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2024 Legislature

As I did in 2022 and 2023 I will be tracking some of the legislative bills as they make their way through the Idaho legislature. The legislature considers 100s of bills each year. I will focus on the bills related to the issues I have heard about when I am out talking to people in Caldwell.

I have knocked on thousands of doors here in Caldwell. The concerns people people talk to me about the most have to do with Idaho's rapid population growth. So I will be focusing on the bills that address problems that are arising due to growth. Other issues that come up a lot include tax fairness and voting rights and so I will include bills about those as well. 

The topics I plan to look at are:

Education

Transportation

Water, power and other infrastructure

Housing costs

Tax Fairness

Voting and initiatives

If you would like me to include another topic or another specific bill, or if you find errors on this page email me at toni@ferroforidaho.org

This page was last updated 2-25-24.

If you are interested in more topics, check out the Idaho Statesman's bill tracker

2024 Bills I am Watching
Education
Education

House Bill 447 - awarding a $5000 tax rebate or grant to parents to pay for private school or home school 

Basic summary

This bill would provide parents $5000 a year/student for private educational expenses. If the student has special needs, the amount would increase to $7500/year. This bill is capped at $50 million and the money would be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Why this bill matters

This bill is similar to the many Education Savings Account/Voucher bills that were proposed and failed last year (SB1038, SB1144, SB1161, SB1076, and HB347). The idea of school vouchers has been around for decades and is highly controversial. This bill would specifically allocate $50 million in public funds for private schools, including religious schools, and other educational expenses (including travel costs).

 

Many laws that apply to public schools do not apply to private schools - for example, private schools are not required to hire certified teachers. 

 

In addition, public schools are currently allotted their funding based on attendance and so incentivizing families to remove students from public schools would reduce the budgets for those schools. Idaho's public schools have been underfunded for decades and this bill would be a blow to our already struggling public schools.

Read more about this bill

Idaho Republicans propose spending $50 million on ‘tax credit’ for private schools - Idaho Statesman, January 30, 2024

Idaho taxpayers already fund one school system. Now we have to subsidize another? - Idaho Statesman, February 1, 2024

Bill Status

This bill is in the House Revenue and Taxation committee.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

House Bill 415 - permitting any licensed school employee (including volunteers, coaches, and contractors) to carry a concealed weapon at school  

Basic summary

This bill would make it so that any school employee (including volunteers, coaches, and contractors) who has an "enhanced license to carry concealed weapons" could carry their weapon at school. The school employee would have to notify the principal, superintendent, and the safety resource officer, but not the school board. 
 

Why this bill matters

This is a controversial bill, because it was not developed with input from school boards, administrations, or teachers. In addition, it would override a school board's local decision-making authority and undermine a school board's ability to keep schools safe and secure.

Read more about this bill

HB 415 misses the mark with its focus on response over prevention - Idaho Education News, 1/29/2024

House Bill 415 is a disaster waiting to happen - Idaho Education News, 1/30/2024

Bill allowing armed teachers, staff in schools clears Idaho House - Idaho Press, 1/31/2024

Bill Status

This bill has passed the House and has been sent to the Senate. The bill is in the Senate State Affairs committee.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

Allgood - AYE

Yamamoto - NAY

Trakel - co-sponsor

House Joint Resolution 001 - allowing the state to use tax dollars to fund religious schools

Basic summary

This bill would make it legal to use tax dollars to fund religious schools by repealing the Blaine Amendment, Article 9, Section 5 of Idaho's constitution

This bill is an exact copy of a bill that was proposed last year and died in committee (SJR-102).
 

Why this bill matters

The US Supreme Court recently ruled that if a state makes tax dollars available to private schools, then it is required to make tax dollars available to all private schools regardless of whether or not they are run by a religious organization. Right now, Idaho does not allocate tax dollars to any private schools (religious or otherwise) and so the Supreme Court ruling doesn't affect us. 

