Idaho Legislature

Rebecca Boone / AP Photo

The Idaho Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on a case that could decide the future of a 6 percent sales tax on groceries.

The Idaho Legislature passed a bill this year removing the tax. They adjourned and went home. Governor Butch Otter vetoed the bill, 11 days after adjournment. And that’s where the controversy started.

Some GOP lawmakers filed suit, arguing the Idaho Constitution says a governor has ten days to veto a bill after adjournment. But in 1978, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled the governor has ten days, starting when he gets the bill.

AP

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter has created a new health care panel for Idaho, and appointed the retiring head of the Health and Welfare Department to lead it.

It’s called the Governor’s Health Care Advisory Panel, or HCAP, and Otter created it last week by executive order. The group’s main job will be to review new federal or state health care initiatives and report to the governor and the Idaho Legislature.

The panel will provide research and guidance on health care policies. Members will also fine-tune the state's strategy for health care policy.

Gregory Williams / Flickr Creative Commons

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter allowed a transportation funding bill to become law Tuesday, despite concerns over how the plan came to be.

The $320 million transportation plan takes about $15 million out of the general fund through sales tax – which is used to pay for things like public schools. Governor Otter is not happy with this funding formula, but with bridges and roads falling apart across the state he allowed the bill to become law – without his signature.

AP

A key legislative leader is promising to reintroduce a proposal amending Idaho's constitution to expand the rights of crime victims and their families.

Senate Majority Caucus Chair Todd Lakey said Thursday he will bring back his proposal during the 2018 legislative session after his first version was spiked by a House committee earlier this year.

J Pat Carter / AP Images

Tuesday, April 18 is tax day. In Idaho, residents will file both state and federal income taxes. The Gem State has had this kind of tax since 1931.

But if you were hoping for some income tax relief on the state level you’ll have to wait at least another year.

capitol, JFAC
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

On Monday, the Idaho Legislature fielded a flurry of bills from committees. That’s by design.

The 36th calendar day of each legislative session is the last day that personal bills can be introduced in most committees. That was Monday, which resulted in a glut of bills popping up in committees.

Boise State University Political Science professor Gary Moncrief says after the deadline, it gets harder to get bills into the Legislature.

Gary Moncrief

It’s a new year for Republicans who now control government at the national level. And also for the 2017 Idaho Legislature, which leans even more toward the GOP after losing four Democratic seats in the fall elections. That means change in Washington D.C. and in the Gem State.

Today, we bring you our first 2017 Weekly Legislative Update. We’ll be taking a close look at what happens in the Idaho Statehouse, both in the public eye and behind the scenes.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Legislative auditors say the Idaho Racing Commission failed to give $72,000 to public schools in 2015, but did give $286,000 to horse breeder associations that year.  

Ada County Statehouse Capitol Building Treasurer Crane
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho treasurer's office didn't make public for about three and a half months information about a Securities and Exchange Commission violation involving a state agency.

The Spokesman-Review reports in a story on Tuesday that the state Credit Rating Enhancement Committee's annual report in July detailed the SEC action involving self-reported violations by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association.

Tom Kelly/Flickr

A small group of Idaho lawmakers say the Republican-dominated Legislature must find a way to provide health care to the state's low-income uninsured population in 2017.

However, the legislative panel fell short from backing a specific proposal during its final meeting on Tuesday. Instead, lawmakers agreed on broad recommendations, such as urging a sunset provision if the Idaho Legislature does consider Medicaid expansion and promoting using general funds to help cover any new program costs.

Ada County Statehouse Capitol Building Dome (2)
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho's top legislative leaders have approved a new system for estimating the cost of proposed legislation on the state's general fund.

In Idaho, bill sponsors are solely responsible for determining the financial impact of their legislation. There is no consequence if the estimated cost of a bill is wrong. Furthermore, the Idaho Legislature does not track if legislation estimates are accurate, so it's unclear how many bills may have incorrectly stated their fiscal impact.

All of Idaho’s legislative seats were up for grabs in Tuesday's election. The Legislature already leans heavily Republican and after votes were counted, it became even more so.

A handful of Democratic seats turned Republican. In some of those, long-time Democratic incumbents lost their seats. Other, formerly Democratic seats that were open, turned GOP.

Idaho Republican Party / Facebook

Republicans are expected to dominate Tuesday's election, with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump predicted to easily win Idaho's four electoral votes and all three of the Republican congressional candidates likely to secure their bids for re-election.

That leaves the open seat on Idaho's Supreme Court as the state's most competitive race.

Twin Falls attorney Robyn Brody and Republican state Sen. Curt McKenzie are in a tight race over the little-known position.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Election Day is next week and all 35 seats in the Idaho Senate and all 70 seats in the Idaho House are on the ballot. That means opportunity for change in the body that makes state policy.

But how much variation will we actually see? And how competitive are this year's races? Those are questions Boise State University Political Science Professor Emeritus Gary Moncrief has been considering. Moncrief says many of the state's legislative races just aren’t that competitive this year.

Betsy Russell

When voters in Idaho go to the polls on November 8 they'll be asked to change the state's constitution. H.J.R. 5 comes from legislators, who want to take a power they already have and make it stronger, by enshrining it into the constitutional framework.

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