The spring and summer months have been busier than usual with state agency meetings, including negotiated rulemaking hearings as well as meetings with state departments regarding the implementation of the bills that we successfully lobbied through the Idaho Legislature this past session. Below is a run-down of some of the more high-profile issues affecting the public and private sectors in Idaho:
Legislative Interim Committees: The Idaho Legislative Council met on June 17 and approved all seven legislative interim committees recommended by the Idaho Legislature this past session: Foster Care Study Committee, Council on Indian Affairs, Criminal Justice Oversight Committee, Natural Resources Interim Committee, Public School Funding Formula Committee, State Employee Group Insurance Benefits, and the State Procurement Laws Committee. Additionally, House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill approved the creation of three interim working groups addressing: health care alternatives for Idahoans below the poverty level; invasive species; and children at risk regarding “faith healing.”
These committees will meet through the summer and fall, and many will impact the next legislative session. A full listing of all of the Interim Committees, along with scheduled meetings, agendas, legislator information, and much more, can be found on the Idaho Legislature’s website at www.legislature.idaho.gov.
Negotiated Rulemaking Meetings: Idaho’s agencies and departments have been holding regularly scheduled public hearings on administrative rules. These meetings will continue through the summer and into the early fall, and once completed, the proposed rules will be reviewed and approved by the Idaho Legislature before they can become law. I will continue to follow the rulemaking process closely, specifically the Idaho Tax Commission’s hearings related to the sales tax rules committee dealing with computer equipment, software, and data services. I plan to safeguard our lobbying efforts to ensure that the computer software that is delivered electronically and remotely will continue to not be subjected to Idaho sales tax.
New Idaho Court Director Appointed: The Idaho Supreme court has tapped Sara Thomas, Idaho’s state appellate public defender, as the new administrative director of Idaho’s courts. Sara Thomas replaces Patti Tobias, who worked in the position for two decades before moving to Denver in the fall of 2014 to work for the National Center for State Courts. Since then, former Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout has been filling in as interim director. Sara Thomas will start her new job on July 11.
Idaho State Budget: The State of Idaho closed last month with general fund revenues 3.1 percent below revenue forecasts; however, revenues are still 0.2 percent above last year. For the fiscal year to date, state tax revenues are just 0.7 below revenue forecasts, and 3.5 percent above last year.
My next legislative report will focus on the fall general elections, highlighted by the Idaho Supreme Court race that includes a run-off between Magic Valley attorney Robyn Brody and Idaho State Senator Curt McKenzie.