The Idaho political universe, and much of the coverage in the media, has been revolving around the high-profile political campaigns that are gearing up for the 2018 election cycle. Though the primary elections are still nine months away, the campaign season is starting earlier than normal due to the openings in a handful of significant offices, including the office of the Governor, as well as the decisions by Idaho First District Congressman Raul Labrador and Lt. Governor Brad Little to vacate their offices to run for Governor. Additionally, Idaho State Treasurer Ron Crane is retiring and all 105 seats in the Idaho Legislature will be on the ballot. With many legislators vacating their positions to run for higher office, we will see a lot of new faces in the Idaho Legislature following the 2018 elections. In next month’s report I will summarize some of these races, and what it means for the direction of our State and future policy.

On a related note, I am honored to have been elected to serve in the position of Chairman of the Idaho Republican Party at its summer convention in Coeur d’Alene last month. This is an exciting opportunity with great responsibility. I will be serving as the figurehead of one of the most Republican states in the country, as well as overseeing the full-time staff and operations at Idaho Republican Party headquarters. I want to clarify that I am not leaving my current role at Holland & Hart, and I look forward to continuing our work together, providing first-class government affairs services to our amazing clients!

It’s been a busy month! In my new Chairman role I’ve had the pleasure of traveling around the State meeting some of Idaho’s elected officials and candidates, including hosting a small round-table discussion in our Boise office with House Speaker Paul Ryan. In addition to staying abreast of Idaho’s political campaigns, much of my time has been dedicated to negotiation meetings with State departments and attending agency rule-making sessions to ensure that bills passed for our clients last session are implemented properly and enforced to the original intent of the legislation.

I also have been closely following some of the legislative interim committees to track issues that will likely impact our clients in the 2018 Idaho Legislative Session. A full listing of the interim committees, along with the meeting dates, minutes, and committee memberships, can be found on the Idaho Legislature’s official website at www.legislature.idaho.gov.

Here is a quick rundown on some of the more prominent issues affecting the public and private sectors in Idaho:

Idaho Unemployment Rate: The Idaho Department of Labor announced on Friday that the State of Idaho’s unemployment rate fell to three-percent last month. Idaho’s total employment is at approximately 794,000, with the addition of 4,300 non-farm jobs in the state.

Idaho State Supreme Court Finalists: The Idaho Judicial Council voted on four finalists to fill the seat of retiring Justice Daniel Eisman’s seat. The finalists are: Rebecca Rainey, a Boise attorney; 2nd District Judge John Stegner of Moscow; 5th District Judge Richard Bevan of Twin Falls; and 7th District Judge Greg Moeller of Rexburg. These four names have been submitted to the Governor, who will appoint one of them to serve out the remainder of Eismann’s term.

Idaho State Land Board: The Idaho Land Board, comprised of the Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the State Controller, met last week and voted to approve payments of $50.3 million to public schools from the state’s Endowment Fund, a seven percent increase from last year. In total, all endowments were approved to receive $78.2 million over the next fiscal year, which includes universities, prisons, and other state institutions.

Legislative Interim Committees, Task Forces, and Work Groups: A total of nine legislative interim committees and task forces have been meeting throughout the summer and will continue into the fall, and then will report their findings to the 2018 Idaho Legislature. These committees will give us a sneak-peak into the upcoming Legislative session and it is vital to follow them closely. These committees consist of: the Campaign Finance Work Group; the Public Schools Funding Formula Committee; the Foster Care System Task Force; the State Employee Group Insurance Plan Interim Committee; the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Oversight Committee; the Idaho Council on Indian Affairs; Natural Resources Interim Committee; Commercial Vehicle Annual Registration Fee Study Committee; and the Administrative Hearing Officer Interim Committee. A full listing of the committee agendas and membership can be found on the Idaho Legislature’s website at www.legislature.idaho.gov.

Grocery Tax Veto Lawsuit: As mentioned in my last report, the Governor vetoed a bill passed by the Idaho Legislature earlier this year that would repeal Idaho’s six percent tax on groceries. A group of 30 legislators sued to invalidate the veto. The Idaho Supreme Court heard the case on June 15, and approximately a month later upheld the Governor’s veto in a 4-1 ruling. However, the court also voted to overturn the 1978 Idaho Supreme Court decision (Andrus v. Cenarrusa), that held the Idaho Constitution requires the Legislature to present all bills to the Governor before they adjourn for the year.