2022 Bills I Watched

Each year the Legislature considers hundreds of bills. I've spoken to lots of voters who asked that I keep them up to date on some of the important bills in the 2022 legislature.

The bills I watched had to do with the priorities you have been telling me about as I've knocked on your doors and listened to your concerns: education, tax fairness (especially property tax fairness), transportation investment, and housing costs

This page was last updated 4-5-22. (Please let me know if you see any mistakes.)

2022 Bills That Passed

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Basic summary: Currently, there is no option for schools to get funding from the state for kindergartners who attend a full day of school. This bill provides schools with funding for kindergartners who attend a full school day and are proficient in the statewide reading program.


Why this bill matters: All-day kindergarten is important to a students long-term success. All-day kindergarten is supported by a wide range of Idahoans.

You can read more about this bill here: 

Idaho lawmakers prepare to hear all-day kindergarten bill, Gov Little requests to pull the bill for two days, KTVB.com, 2-27-22

All-day kindergarten bill heads to Little's desk, Idaho Education News, 3-23-22
 

Status: This bill has been passed by the House and the Senate and signed by the Governor. 

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Basic summary: Allocates $50 million in Federal funds for student learning loss during the pandemic. Parents can apply for $1000 per student (up to a max of  $3000 per household) to be spent for educational purposes. Students in households that earn less than $60,000 are prioritized to receive these funds.

Why this bill matters: This bill can assist families who need to buy books, technology, and other learning resources for their kids. This bill creates a program similar to the Strong Families Strong Students program that provided $1500 grants to more than 18,000 students

 

One catch: There were 12,000 students turned away from the Strong Families Strong Students program because the funds were used up. These programs are not big enough to serve all students only the ones whose parents know to apply. (So spread the word.)


You can read more about this bill here: 

Idaho parents could soon get grants for children’s learning loss, Idaho Statesman, 2-10-22

 

To keep an eye on: This bill allocates the $50 million to the program, but does not cover the admin costs of nearly $2 million that will need to come from the general fund. This funds will need to be approved separately.


Status: This bill has been passed by both the House and the Senate and been signed by the Governor.

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Basic summary: Establishes a fund that allows school districts to buy into the state's medical and dental group insurance plans. Brings school district employees’ health care coverage up to the same standard as that of state employees. Eliminates leadership bonuses for teachers who take on extra duties.

Why this bill matters: Currently, school districts negotiate directly with health insurance companies to insure their employees. For small districts negotiating on behalf of a small number of employees, this has resulted in high premiums and high deductibles. This bill allows school districts to use the state's plan, which is negotiated at the state level for all state employees. This means a savings for many district employees who are paying high premiums.
 

One catch:  This bill eliminates leadership bonuses for teachers who have been taking on extra responsibilities at their schools. This will save the state about $19.7 million/year to offset the cost of this health insurance change.

You can read more about this bill here: 

House passes teacher health insurance bill after overwhelmingly positive debate, Idaho Press, 1-25-22

To keep an eye on: This bill creates the fund for school district medical and dental insurance, but doesn't actually put money in the fund. That will happen in a separate bill. 


Status: This bill has been passed by both the House and the Senate and been signed by the Governor.

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House Bill 436 (HB436)  
Education, Tax Fairness

Basic summary: Gives taxpayers a one-time tax rebate of 12% of their 2021 income tax bill or $75 per person (including dependents), whichever is greater. Institutes a permanent tax cut and reduces the corporate income tax rate.

 

Why this bill matters: Idaho is last in our per-student investment in education, Idaho homeowners are struggling with increasing property-tax bills, and our transportation system is not keeping pace with our growth. This bill reduces much of Idaho's tax "surplus," though we only have a surplus because we aren't adequately funding schools and transportation.

Note: The cost of this bill to the state is $350 million for 2022 and then $250 million for 2023 and future years.

 

You can read more about this bill here: Record Idaho tax cut clears panel, heads to House for vote, Idaho Press, 1-18-22

 

Status: This bill has passed the House and the Senate and has been signed by the Governor.

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Basic summary: This bill would create an incentive program to attract teachers to Idaho's rural and disadvantaged schools. Over four years teachers could earn up to $12,000 to go toward loan repayment or new education and certification. 

Why this bill matters: Idaho is facing a teacher shortage and this bill could help attract more teachers to districts in need.

