National attention came to the Idaho Statehouse and brought activists, protestors and heightened security with it, but not for the issues we all expected to be the focus of lawmaker’s attention. Instead, lightening rod issues abounded in the 2014 legislative session:
- guns on campus
- “add the words” (sexual orientation, gender equality)
- “ag gag” (agricultural security, animal rights)
Still, by session’s end (one of the shortest in more than a decade at only 74 days), NFIB helped win increased limits on Idaho medical savings accounts, protection of private property rights, and limited costly regulations.
Equally important, our opposition helped bottle up proposals that our members oppose, like raising the minimum wage and giving local government sales tax authority. The following is a legislative wrap-up of the 2014 session of the Idaho Legislature.
Rules and Regulations
As the legislature drew to a close, House and Senate leadership held an unprecedented ceremony in the well of the Idaho House of Representatives. The speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the Senate Speaker gathered with majority and minority leadership teams to forge a bipartisan agreement to retain and strengthen legislative authority to reject administrative rules. The end product was House Joint Resolution 002, which proposes an amendment to the Idaho Constitution by the addition of a new Section 29, relating to legislative delegation of rulemaking authority. This may sound like an obscure legislative function to some, but small businesses know the importance of reigning in red tape and bureaucracy in government. NFIB supports HJR002 and urges our members to vote in November to approve this measure.
Medical Savings Accounts
H595 (Hixon) amends existing law to revise provisions regarding taxation and increase contributions to medical savings accounts for state income tax purposes.
Private Property Rights
H597 (Boyle/Pearce-Farm Bureau) Protects private property rights and clarifies that the Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board is authorized to license outfitters and guides upon public lands within the state of Idaho.
HJM6 urges the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services to suspend imposition of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) taxes on the health-care industry.
Other Bills of Interest to Small Business Passing
H546 (Sayer-Dept. of Commerce) provides for the state to negotiate a tax credit of up to 30 percent of a company’s corporate income tax, sales tax and payroll tax, if the company reaches negotiated job-creation goals. Both existing and new companies would be eligible.
H547 (Bedke/Moyle) revises the current distribution of the cigarette tax for various programs (public schools, juvenile corrections, permanent building, cancer) and reallocates a portion of the tax that paid for the Capitol Renovation toward debt service on GARVEE bonds, and aquifer management.
S1284 amends existing law to allow increased speed limits if certain circumstances occur with the maximum speed limit on certain interstate highways, not to exceed 80 miles per hour.
NFIB Victories in Defeat
The following are issues NFIB lobbied for the defeat of during the 2014 session of the Idaho Legislature
Proponents of increasing the minimum wage proposed S1334 after abandoning an effort to put the issue before voters in November. Idaho matches the federal minimum wage, but the push to provide a so-called “living wage” is showing up in a number of states as part of a national campaign. S1334 would have increased Idaho’s current rate of $7.25 to $8.50 in 2014, to $9.75 in 2015 and then link to the Consumer Price Index in 2016. The bill would have also raised the wage rate for tipped and seasonal employees.
Local Option Tax
A bill to allow “local option” sales tax for cities and counties was to be proposed in 2014 as a way of allowing local government another tool to raise revenue to fund projects. Small and independent businesses have long opposed local option sales tax, and NFIB made its position clear with lawmakers. Cities and counties have long endorsed the concept, but despite several attempts, adding more taxing authority at the local level has not succeeded in the Legislature. 2014 was no different.
Other Bills of Interest to Small Business Failing
H481 would have raised the fuel tax by 6 cents per gallon, at two cents per gallon per year for three years beginning on July 1, 2014. Each penny of fuel tax generates about $8.8 million in the Highway Distribution Account for annual revenue of $17.6 million. Total over three years is estimated at $52.8 million in additional revenue after July 1, 2017.
Still To Do
Personal Property Tax
Tension between the House and the Senate is a natural condition at the Statehouse. When it comes to tax policy, an obvious trend emerges: The House likes to cut taxes; the Senate, not so much. The Senate Local Government committee, where all tax bills arrive if they pass the House, is the graveyard for most tax-cutting measures. This year was no different as the chairman of the committee made clear early in the session and refused to give many key bills a hearing.
H548 would have decreased Idaho’s income tax rates by 1/10th of a percentage point in every year that has a 3 percent growth in state general fund the preceding fiscal year, stopping when the top income tax rate and corporate tax rate reach 6.8 percent.
Left “In the Pipeline”
In the final days of any legislative session, leadership in the House and the Senate pick their priorities and determine “the going home bills.” Anything not on the list doesn’t make the cut, and is often left hanging somewhere in the process, effectively derailed for the session. This year, the speaker of the House quipped that lots of bills would “get left in the pipeline.” Some of these were introduced for discussion purposes but weren’t ever likely to become law. Some were intentionally held up – “stuck in a drawer”- meaning a committee chairman refused (for whatever reason) to give the bill a hearing. And some simply run out of time before the process shut down.
Bill Tracking by the Numbers
Just how busy were your lawmakers in 2014? Here’s a brief review of the number of proposals introduced, modified and adopted, according to Mike Nugent, the manager of Research and Legislation with Legislative Services Office the folks toiling away to prepare legislation (they are the real workhorses of the Legislature.
- New legislation prepared, including changes: 1107
- Introductions (how many of the above actually saw the light of day): 542 bills & 66 Resolutions, Memorials and Proclamations
- Bills Passed (both Houses): 357
- Resolutions, Memorials adopted: 43
- Length of Session (days): 74
Of note, these numbers don’t change much over time. In the past five sessions, 1100-1200 proposals are prepared every year 600-700 are introduced, and 350-375 pass the legislature and become law.
A Look Ahead to 2015
Remember the big issues going in to 2014? That’s what’s on deck for 2015 when elections won’t be looming. Look for these back-burner issues to move to forefront in 2015:
- Medicaid expansion
- Transportation funding
- More education reform from the education task force, a continuation of 2014, as well as reaching back to the days of the “Luna Laws”
- Income tax and personal property tax reductions.