Idaho Legislature

Jeff Youngstrom / Flickr

In the span of a week, lawmakers in the Idaho House voted to ban cities and counties from banning plastic grocery bags and took up a bill that could ban cities from increasing the minimum wage.

That’s after Hailey residents voted five years ago on a bag ban, and McCall residents voted last year on a higher minimum wage.

Supporters of both pieces of legislation say they're business friendly bills that would keep laws the same across the state.

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Two Idaho Democratic female lawmakers say the Idaho code isn't just for men.

Reps. Melissa Wintrow of Boise and Elaine Smith of Pocatello are backing legislation that would require gender neutral language in all of Idaho's copious laws. Wintrow says the bill is important to show young girls that they belong in all circles, particularly state government.

The two-paragraph bill says legislation should contain non-gendered phrases such as "he/she" or "his/her," rather than use the masculine pronoun by default.

Provided by Lex Shapiro

Last week, the Idaho House passed a bill that would prohibit cities from banning the use of plastic grocery bags. If it becomes law, the bill would prevent the formation of local movements — like one Lex Shapiro was a part of in Hailey five years ago — to make the bags illegal.

The 21-year-old college student grew up in the Wood River Valley, where she learned a deep appreciation for the outdoors. 

J Biochemist / Flickr Creative Commons

A bill that would allow public utilities to keep blueprints and other documents secret from the public has passed is first hurdle in the Idaho Legislature.

The House State Affairs Committee introduced the measure Friday.

The proposal would exempt the public from seeing emergency response plans, computer and telecommunication systems and building blueprints.

Flickr Creative Commons

Cities and counties in Idaho would need state approval to enforce plastic bag bans under a new proposal currently making its way through the Idaho Statehouse.

The Idaho House voted 52-17 on Wednesday to make it illegal for cities to impose bag bans, restrictions on Styrofoam containers and other disposable products. If approved, local officials would need permission from the Idaho Legislature to enact the restrictions.

Currently, no cities enforce plastic bag bans in Idaho, but such efforts have been made in the past.

The Idaho Legislature's first-ever hearing on expanding Medicaid eligibility attracted hundreds of supporters Tuesday, but lawmakers declined to vote on whether to send the measure forward after listening to an hour of testimony.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee held an information hearing on a proposal that would expand Medicaid eligibility to cover everyone who earns less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Democratic Sen. Dan Schmidt of Moscow introduced the legislation as a personal bill earlier this session.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho legislature is considering a new bill that would cut income tax rates for top-earners and corporations. The bill is the first of its kind in this year’s session. 
 

Kathrine Jones / Idaho Staesman

A Spokane pastor was in Boise last week to warn Idaho lawmakers that refugees pose a security threat to the United States. That’s a position some Idaho lawmakers already hold and the issue may come up in the current legislative session.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Nearly 200 people at the Idaho Capitol Thursday night listened to speeches from an anti-Islamic preacher and a member of a right-wing, national security advocacy group. The topic was refugee resettlement.

Before the speeches, about 100 people lined the marble hallway to the Capitol’s largest public meeting room. They held signs reading things like “Idaho is too great for hate.” Kristin Ruether’s sign said, “refugees welcome” in English and Arabic.

Kevin Rank / Flickr Creative Commons

For the fourth year in a row, Idaho lawmakers on an economic outlook panel have sided with Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter' revenue projections on how much money will flow into the state in the 2017 fiscal year.

The Joint Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee voted 13-4 Thursday in favor of the estimate Otter released Monday's State of the State address. The governor's forecast predicts $3.34 billion in tax revenue or 4.9 percent more than the current year.

The committee's recommendation now moves to the state's budget committee for final approval.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

It has not been an easy past few months to be a Muslim in America. After the Paris attacks, presidential candidate Donald Trump said there should be a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country. His polls immediately soared. In Boise, the Islamic Center says the Muslim population in the Treasure Valley may well be over ten thousand.  Now, some of Boise's Muslims are sharing how it feels to be a Muslim in the current political climate. 

tilproject.com

Idaho lawmakers Thursday evening are invited to a presentation by an anti-Islamic preacher and an anti-immigration advocate. The speakers will be in the Capitol’s largest public meeting room, the Lincoln Auditorium.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Tuesday was the second day of the 2016 session of the Idaho legislature but lawmakers did not spend the afternoon crafting policy. Instead they did a five-hour training on civil discourse. Legislative leaders participated in the training a few months ago and decided all lawmakers needed to hear it. It’s presented by the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona which works with Congress, state legislatures and the media to promote civility in political conversation.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter began outlining his budget and policy priorities for state lawmakers during his "State of the State" address Monday afternoon, naming public education as his primary focus for the year.

The annual speech kicks off the start of the legislative session, with state lawmakers, members of the judiciary and other leaders gathered in the Idaho Statehouse to hear Otter's remarks.

Otter reminded lawmakers of the state's constitutional requirement to provide a general, uniform and free public school system. He proposed a 7.9 percent increase to the state's public education budget. That would bring the total to $1.59 billion. It's the second year in a row that Otter has proposed steep hikes for education spending.

S. Hellstrom / Bureau of Land Management

As tensions mount over the occupation of a federal building in an Oregon wildlife refuge by an armed group, some are asking the question: Could it happen in Idaho? The Gem State has had its own arguments over the use of federal land, including the Legislature considering taking control of all the federal land within Idaho’s borders.

Kaiser Family Foundation

According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study, the 29 states that expanded Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act have – not surprisingly – witnessed increased enrollment and spending. Those states brought in new low-income enrollees that were not eligible before. In California alone, 3.4 million people were added to the state-run health insurance program.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Strengthening Idaho's system for purchasing goods and services comes down to careful training, good research, picking the right providers and following the law, some state employees told a group of lawmakers on Thursday.

The legislative interim committee is digging into Idaho's contracting system in the wake of several scandals, including an illegally awarded $60 million school broadband contract that was voided by a judge earlier this year.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Some Idaho lawmakers were briefed Wednesday on a streamlined sales tax policy during a meeting on potential changes to the tax code. Twelve legislators make up the Tax Working Group, which began holding public meetings earlier this month.

The Idaho State Tax Commission policy manager talked about the streamlined sales tax system. States like Utah and Wyoming already use the system, and it would make it easier for Idaho to collect online sales tax from people using sites like Amazon.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho’s Constitutional Defense Council will meet Wednesday. The members will be asked to spend money to pay for a lost legal case. Recent court cases have drained the fund considerably this year.

Idaho Transportation Department

You may have noticed higher registration fees when you’ve paid for new stickers for your car or truck. That’s part of a new law, and a new revenue stream for the Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) backlog in road restoration and preservation. Now ITD says it is already wrapping up the first projects using the new influx of cash.

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