Legislature: Immigrants, Bounty Hunters and More

by Judy Ferro

One hundred new bills flooded the Idaho legislature this week.  My head is spinning; I can only imagine how legislators feel.

Missing this week, however, was Rep. Greg Chaney’s final revision of his bill requiring local law enforcement agencies to enforce Federal immigration laws.  On his website, Chaney explains that he’s been meeting with concerned parties and exploring why similar laws have been found unconstitutional.

Better late than never.

Both sheriffs and dairymen have opposed his bill.

The Jerome County sheriff told Magic Valley News that his men lack the time and training to enforce immigration law.   Several sheriffs have voiced concerns about illegal immigrants and their family members being less likely to give information or report crimes if they knew everyone’s immigration status would be checked.

Bob Naerebout, executive director of the dairyman’s organization, stated that estimates are that 85 to 90 percent of dairy workers in the state are foreign-born and that 40 to 70 percent of all agriculture workers in the country are undocumented.

Chaney is promising a better bill this week.  What’s needed, however, is Congressional action on work visas.

Idaho’s worker shortage is not limited to agriculture.  According to The Idaho Statesman, a recent study “found that 31 percent of Idaho businesses have trouble finding qualified workers.” The study, which ranked Idaho as the third-best state in the nation for business,  gives it plus points for low wages, but minus points for the shortage of qualified workers.

With 48 states having higher average wages, Idaho lacks “qualified” workers. Anyone surprised?

Sen. Jim Rice of Caldwell stepped forward this week as co-sponsor of a bill to switch voting for school board trustees to November elections of even years and to give school boards a one-time option to switch to district-wide voting.

The goal is to increase voter participation, but two problems appear obvious.

One, when Congressional seats are at stake—along with the presidency or state offices—voters may fail to give much attention to school board races.

Two, voting by zone makes it easier for minorities to gain a voice.  A uniform electorate can lead to a uniform board.

This next week we should know whether the bill to cut taxes makes it out of committee in the Senate.  HB 67 would cut $51.2 million from the general fund while lowering taxes for middle class families by $2.66 a month, an amount so piddling that the Idaho Mountain Express titled an editorial opposing the bill “Coffee vs. Kids.”  Bill supporters, the newspaper said, do not understand how much Idahoans love their schools.

Every House Republican voted for the bill.

Another bill to watch is Senate Bill 1065, which would mandate that “there be no net loss of private property in the state.”  Under this bill, every state agency needing to buy land must first sell an equal amount of land.  The Idaho Conservation League points out that this would apply to purchases as small as easements and right-of-ways and impact Idaho Fish and Game, Parks and Recreation, and Department of Lands.

One bill that we won’t be seeing was proposed by the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association and refused printing by the House Judiciary Committee.  It would have forbidden bounty hunters from wearing badges and claiming to be law enforcement officials and would have banned fugitives, non-citizens, and those with severe mental illnesses from the trade.

Do let your legislators of your concerns.  Both the House and Senate can be reached by mailing PO Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0081 or by calling 208-332-1000.  Information on individual legislators can be found at https://legislature.idaho.gov/legislators/contactlegislators/.

Legislature: Lots happening this week

by Judy Ferro

The 2017 Idaho Legislature is in full swing—several appropriations bills on the Governor’s desk, over 200 bills and resolutions in process, and the deadline for introducing bills just hours away. And the U.S. Congress is in action for a change. There’s lots to watch.

2C Rep 1: As I write (Saturday), Caldwell Rep. Greg Chaney is expected to introduce a new version of HB 76, his bill to withhold sales tax money from sanctuary cities and to authorize police to check anyone’s citizenship status. Opponents recognize that this could lead to harassment for thousands of legal citizens. They predict that a hearing will be held early as Thursday or Friday.

2C Rep 2: Nampa Rep. Scott Syme has stepped forward as a champion of climate change deniers. Thursday the House Education Committee passed his motion to remove five paragraphs from Idaho’s new science standards that mentioned humanity’s negative effects on species and environment. Districts may teach climate change and habitat loss if they choose to do; some Idaho students will discuss these issues while others will be kept in the dark.

Syme said he acted because so many voters had asked him to accept the standards. My first reaction was that he distrusts voters, but maybe he feared the committee would reject the standards completely.

Time to Weep, State: The only attempt so far to cover the 78,000 Idahoans who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to benefit from Obamacare is a bill by Sen. Steven Thayne of Emmett. It would provide up to $600 a year to an estimated 15,000 Idahoans in the gap who have chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension or obesity.

Payments will vary from procedure to procedure so initial administrative costs for both doctors and the state will be substantial. Cost to Idaho taxpayers is estimated at over $25 million for two years.

Thayne’s plan wasn’t mentioned in the recent Washington Post feature on Idaho’s failure “to design a better plan than Obamacare.”

It wouldn’t have changed the message.

Time to Weep, Federal: The U.S. House has voted against attempts to block those receiving Social Security Disability for mental disorders “like schizophrenia and severe anxiety” from owning guns. They have to do something while the Senate acts on cabinet nominations.

The time is now: House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding wants to amend the Idaho Constitution so that city and school bonds would require approval by 60% of the voters rather than two-thirds vote required now.

It’s heartbreaking when a bond receives 62% of the vote and loses. Sixty percent is used by many states; it’s still a hefty majority.

The battle starts: Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D, has proposed Idaho adopt a top-two primary similar to those in Washington and California. For many voters, it would mean fewer Democrats on the November ballot, but, overall, more voters would have real choices.

Opinion Editor Mary Trillhaase of the Lewiston Tribune sees the top two primary as taking power from the parties and giving it to the voters.

It won’t pass this session. If voters want power, they will have to demonstrate a willingness to fight for it.

Alternative Fact: New Education Secretary Betty DeVos said the Idaho Virtual Academy has a graduation rate of 90%. State of Idaho statistics say IDVA’s rate is 35.5%, less than half the statewide rate of 79.5%. DeVos’ statistic conveniently includes only students who enter IDVA as freshmen and stay enrolled for four consecutive years.

Can next week possibly bring as much action? Stay tuned.