You can read more about this bill here: Rural teacher incentive bill clears Senate, Idaho Press, 2-25-22 


Status: SB1290 has been signed by the Governor.

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Basic summary: This bill provides funding to hire a new person at the State Department of Education to provide training and materials to help teachers identify dyslexia and teach dyslexic students. Teachers would be required to get training (professional development) by the start of the 2023-2024 school year.


Why this bill matters: Dyslexia is a common learning-disability that makes it difficult for people to read. Identifying dyslexia early is important to a student's success at school and in life.

You can read more about this bill here: 

New dyslexia bill moves forward with Superintendent Ybarra’s support, The Argus Observer, 3-15-22

Status: HB731 has been signed by the Governor.

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House Bill 550  (HB550)
Property Taxes
 

Basic summary: Allows cities to create their own property tax rebates. 


Why this bill matters: There has been some back and forth between the legislature and city administrations about who is to blame for the rapid increase in property taxes. This bill gives cities a way to provide their own property-tax rebates if they want.  

Important note:  This bill does not address the root cause of property tax increases for homeowners, which is the fixed property-tax exemption that was introduced in 2016s HB431 and has been one of the primary concerns I have heard from people in Caldwell. In addition, this only applies to the property taxes we pay to cities (however, it sounds like the authors of this bill plan to introduce one for counties as well).

 

You can read more about this bill here: 

Idaho lawmakers pitch property tax rebates, KTVB.com, 2-7-22
Boise mayor lauds passage of property tax rebates bill, Idaho Press, 3-15-22


Status: HB 550 has passed both the House and the Senate and has been sent to the Governor.

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House Bill 481 (HB481) 
Property Taxes
 

Basic summary: This bill changes the qualifications for Idaho's property tax circuit breaker. The circuit breaker gives a property tax break of up to $1500 to low-income seniors and others who qualify. This bill increases the home value threshold that qualifies someone for the circuit-breaker, making the circuit-breaker available to more people. 


Why these bills matter: These bills attempt to help the estimated 4000 households who would have no longer qualified for the circuit breaker this year because of 2021s HB389, a property tax bill that passed last year. Prior to last year's change, home value did not disqualify people for the circuit breaker. Making it possible for more people to qualify for the circuit breaker will make a difference for many people in Caldwell. 

Important note:  This bill does not affect the cap on the homeowners property-tax exemption that was introduced in 2016s HB431 and has been one of the primary concerns I have heard from people in Caldwell. 


You can read more about these bills and the circuit breaker here: 

Property tax reduction program 2022 (Program Brochure), Idaho State Tax Commission

Idaho legislators float new bill to ‘fix’ property tax problems they created last year, Idaho Capital Sun, 1-27-22


Status: HB481 has passed both the House and the Senate and has been signed by the Governor.

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Senate Bill 1259 (SB1259)
Property Taxes
 

Basic summary: The circuit breaker gives a property tax break of up to $1500 to low-income seniors and others who qualify. This bill would make it so that anyone who is a caretaker for others in a Certified Family Home would not have to count their caretaker income on their application for the circuit breaker tax break. 


Why this bill matters: People over 65 who make less then $32,230 a year qualify for this tax break. There are 665 people who live in Certified Family Homes and are over 65. This bill would go a long way to helping people who are serving the state. 

Important note:  This bill does not affect the cap on the homeowners property-tax exemption that was introduced in 2016s HB431 and has been one of the primary concerns I have heard from people in Caldwell. 

 

You can read more about the circuit breaker here: 

Property tax reduction program 2022 (Program Brochure), Idaho State Tax Commission

Status: SB1259 has passed the Senate and the House and has been signed by the Governor.

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House Bill 701 (HB701)
Housing Costs
 

Basic summary: This bill would provide federal funds to assist developers who build workforce housing. Workforce housing is for people who make 80%-120% of an area's average income. 

Why this bill matters: Housing costs have skyrocketed and lots of new subdivisions full of expensive homes are going in. This bill incentivizes developers to build moderately price homes. 


You can read more about funding for workforce housing here: 
Gov. Little proposes $50 million for workforce housing financing, Boise Dev, 1-12-22

State considers workforce housing solution, KIVITV.com, 2-25-22

Status: This bill has passed the House and the Senate and has been signed by the Governor.

