Require public schools to accept cash for admission to certain events (H220 – failed in the Senate). This bill is the poster child for what is wrong with so many bills in the legislature this year. It takes one incident at one location for one event and blows it up into a state law that impacts every school for every event. I voted AGANST this bill, which imposes an unnecessary financial penalty on schools. CLICK HERE to see my debate against this bill.
Constitutional amendment to change requirements for a citizen-driven ballot initiative (SJR101 – failed in the House). This piece of legislation would amend the state constitution, requiring 6% of all voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts to sign a petition before a citizen-driven initiative could be put on the November ballot. This means any one legislative district could veto the other 34 districts from being able to vote on a ballot initiative, making future initiatives (e.g. Medicaid Expansion, term limits, etc.) virtually impossible. I voted AGAINST this resolution which would effectively take away your constitutional right to place an initiative on the ballot. The real purpose of this resolution is to insulate the legislature from the will of the people.
Prohibit people from voting if they use an affidavit at the polls for identification (H137 – failed on the House floor). This bill would eliminate the use of affidavits, thus prevent thousands of legitimate, qualified citizens from voting. I voted AGAINST this blatant voter suppression bill for which there is no evidence showing there is a problem to be solved. CLICK HERE to see my debate against this bill.
Limit when people can vote via an absentee ballot (H205 – failed on the House floor). This bill would severely limit anyone from voting via an absentee ballot except for a narrow set of exceptions. Not one single piece of evidence was presented that indicated there is any voter fraud in Idaho pertaining to the use of absentee ballots (or otherwise). I voted AGAINST this dangerous, fear-based bill that undermines one of the fundamental tenets of American democracy.
Ban sexual exhibitions in public facilities and locations (H265 – died in the Senate). This bill is in response to a “drag kids” show at a Gay Pride event in downtown Boise. It was motivated in reaction to one event on one day in one location in one city that no one was forced to attend. This bill is so broadly and poorly worded, it would make illegal a laundry list of common activities and forms of entertainment that nearly everyone enjoys. It also imposes severe, deliberately intimidating penalties. I voted AGAINST this bill for all the reasons articulated by Rep. Ilana Rubel in her floor debate against it (CLICK HERE).
Eliminate the committee (JLOC) that oversees OPE (H68 – died in the Senate). This bill would have eliminated the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee (JLOC), the only equally bi-partisan committee in the legislature. It would move oversight of OPE to the Legislative Council, which is controlled by majority party leaders. OPE is the only organization in the legislature that provides deep-dive research and analysis on complex issues assigned to it by JLOC. Equally bi-partisan governance of OPE is vital to insulating it from political pressures. I voted AGAINST this bill which would have enabled majority party leadership to eliminate or politicize the availability of vital information needed to make unbiased, objective decisions (CLICK HERE).
Greater Idaho (HJM1 – died in the Senate). I voted AGAINST this farcical piece of secessionist legislation. A group of Eastern Oregon counties want to secede from Oregon and join Idaho out of pure hatred for Democrats. The underlying logic behind this movement is that state boundaries should be redrawn based on political ideologies – Red vs. Blue states. We tried that 162 years ago – when the colors were Blue vs. Grey. So much for a United States of America.