Legislative update

Lawmakers entering another step toward finishing the session, though more bills to be heard

By Rep. Mark Sauter, R-Sandpoint
Reader Contributor

Greetings. I hope all is well. The Legislature is in its 10th week of session. The introduction of bills has slowed but is still well ahead of the past five years. 

The House is winding down its bill introductions through committees and beginning to hear Senate bills. What does this mean? For the legislative session to end, the state budget needs to be completed and adopted. New bills to add, reduce or edit/amend state statute are not always necessary but are the other part of the Legislative process. Bills can also be used to get other things accomplished. 

Rep. Mark Sauter. File photo.

So, the House getting their bills pushed to the Senate is a step toward finishing the session. Hearing the Senate bills is the next step. 

The House and Senate can hold a few important bills the other side wants to see passed as hostage — that way they can try to influence the decision of when to stop and what bills to hear from the other side. 

Before the session ends, there will be some controversial bills to vote on.

A library bill (House Bill 710) will be heard this week. This bill empowers juveniles — and their parents/guardians — to question and report harmful materials found in the juvenile section of a library and request the same materials be moved to an adult section within 30 days. 

If the materials are not moved, the juvenile and parent/guardian would have a “cause of action” against the library with a possible statutory fine of $250 plus any other relief available by law. The county prosecutor and attorney general may also be involved.

A school tax credit bill (H.B. 447) was heard earlier this week and voted down in the Revenue/Taxation Committee. The bill would have granted parents an allowable refundable tax credit against their Idaho taxes of up to $5,000 for school expenses, including tuition. A credit of $7,500 would be possible for eligible special needs students. It has been rumored this bill may return for another vote before this legislative session ends. 

The funding for the Idaho LAUNCH program will also be brought to the floor for a vote. This is a $70 million-$80 million program that helps graduating high school seniors pay for their training when they pursue high-demand careers. The program goal is to prepare young Idahoans entering the workforce with the training they need to fill the jobs that Idaho commerce and industry need. These jobs are determined by the Idaho Workforce Development Council. 

Senate Bill 1390 has been introduced to provide more direction and limits for funding this program. Meanwhile, hundreds of our District 1 students have applied for this program. 

This year the budgets for state agencies have been divided into two parts. Much has been said and written about this change to the Joint Finance-Appropriation Committee (JFAC) process. The first round of agency budgets have all been approved. The secondary budgets are just beginning to come to a vote on the House and Senate floors. The second round of budgets include replacement equipment, cost escalation for services delivered, changes in employee compensation, and new services and equipment. 

I will be home this Saturday, March 16 for meet-and-greets in Priest River, Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry. I ran an ad in this edition of the Reader with times and places [see Page 3]. Please consider attending. If you prefer to offer your feedback and insight in writing, you can email me at [email protected] or call 208-332-1035.

Rep. Mark Sauter is a Republican legislator representing District 1A. He serves on the Agricultural Affairs; Education; and Judiciary, Rules and Administration committees.

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