This bill would look to change Idaho's constitution so our tax dollars can be allocated to private schools including religious schools. 

An important note

If this bill passes, it will be referred to the voters in 2026 and voters will decide if the Blaine amendment should be repealed from Idaho's constitution.  

The language that would show up on the ballot is also part of this bill. Writing the ballot question in plain language is important to making sure that the will of the people is clear. This bill proposes confusing wording for the ballot question: 

Shall Section 5, Article IX of the Constitution of the State of Idaho prohibiting sectarian appropriations be repealed?

Instead of something clearer like: 

Shall Section 5, Article IX of the Constitution be repealed and state funding of private religious schools be allowed?

Read more about this bill

Republicans propose letting state fund religious schools with Idaho Constitution change  - The Idaho Statesman, January 12, 2024

Nampa Senator looks to repeal Blaine amendment​ - The Idaho Statesman, January 31, 2023

Senate Education Committee votes to introduce bill to repeal Idaho’s Blaine Amendment - The Idaho Capital Sun, January 30, 2023

 

Bill Status

This bill has been referred to the House State affairs committee. This bill will need a two-thirds vote from both the House and the Senate to be referred to voters.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

House Bill 384, Senate Bill 1221, and Senate Bill 1289 -  making it possible for individuals to sue schools or libraries over the books they offer and regulations for school boards on curating their school libraries

Basic summary

HB384 - This bill would allow parents to sue schools or libraries for $250 plus damages if their minor child was allowed to check out material that was "harmful."
SB1221 - This bill would introduce detailed and exhaustive regulations for school boards on how to manage which books are available in their libraries.

SB1289 - This bill would allow parents to sue schools or libraries for $250 plus damages if a library does not relocate a book to a section unavailable to minors if the book was deemed obscene by a library review committee set up by the school or library board.

Why these bills matter

HB384 is controversial because there is no easy way to categorize "harmful" material for kids, and this bill would expose libraries and schools to scores of expensive lawsuits. This bill would take away the parents' right to determine the material appropriate for their child by making potentially educational material unavailable. 

HB384 is similar to 2022s failed HB666 that would have made it illegal for libraries and schools to disseminate "material harmful to minors" and 2023s vetoed HB314 that also allowed for civil action against libraries and schools.  

SB1221 legislates how school boards manage the content of their libraries. This is one of many recent bills that would impose regulations on other locally elected officials. School boards are elected by the people in their school districts and they manage their libraries through locally developed policies. 

SB1289 is a compromise bill by the sponsors of HB384 and SB1221. This bill would require schools boards and library boards to create a materials review committee to advertise and hold public hearings on any materials that a patron deems as obscene. Obscene is defined in Idaho code 18-1514(6). If the review committee makes a decision the patron disagrees with they can ask for a review of the decision and then apply for a judicial review. If the material is deemed obscene and is not moved to make it unavailable to minors then the patron can sue for $250 plus damages.

This bill requires new bureaucracy and could result in costly legal fees for library and school districts. 

  

Read more about these bills

Idaho Republican wants to allow damage claims for ‘harmful’ materials in libraries - Idaho Statesman, January 12, 2024

Hundreds attend hearing for 'harmful materials' in libraries bill, which heads to House for a voteThe Idaho Press, January 15, 2024

Revived ‘harmful to minors’ library materials bill advances in Idaho Legislature  - Idaho Capital Sun, January 15, 2024

Idaho Republicans bring a new bill on ‘harmful’ library material. What to know - Idaho Statesman, February 7, 2024

Idaho Senate rejects bill on ‘harmful’ library material. Is bill ‘worse than this’ next? - Idaho Statesman, February 22, 2024

Bill Status

HB384 passed the House State Affairs committee and was sent to the House. Before it had its third reading in the House, the bill was pulled back to committee due to lack of support. This bill has now been replaced by SB1289.

SB1221 has been sent to the Senate State Affairs committee. This bill has now been replaced by SB1289.