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Basic summary: These bills provide funding for transportation projects around the state. 

Why this bill matters: Idaho is one of the fastest growing states in the nation and our road maintenance and upgrades are lagging well behind our growth. SB1359 addresses one-third of  our bridge maintenance backlog and HB787 provides additional funding for road maintenance. 


You can read more about transportation funding here: 

Little signs transportation funding bill, touts upgrades plan, Idaho Press, 3-17-22

Status: These bills have been signed by the Governor. 

2022 Bills That Failed
or Died in Committee

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Basic summary: This bill would provide parents​ $1500 to spend on educational expenses if they keep their kids out of kindergarten.

Why this bill matters: This bill incentivizes parents to keep their kids out of kindergarten. A child's early education has been shown to be very important to the future success of the child.
 

One note: The bill calls these expense accounts Education Savings Accounts. The account is not really a savings account. The account doesn't earn interest and it can't be used as a college fund, for example. 


Status: SB1317 has been sent to the Senate Education Committee.

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Basic summary: Both of these bills would make food exempt from the 6% Idaho sales tax. There are only seven states that apply the same sales tax rate to food as they do to other goods. Idaho does give people who file state taxes a Grocery Tax Credit. The Grocery Tax Credit was increased to $120 per year by HB509.

Why this bill matters: Sales taxes affect low- and middle-income families more than wealthy families. For low-income families about 7.1% of their spending is sales taxes, for middle-class families about 4.8% of their spending is sales taxes, and for wealthy families only 0.9% of their spending is sales taxes. Sales taxes on basic needs such as food are particularly unfair, because low-income families spend most of their money on these items. Wealthier families are able to save, which means a higher percentage of their earnings is exempt from sales tax.

Something to note: Local governments get a percentage of the Idaho sales tax. Both of these bills include sending money to local governments to offset the amount they would no longer get from sales tax. This is intended to ensure that this tax exemption doesn't result in more property tax increases.

One more thing to note: These bills are estimated to cost the state between $200 million and $250 million, however HB436 has already cost the state $350 million for this year and $250 million for future years.

Status: Both bills have been died in the House Ways and Means committee. 

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Basic summary: This bill would remove all property taxes except for voter-approved levies and bonds and would increase the Idaho sales tax from 6% to 7.85%. This bill would make Idaho's sales tax the highest in the nation.

Why this bill matters: Sales taxes affect low- and middle-income families more than wealthy families. For low-income families about 7.1% of their spending is sales taxes, for middle-class families about 4.8% of their spending is sales taxes, and for wealthy families only 0.9% of their spending is sales taxes. Sales taxes on basic needs such as food are particularly unfair, because low-income families spend most of their money on these items. Wealthier families are able to save, which means a higher percentage of their earnings is exempt from sales tax.

You can read more about this bill here:

Idaho sales tax would be highest in US, most property taxes nixed under new bill, Idaho Press, 3-4-22

$750M property tax relief bill will not advance this session, Idaho Press, 3-13-22 

Status: This bill has been held in committee to give lawmakers and citizens more time to understand the bill. 

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Basic summary: This bill would make it so landlords can not collect application fees for units that are not available. And landlords would not be able to keep application fees from renters they do not intend to rent to or from renters they never screen. 

Why this bill matters: While knocking doors I have talked to a lot of folks who have paid application fees for a place only to later learn they were 5th on the waitlist and so were never really being considered. Taking advantage of people during a housing crisis is especially appalling.  

You can read more about this bill here: 

Idaho landlords may collect fees from many applicants for one unit. Can this law stop it?, Idaho Statesman, 3-4-22


Status: This bill replaced HB617. This bill failed on the House floor.

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Basic summary: This bill would eliminate local government's authority to cap rental fees and deposits. 

Why this bill matters: Rental costs in Idaho have gone up rapidly over the last two years. This bill would limit city government authority to respond to local problems they are seeing with predatory rental agencies that charge high rental fees. (Side note: I personally own a few rentals and have heard a lot of horror stories from renters. Rental owners and agencies who behave badly make us all look bad.)


You can read more about this bill here: Bill sponsor addresses controversial legislation on government involvement on residential rental fees, KTVB, 1-20-22 
 

Status: This bill has passed the House and has been sent to the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee.

Newspaper Bill Trackers