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/.

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