SB1289 has been sent to the Senate State Affairs committee. This bill failed in the Senate.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

HB-384 - State Affairs committee, Rep. Allgood - Absent

SB-1289 - Trakel - NAY

House Bill 422 -  rewriting Idaho's Charter School regulations 

Basic summary

This bill rewrites many sections of Idaho Code 33-52 - Public Charter Schools.

Why this bill matters

The authors explain that since Idaho passed the initial charter school policy in 1998, only small changes have been made to the policy. This bill overhauls the policy to incorporate what has been learned in the last 26 years. In particular, this bill loosens some requirements for high-performing charters and makes it easier for established charters to expand to more locations. 

  

Read more about this bill

Charter school overhaul clears major hurdle, advances to House - Idaho Ed News, 1-25-2024

Bill Status

This bill has passed both the House and the Senate and has been sent to the Governor

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

Rep. Allgood - AYE, Rep. Yamamoto - AYE, Sen. Trakel - AYE

House Bill 521 - providing $1.5 billion to school districts over 10 years to repair or replace old buildings, lowering income taxes, and removing the August bond/levy election date

Basic summary

This bill addresses Idaho's growing problem of public school buildings in disrepair by providing school districts money for repairs. This bill also lowers the income tax rate and eliminates the August election date.

Why this bill matters

Idaho has a backlog of over $1 billion in school repairs today. This bill attempts to address those issues. The money will be allocated by the number of students in the district, which could mean some smaller districts don't get the money they need.

 

In addition, this bill lowers income taxes (which were recently lowered in 2022, and 2021). Cutting taxes while announcing big spending is always cause for concern. In addition, continuing to cut taxes in times of growth (which call for investments instead of austerity) is likely to result in missed opportunities and budget problems down the road.

This bill would also remove the August election day for bonds and levies.

  

Read more about this bill

‘Priority No. 1’: Bill would add $1.5 billion to fix, replace crumbling Idaho schools - Idaho Statesman, February 9, 2024

Bill Status

This bill has been sent to the House Revenue and Taxation committee. 

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

Rep. Allgood - AYE, co-sponsor; Rep. Yamamoto - AYE, co-sponsor

Senate Bill 1300 - repealing Idaho's child labor laws

Basic summary

This bill would repeal Idaho's child labor laws and would allow businesses to hire children of any age, have child workers work any number of hours, and have child workers work during school hours.

Why this bill matters

Idaho's unemployment rate remains low. Low unemployment means a tight labor pool, which pushes wages up. This bill would add children to the labor pool, which would increase the labor pool and suppress wages.

This bill in conjunction with our high housing prices (the increase in housing costs has outpaced the increase in wages) and our lenient home-school laws would incentivize some struggling families to pull their kids from school so they can go to work. 

In addition, the history of children in the workforce includes parents and employers taking advantage of these vulnerable workers. 

  

Bill Status

This bill has been sent to the Senate Commerce and Human Resources committee. 

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

Senate Joint Resolution 105 - changing the Idaho State Constitution to include Idaho's homeschool laws

Basic summary

This bill would amend the Idaho's State Constitution to include the option for parents to homeschool their children free from government oversight.

Why this bill matters

This bill would amend the State Constitution to include Idaho's current lenient homeschool law. This bill would make it so that if future legislatures wanted to include some homeschool oversight they would first have to change the State Constitution.

An important note

If this bill passes, it will be referred to the voters.  

Bill Status

This bill has been sent to the Senate State Affairs committee. 

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

Transportation
Transportation

House Current Resolution 24 - authorizing a study of Highways 55, 16, and 95

Basic summary

This bill would authorize a study of Highways 55, 16, and 95 and examine potential safe, alternative routes between the Treasure Valley and central Idaho.

Why this bill matters

Idaho is one of the fastest growing states in the nation. As we grow we need to be expanding our transportation network.

