Adjourning at noon on the dot, the Idaho Legislature closed its 2017 session Wednesday with a routine appropriations bill—an anticlimactic end to a session that saw big increases in road and education funding and a possible repeal of an unpopular tax on groceries.
The House concluded business officially at 10:48 a.m. after passing the spending bill and sending it to the Senate. The House had postponed a vote on the bill to the very end as a kind of insurance to prevent the Senate from adjourning prematurely.
I feel good about this session.
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg
The Senate had a little more to do, at first rejecting, as expected, a last-chance tax bill from the House that included a fractional income tax cut. It then approved a measure on pedestrian safety related to the watershed $320 million road funding package the Legislature sent to the governor Tuesday. The appropriations bill followed.
“I feel good about this session,” said Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, as senators rose to make closing or farewell remarks prior to adjourning for the year. “It didn’t turn out the way I expected, but I feel good about it.”
Lt. Gov. Brad Little gaveled adjournment precisely at noon.
Besides approving new transportation funding, lawmakers this session voted to repeal the sales tax on grocery food, a move opposed by Gov. Butch Otter and possibly facing his veto.
Lawmakers also approved the third year of a five-year plan to increase teacher salaries, but could not find consensus on any proposal to expand and improve health care for thousands of Idahoans who cannot obtain health coverage.
“I wish that was something that we had stepped up to do,” said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls.
The Legislature, Davis said, postponed action this year while it waited for Congress to decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The Republican-led effort to replace it failed earlier this month, but Republicans might try again.
“I’m hopeful that between now and next year that we have some increased certainty inside the Beltway on whatever they’re going to do so the Legislature can engage,” Davis said.