RIGHT TO TANFor a second year in a row, a bill to limit teen tanning flamed out - despite pleas from supporters armed with scientific studies showing that kids who use tanning beds to bronze their bodies face heightened risks of deadly skin cancer. Rep. John Vander Woude, a Nampa Republican who opposed the measure, called the legislation an attack on small businesses and argued that parents, not an ever-more-intrusive government, should be the arbiters of teen tanning.
DIRECT DEMOCRACYThe Idaho Farm Bureau Federation's proposal that stiffens requirements on those trying to run voter initiatives passed. It requires the signatures of 6 percent of registered voters in at least 18 counties be gathered before a measure makes it on the ballot; there's currently no geographic requirement. The agriculture group says it's trying to head off possible animal-cruelty measures that could limit livestock operations, while foes argued this was an undemocratic solution looking for a problem.
GUN CONTROLRepublican Rep. Mark Patterson of Boise convinced the House to support his measure making it a crime for local law enforcement agents to help the federal government confiscate guns, should the federal government decide to ban certain types of weapons. But the Senate refused to hold public debate on the bill. Foes had constitutional concerns and thought it unnecessary, since President Barack Obama has said he has no plans to either seize weapons or create a national gun registry as part of gun control measures.
PUBLIC LANDSIdaho lawmakers passed a resolution demanding that the federal government turn over to the state millions of acres of public land now managed by agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, on grounds that Idaho could manage it just as well - and return millions of dollars to public schools and local economies. Opponents pointed out that the move is likely unconstitutional. The Legislature also established a group that will study the issue over the summer.
LIQUOR LICENSESThe Nez Perce tribe is due to be able to sell liquor by the drink at its new $16 million convention center and casino, after lawmakers approved yet another exemption to Idaho's 1947 law that limits how many liquor licenses can be doled out. Gov. Butch Otter said in the past that he was against such exemptions, but he said when he signed this bill that he doesn't want to punish groups working within Idaho's existing system, which he'd like to see reformed.
BIG TRUCKSDespite opposition from northern Idaho lawmakers, Idaho's powerful timber industry convinced a majority of the Legislature to back a measure seeking to expand the road network where 129,000-pound trucks are allowed. The Idaho Forest Group contends that the big rigs will help reduce shipping costs without posing a safety risk, but foes of the measure worry that trucks 24,000 pounds heavier than is currently allowed will make the state's roads even more dangerous.
TELEMARKETINGPhone companies now may call existing clients to market new products such as faster Internet. That's after lawmakers lifted a 13-year-old ban on the practice, on grounds that land-line companies such as Century Link Inc. and Frontier shouldn't be excluded from an exemption that allows other types of businesses in Idaho to call people with whom they have an existing relationship. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's office unsuccessfully argued that the change wasn't in the interest of consumers.
LGBT RIGHTSAdvocates of adding protections for gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals to Idaho's Human Rights Act held a well-attended public forum with members of the House and Senate State Affairs committees. But no vote was held on the matter, after Republican lawmakers concluded that support among the GOP majority hadn't gathered strength following a 2012 hearing, at which a similar measure was debated.
TAX COLLECTORSLawmakers limited to 25 percent the amount of a person's pay that can be garnished by the Idaho State Tax Commission. That's after senators delivered an impromptu tongue-lashing to some of the agency's collectors, saying they have been overly aggressive in seizing money. Tax commissioners defended themselves - and the governor had their backs as well - saying agency employees work hard to cooperate with people, but some simply refuse to pay what they owe.
MENTAL HEALTHOtter initially said in his State of the State address that he wanted to build a $70 million, 579-bed mental health prison south of Boise. Just a couple of weeks later, however, the Republican governor did an about-face, saying Idaho actually doesn't have enough money to fund the ongoing costs of running such a facility, estimated at about $25 million annually.
MARIJUANAColorado and Washington have loosened restrictions on recreational marijuana use, but dubious Gem State lawmakers decided to send a clear message to citizens this year: Don't expect such half-baked ideas here. A resolution asking the federal government to enforce national drug laws went up in smoke, but a measure affirming legislators' opposition to cannabis cleared both chambers. The resolution doesn't create new rules - it just is intended to prevent Idaho from going down the same path as pot-affirming states.
GIRL SCOUT COOKIESA measure aimed at giving Idaho Girl Scouts a break on their annual Thin Mint and Tagalong sales fell apart after receiving a sweet reception in the House. That legislation was one of several tax-exemption proposals that passed the House but never got a hearing in the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee. Bills exempting anti-abortion pregnancy clinics and free alcohol tastings from the state's sales tax also stalled after getting a nod from House lawmakers.
CHILD PORNIdaho lawmakers have agreed to give teeth to a state task force that investigates child pornographers. The two-person Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force will get 12 additional investigators and $2 million to tackle complex cases focused on catching people producing and consuming child pornography. But the state won't need to shell out extra money to cover the bill: Legislators decided to use money furnished from consumer protection cases to fund startup of the expanded investigation team.
BUSINESS INCENTIVESLawmakers followed Otter's lead and created a $3 million fund to help local governments lure new companies - or help existing ones expand - with a little extra money to pay for necessary infrastructure, such as roads. Cities and counties that apply for the money will have to pony up matching funds, so they have some skin in the game, too.
The Associated Press