  

Bill Status

This bill has passed out of the House Transportation and Defense committee and been sent to the House.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

Water, power and other infrastructure
Water and power investments

Senate Bill 1286 - allowing all homeowners to xeriscape to save water

Basic summary

This bill would allow homeowners in subdivisions with an HOA to plant native and drought tolerant plants in their front yards instead of maintaining lawns. 

Why this bill matters

Idaho's population growth is impacting our water supply. Currently, many subdivision HOAs require homeowners to have front yard lawns, which require irrigation. This bill would require that HOAs allow homeowners to xeriscape (landscaping that requires little or no irrigation) their front lawns. This bill would allow HOAs to determine the type of xeriscaping that is acceptable. 

Read more about this bill

‘A property rights issue’: Bill prohibiting HOAs from requiring grass lawns died in committee - Boise Dev, February 23, 2024

Bill Status

This bill was voted down in the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee. 

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

Senate Bill 1370 - requiring that local governments consider the effects on the ground water in the area when adopting a comprehensive plan

Basic summary

This bill would require local governments to consider the effects that comprehensive plans will have on the "source, quantity, and quality" of the groundwater in the area.

Why this bill matters

Idaho's population growth is impacting our water supply. Local governments amending, repealing, or adopting comprehensive plans are required to take many things into account such as transportation, school facilities, and utilities. This bill would specifically add groundwater to the list of things that local governments are required to consider in their comprehensive planning.

Bill Status

This bill is in the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

Housing Costs
HousingCosts

House Bill 545 - restricting local governments from implementing laws that protect renters 

Basic summary

This bill would override a recent renter protection bill passed by the Boise City Council that makes it so landlords can't reject a potential tenant because they receive a federal housing voucher. This bill would also undo last year's SB1039, which requires that fees charged to renters be reasonable and would override Boise's renter protection law that limits application fees to $30.

Why this bill matters

Rents in Idaho have gone up rapidly. As a result some municipalities have passed laws to protect renters from excessive fees and discrimination. This bill limits what local governments can do to protect renters.

Bill Status

This bill has passed the House Business committee and been sent to the House floor. 

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

TaxFairness
Tax Fairness

House Bill 582 - adding school districts to the list of public facilities that can collect impact fees from developers

Basic summary

This bill would allow school districts to charge developers impact fees to cover a proportionate share of the improvements that the district will need to serve the new development. Currently, impact fees can be charged to developers to cover water facilities, wastewater facilities, stormwater facilities, roads, parks, public safety facilities (including police, fire, EMS, and lights). 

Why this bill matters

Right now school districts are required to pass a bond with a two-thirds vote to build new schools. Many of these bonds have failed around the state, which is causing school overcrowding in fast-growing districts like Vallivue. It is reasonable that people who already live in the school district don't want to pay higher property taxes so they can build new schools that will serve new developments. Many other public facilities are currently able to charge impact fees and this bill would simply add school facilities to the list. 

This bill is reasonable and puts the costs of new and expanded schools on new development. However, this bill may be controversial, because the cost of housing in Idaho is already high. Increasing the cost of building new developments may slow development and/or impact housing costs. 

Bill Status

This bill has not yet been referred to committee.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

Voting
Voting and Initiatives

House Bill 573 - limiting who is allowed to vote by mail and making vote-by-mail forms harder to get

 

Basic summary

This bill would limit who is allowed to vote by mail to only people who will be out of town, in the hospital, or have a disability. In addition this bill requires that each voter request the application to vote by mail directly from their county elections office (instead of being able to download the form online). This bill is similar to last year's HB205, which failed in the House and to last year's HB259, which passed the House and died in the Senate.

Why this bill matters

This bill makes it harder for people to vote. We already have very low voter turnout here in Canyon County and further restrictions are likely to make things worse. Canyon County had the second lowest voter turn out in the state in 2022 and Caldwell's District 11 had the lowest turnout of any legislative district in the state. In addition, the lines for voting in Canyon County are long and restricting vote-by-mail will make them longer.

