Business groups notched one big win and one big disappointment on their score cards as the Legislature headed home April 4.
Their big victory was the passage of a state-based, nonprofit health exchange under the federal health-reform law.
The Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce backed the local health exchange, a place where small businesses and individuals who aren't insured can buy health insurance to meet the law's mandatory-insurance requirement. The chamber, other business groups and Gov. Butch Otter argued that a state-run exchange would serve Idaho better than a federally administered one.
"We can do it better than any the feds can ever hope to put out," says Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, one of the state's most powerful lobbying groups.
Ray Stark, the chamber's senior vice president, says a change in House speakers - from Lawerence Denney last year to Scott Bedke this year - made a difference, because Denney opposed the state exchange. Stark also says 16 freshman Republican lawmakers spoke out in favor of a state exchange early in the session, and that helped the bill pass.
A victory for the long-sought repeal of the personal property tax eluded the lobbyists. IACI and the chamber backed the repeal. But in the end, the Legislature approved an alternative plan from Idaho's cities and counties - which depend on the tax - to eliminate it only on the first $100,000 of a business's equipment.
"We got a start," LaBeau says. IACI will continue to work toward complete elimination of the tax, which costs businesses about $141 million a year.
Here's how other business legislation fared.
WHAT MADE IT
These bills either have been signed by Gov. Butch Otter or still await his signature:
MONEY TO LURE BUSINESSES: Economic development got a boost in Idaho when lawmakers set aside $3 million for a fund to help lure out-of-state businesses to Idaho and help keep in-state businesses here. The state must set goals, such as hiring levels, for businesses to meet to receive money. Economic developers say the law gives them another tool for attracting industry. They tried for three years to obtain funding. Last year, a similar bill was pushed aside in favor of $5 million for the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, a program aimed at turning Idaho-based research into marketable products and services.
SOFTWARE TAX EXEMPTION: Companies that use cloud-based software won't have to pay a tax on the service. Lawmakers exempted the services from the sales tax after high-tech companies complained it was hurting their business.
PHONE SOLICITATIONS: If you do business with a phone or cable company, it will be able to call you to pitch products such as Internet service. Lawmakers lifted a 13-year-old ban on those calls over the objections of Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who says it will erode privacy.
BIGGER TRUCKS: Trucks weighing up to 129,000 pounds will now be able to travel on more Idaho roads. Supporters say heaver trucks will help economic development.
MONEY FOR THE HISTORICAL MUSEUM: Lawmakers appropriated $2.4 million toward expansion of the Idaho Historical Museum, a down payment on a proposed $8.6 million project. Boise chamber officials say the museum's expansion will boost tourism. They will now go to work on a second phase of fundraising, to persuade lawmakers to put up $4.5 million next year.
GARNISHMENTS: The Idaho Tax Commission is limited to garnishing up to 25 percent of a taxpayer's wages for taxes owed. The commission has had no limitation in the past. Some lawmakers have accused the commission of being too aggressive in its collections.
CAPPING DERIVATIVES: Idaho banks must limit their investments in derivatives to meet requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act. A single derivative can't comprise more than 20 percent of a bank's total capital. That is the same limit for the amount a bank can lend to a single borrower.
BETTING ON OLD RACES: You can try your luck on picking the winners of historic races. The measure is intended to provide revenue for horse-racing businesses.
GETTING A SMALLER KEG: Beer drinkers who can't buy five-gallon kegs will soon get a break. Lawmakers voted to permit the sale of the smaller kegs, helping microbreweries and other businesses.
NEZ PERCE LIQUOR LICENSE: The Nez Perce Tribe will receive a liquor license for its new convention center on the Clearwater River. The tribe sought an exemption from a 1947 law that restricted liquor licenses outside of city limits.
TURKEY TRADEMARK: Lawmakers told a Turkish trade group to keep their hands off the word "Idaho" in marketing agricultural plants and animal products. The resolution, which does not require the governor's signature, went to the U.S. Secretary of State.
MEDICAID EXPANSION: The Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce pushed for extension of Medicaid to 104,000 Idahoans not covered by health insurance. Expansion would be funded by federal dollars and would result in a $478 million reduction in county property taxes through 2024. But House Speaker Scott Bedke says it came too late in the session to be considered. Chamber officials say lawmakers had Obamacare fatigue after debating the health-exchange bill.
SALES TAX FOR ROADS: Supporters of Idaho 16's expansion from Chinden Boulevard to Interstate 84 hoped lawmakers would authorize creation of economic districts where growth in sales-tax revenue could fund highway expansion through the sale of bonds. Lacking funds, Idaho has backed off building new roads to concentrate on improving and maintaining existing highways.
HIRING TAX CREDIT: Companies that hire people would get a tax credit, and if they hired a veteran, they would have received a $1,000 bonus. The bill, supported by Gov. Butch Otter, was an attempt to simplify earlier hiring tax credit legislation. It sailed through the House on a 62-7 vote, but never got a hearing in the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee.
STAGGERING FOOD-STAMP DISTRIBUTION: For the third straight year, grocery stores sought to stop the state from distributing all food stamps on the first of the month to ease overcrowding in stores. Customers have sometimes abandoned carts rather than wait in long lines. But lawmakers didn't offer any relief. They raised questions about the fiscal impact to the state.
TANNING BEDS: A second attempt to restrict youths ages 16 and under from using tanning beds died in the House. A similar bill was defeated last year when critics said it represented too much government intrusion into people's lives.
EDUCATION TAX CREDIT: A $10 million annual tax credit for individuals and business who donate to religious and private school passed the House 35-33, but never got a hearing in the Senate. Supporters say the bill would have provided more school choice.
RESORT TOWN LIQUOR LICENSES: Small resort towns, such as Driggs, wanted more than the two liquor licenses they are alloted by the state to help local restaurant owners. But lawmakers say that could depress the value of existing liquor licenses.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts