LAST WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS
- Voter initiatives: The State Senate Affairs Committee approved, on a 7-2 party-line vote, more stringent requirements for placing voter initiatives and referendums on the ballot. The measure, backed by the Idaho Farm Bureau, requires signatures from 6 percent of voters in 18 of Idaho's 35 legislative districts and also must equate to 6 percent of voters statewide. Current law only requires signatures from 6 percent of voters statewide. Democratic Sens. Elliot Werk of Boise and Michelle Stennett of Ketchum voted against the measure.
- Health insurance: The House Health and Welfare Committee passed a measure 10-1 to establish a state-based health insurance exchange. The House Health and Welfare Committee listened to three hours of public testimony before favoring the measure, which is now headed to the House floor. The legislation, backed by Gov. Butch Otter, creates an oversight board for the exchange made up of representatives of consumer interests, producers, employers and health care providers, among others. The exchange would receive no state funding. A major change from the Senate's version of the bill - which passed in February - includes the addition of three legislators as voting members to that board.
- Horse racing: State representatives passed a measure on the House floor that would allow historical horse racing in three Idaho racing facilities, including Les Bois in Ada County. Historical horse racing, a form of pari-mutuel wagering, allows betting on previously recorded races. Proponents say the move would bring in much-needed money for horsemen in the state and support related industries, such as agriculture and the hospitality industry. The measure now heads to the Senate.
- Teacher contract deadline: The House Education Committee Voted 12-3 along party lines in favor of a measure that would allow school boards to impose a June 10 deadline for teacher contract negotiations. The measure also allows school boards to set the contracts with its "last best offer" if negotiations go beyond June 10. The deadline stipulation was a part of Proposition 1, which Idaho voters soundly rejected in November.
- Personal property tax: The House Revenue and Taxation Committee heard the introduction of two proposals to eliminate the state's personal property tax. The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry pitched one of the plans, and the Idaho Association of Counties brought the other. The counties' bill would exempt the first $100,000 of a business' personal property from taxation. The commerce association's proposal would eliminate $120 million of the $141 million tax by 2020.
- Heavy loads: State senators approved legislation that allows cities, counties or highway districts to designate routes for heavy trucks. Those entities must use criteria set by the Idaho Transportation Department to make a decision. The bill says the entities "shall" issue permits for extra-heavy - more than 129,000 pounds - trucks on those routes.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
- Seniority in schools: On Monday, the House Education Committee will hold a public hearing on a bill that would establish criteria for employee reductions in a school district as they relate to seniority. Under the measure, seniority cannot be the only factor used to decide which teachers would be let go during a layoff.
- Personal property tax: On Tuesday, members of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee are expected hear deliberations on proposals to eliminate some or most of the state's personal property tax.