Bill Status

This bill is in the House State Affairs committee.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

House Bill 419 - repealing 2018s voter-approved Medicaid Expansion unless unattainable conditions are met

Basic summary

This bill would repeal the Medicaid Expansion that Idaho voters approved in 2018 unless some conditions are met. Some of the proposed conditions are not feasible and others would create new, expensive bureaucracy. Detractors from the Medicaid expansion have been trying to repeal it for years. Last year it was HB123, which died in the House Health and Welfare committee.

Why this bill matters

The Medicaid Expansion bill that was approved by voters in 2018 currently covers over 100,000 Idahoans. The initiative expanded Medicaid to cover people who are above the federal poverty level, don't qualify for another type of coverage, yet make too little to afford the high cost of health coverage. The initiative takes advantage of a federal program that pays 90% of the cost for states who expand Medicaid to these folks. 

The Medicaid expansion was approved by voters, covers over 100,000 Idahoans, is mostly covered by the Federal Government (brings our tax dollars back to Idaho), and saves the state money in health care costs incurred by people who can't afford their health care. 

This bill would repeal the Medicaid expansion unless specific conditions are met. However, the conditions are impossible to meet. For example, the bill would cap the number of Medicaid expansion enrollments at 50,000 (removing 10s of thousands of Idahoans from Medicaid) and would cap the program at 36 months. The introduction of these conditions would no longer qualify Idaho for the federal program that pays 90% of the costs of the expansion. This bill also requires that the Federal Government pay for 90% of the program. These conditions conflict with each other and guarantee that if this bill were passed the voter-approved Medicaid Expansion would be repealed.

Read more about this bill

Bills printed by Idaho legislative committee to limit Medicaid expansion, expand physician training - Idaho Capitol Sun, January 22, 2024

Bill that could've repealed Idaho Medicaid expansion dies in committee - Idaho Press, February 1, 2024

Bill Status

This bill is held in committee.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

Senate Bill 1273 - creating a voter guide that includes candidates   

Basic summary

This bill would include federal, state, and county candidates in the voter's pamphlet that is sent to Idaho voters. Voter's pamphlets currently only include ballot initiatives, referendums, and constitutional amendments. This bill is similar to last year's SB 1078, which passed the Senate, but died in committee in the House.

Why this bill matters

I frequently hear from people that they wish there was a voter's guide in Idaho. This bill would give voters more information about what they can expect to see on their ballot and give them time to make decisions before going to the polls. This pamphlet would not include local candidates (city council, school board, etc.) and would not include local levies or bonds. Therefore, not everything on every ballot would be included in a voter guide.

Read More about this bill

Idaho election bills move forward in Senate Committee - Idaho PressFebruary 2, 2024

Bill Status

This bill has been passed through committee and has been sent to the Senate floor.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

House Joint Resolution 3 - requiring one round of voting during elections

Basic summary

This bill would add a question to the 2024 ballot about whether Idahoans would like to require only one round of voting during any election. 

Why this bill matters

This bill is in response to the potential Open Primaries ballot initiative that is in the process of being qualified by a coalition of organizations in Idaho. This initiative would allow voters to rank their choices for an office during the general election - voters would pick who they like best, but then also who their second, third, and fourth choices would be if no candidate gets 50% of the vote. The Open Primaries initiative would ensure that the candidates who get elected are candidates that a majority of voters prefer.

This bill would create a competing ballot question and proposes that the person with the most votes should win whether or not that person has the support of a majority of voters.

Read more about this bill

Republican Idaho legislator proposes constitutional amendment to block ranked choice voting - Idaho Capital Sun, February 23, 2024

Bill Status

This bill has been sent to be printed. This bill will need a two-thirds vote from both the House and the Senate to be referred to voters.

District 11 (Caldwell) legislator votes

None yet.

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