Politics & Goverment

Stories about politics, policy, and how government works.

Butch Otter, Idaho Governor
Otto Kitsinger / AP Images

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter told reporters Monday he plans to appeal the federal government’s decision not to give Idaho disaster aid. He made the request to help pay for the cost of this year’s severe winter storms and spring floods.

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.

Otto Kitsinger / AP Images

The state legislature wrapped up Wednesday afternoon, less than a week after leadership had hoped to adjourn.

The minority party went into this legislative session on its heels after losing four seats in the November election. Out of 105 House and Senate members, only 17 were Democrats.

senate, legislature, capitol
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho employers will pay millions of dollars more than necessary in unemployment insurance taxes after a bill that was supposed to lower those costs failed on the final day of the 2017 session.

Officials from the Idaho Department of Labor and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's office had pushed lawmakers to reduce a key component in how Idaho calculates the unemployment insurance tax rate because the fund Idaho uses to pay unemployment benefits has more money in it than needed.

This would have saved employers an estimated $115 million over the next three years.

Charlie Litchfield / AP

The Idaho Legislature closed up shop and went home Wednesday. The session went five days longer than leadership had anticipated.

The session was notable for a few bills, including transportation funding and tax cuts, which were sticking points at the end of the session. Lawmakers also didn’t find a solution for the 78,000 Idahoans who fall in the Medicaid gap and don’t have health insurance.

A majority of lawmakers in the Idaho House came out in favor of issuing $90 million in bonds to construct new facilities at the Idaho National Lab.

After vigorous debate Tuesday night, House members voted 56-14 in favor of issuing the bonds for construction of a cybersecurity training center and a facility that will house a supercomputer.

Idaho National Guard

Lawyers for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are continuing their efforts to have the desertion case against their client dismissed because of disparaging remarks made by Donald Trump while he was campaigning for president.

AP

A massive transportation funding bill is making its way through the Idaho Statehouse as lawmakers hope to finish their work before the end of the day.

Senate members spent nearly two hours Tuesday debating a roughly $320 million proposal to funnel more money to roads and bridges. A similar proposal had failed in the Senate chamber just last week on a 15-20 vote. This forced transportation and infrastructure advocates scrambling to rewrite a new plan before adjournment, which in the end wooed enough lawmakers to vote 19-16.

Otto Kitsinger / Associated Press

As we wrap up the 11th week of the 2017 Idaho Legislative Session, lawmakers have been struggling to finish up their work and go home. For several weeks, the goal has been to end the session Friday. House Speaker Scott Bedke said on Thursday lawmakers will have to come back on Monday.

This week lawmakers struggled with a large transportation funding bill. They tried and failed to pass a bill that would have helped some of the 78,000 people in Idaho who can’t afford health insurance. And tax cuts are still a sticking point.

Casey Lewis / Flickr

Faith healing remains one of the most contentious issues in the state of Idaho. Monday at the Statehouse, a panel of senators narrowly approved a bill related to the matter in spite of overwhelming negative testimony.

Elizabeth Findley / Boise State Public Radio

The 2017 Legislative Session is in the closing weeks at the Idaho Capitol. Soon, elected officials will leave Boise for their home districts. Another group will also be wrapping up. These are pages: high school students who work alongside the senators and representatives.

Shanyce Barber, a high school senior from Payette, is a page for the 2017 legislative session.

"When I told people I was becoming a page, they were like, 'Why?' They were just kind of shocked," Barber says. "They thought it would be a boring experience, but they couldn't be more wrong."

Ada County Statehouse Capitol Building Attorney General Office Wasden
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho House lawmakers used Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's budget plan for fiscal year 2018 to highlight their displeasure with the chief legal officer's recent agreement to repeal two anti-abortion laws.

House members voted 40-30 on the attorney general's budget Monday, a narrow vote in a Legislature that typically displays overwhelming support for funding proposals once they are set by budget writers.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

What began as a tax cut bill in the Idaho House morphed into a repeal of the state's 6 percent grocery tax when the legislation was presented in the Senate Thursday.

John Miller / AP Images

Right now, state boards and commissions created by executive order are not subject to Idaho Open Meeting law. That means they can hold meetings without letting the public know, and without letting the public sit in on the discussions.

If a new bill passes muster at the statehouse, that could change. Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, proposed the change yesterday, fittingly during Sunshine Week – a week meant to expose transparency issues in government. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Kevin Rank / Flickr

Bills were flying fast and furious in and out of the Idaho House and Senate this week, as lawmakers try to meet next Friday’s deadline to wrap up the session and go home.

As week ten of the legislature comes to a close, lawmakers still haven’t solved the Medicaid Gap in Idaho. Those are the people who can’t afford health care but make too much to qualify for Medicaid. Transportation funding and a tax cut are also still in the mix.

Boise State University political science professor Gary Moncrief says there are still around 100 bills to be considered in the House and Senate.

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