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  • Writer's pictureToni Ferro

The 2024 legislative session in a nutshell: a mix of not helpful and harmful - Part 1

Updated: May 9

The 2024 legislative session is over. I tracked some of the bills considered during the session and I wrote a newsletter about the session as well. At a high level most of the bills were either not helpful to anyone or downright harmful to working people. (And as I have pointed out in more than one previous blog post the session did not focus on the issues that matter the most to Idahoans.)

Not helpful

My list of bills that don't help anyone includes HB710, which is the bill that allows individuals to sue libraries and schools if the library has a book available to kids that is "harmful to minors." This bill (along with three others like it this session and two others like it last session - 6 bills!) has been debated for years and in the end does very little other than cost libraries and schools (aka taxpayers) money.

As I have talked to voters for the last four years, none of them have mentioned the location of the books in the library as their top issue or mentioned it at all. The location of books in the library is truly a non-issue and now we will get to foot the bill for new library infrastructure, more liability insurance, and legal fees.

Also on the list is HB770, which revokes the sale of an Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) building. The ITD building being discussed is old, has been flooded, and the ITD has previously been allocated money to move out of the building. The ITD has been working on the sale for two years and has gotten an offer well over the appraised price. Instead of letting the ITD manage itself and operate independently (as they have always done) the legislature said no to this sale and instead allocated $35 million to renovate the building. Again, a lot of hullaballoo for nothing that matters to Idahoans that comes with a price tag for taxpayers.

Also on the list are SB1376 and SB1377, which make things more difficult for groups working on ballot initiatives. The process to get initiatives on the ballot in Idaho is already difficult (which is why we get to vote on so few), and yet, bills that add more hurdles to qualifying ballot initiatives are common here in Idaho. Different members of the legislature will offer different reasons for why getting initiatives on the ballot should be more difficult, however, restricting ballot initiatives boils down to restricting the constitutional right of Idahoans to bring public issues before the voters.

SB1376 is particularly bad. This bill allows legislators to use our tax dollars to advocate for or against a ballot initiative. Legislators argued that it is just like advocating for or against any bill. But that is not the case. When a legislator uses public funds to explain their vote on a bill to their constituents, they are educating the public about legislation and about their representative's vote. When a legislator uses tax dollars to persuade voters to vote a certain way - that is something entirely different.

I know I have missed many bills here. If you have suggestions and want me to add some, please let me know.

My next post will be about the hurtful bills this session - those that actively harm working families.

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