July 23, 2021

House Debates Property Tax Amendment

Idaho State Capitol – On Friday, the House debated amendments to Senate Bill 1277. The original legislation made changes to the application process for the Idaho homestead exemption. However, the legislation was sent to General Orders on Friday morning.

“SB 1277 was heard at the last minute this morning in House Revenue and Taxation.” Representative Ilana Rubel/(D-Boise) explained. “Republican leadership then rushed the bill to General Orders to tack on a dangerous amendment that will gut local government budgets as they brace to respond to a global health pandemic. This is beyond irresponsible. In the face of an international health crisis the likes of which we have never seen in our lifetimes, this is not the time to be stripping counties of the funds they need to respond. County officials are at the front line in a health crisis – they are responsible for emergency response programs, paramedic services, and local health districts. It defies belief at this juncture that Majority Party House members would vote to strip them of $32 million in funding that is direly needed to keep our citizens alive and healthy. There are responsible ways to provide property tax relief, but this is not it.”

“Democrats proposed an alternative amendment to increase the homestead exemption which would make commercial properties pay their fair share of property taxes.” Representative Lauren Necochea said. “One large corporation in Boise is paying $1 million less in property taxes than 10 years ago, while homeowner property taxes are growing through the roof. This shift of costs onto homeowners is not fair and we have to restore balance. Gutting our public health response capabilities during our current emergency is not the answer. Unfortunately, Republican leadership is more interested in protecting commercial real estate lobbyists than keeping Idahoans alive and well.”

2/20/2020 – Article: “Democrats hold press conference about property tax bills not being heard in the Legislature”

1/30/2020 – Article: “Bipartisan Proposal Would Give Some Former Idaho Inmates A ‘Clean Slate'”

  • Article: “Bipartisan Proposal Would Give Some Former Idaho Inmates A ‘Clean Slate'”
  • “We hope [this proposal] will have a transformative effect on these peoples’ lives,” said House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise). Most other states have some sort of law that allows adults to seal their criminal records by following certain criteria. Rubel said that often, the time an individual serves in prison is the least of their worries. She said some people struggle to get jobs, scholarships, housing, or certain degrees because of their criminal background. Rubel said these are some of the “collateral consequences” that follow these folks around for the rest of their lives.

1/22/2020 – Article: “Bipartisan bill emerges to clean Idaho criminal slate”

  • Article: “Bipartisan bill emerges to clean Idaho criminal slate”
  • “Many of these folks deserve a real second chance, but we continue to hand out these collateral life sentences. We are proposing legislation referred to as a “Clean Slate” bill that would allow those who have committed non-violent, non-sexual offenses, who have completed their sentence (including probation and parole) and who have gone at least three years without reoffending to petition a court to have their public record sealed. If they can make their case to the judge that they are no longer a threat to society, they can earn a real shot at getting their lives back on track.”

1/22/2020 – Article: “Idaho legislators introduce ‘Clean Slate’ bill”

“Idahoans Deserve a Second Chance” – by Rep. Ilana Rubel

Our criminal justice system is intended to ensure there is an appropriate penalty associated with crime. We refer to this as paying one’s debt to society. However, under some of Idaho’s current laws, the payment never seems to stop. Our courts assign formal penalties, like prison time, probation and fines, but these can often be the least of a former offender’s difficulties. The bigger problem is the long list of “collateral consequences” that are not part of the sentence but follow individuals far beyond the end of any time served. It is not hard to link these collateral consequences with the unacceptably high rate of people returning to the correctional system.

Often those affected are friends or family members who committed relatively minor offenses, learned their lesson, and are ready to move on with their lives. Unfortunately, these records will follow them forever, and can severely affect their ability to find housing or a job. Inquiries into their criminal record will follow them to every job and housing application, and can be the first and last question that companies ask before turning them away. The resulting higher rates of unemployment, underemployment and homelessness for these individuals actually increases the risk that they will reoffend. With no money and no roof over their head, it’s no surprise that Idaho’s recidivism rate is 35% for felony offenders.

In Idaho, if you were 18 or over at the time of the offense, everything on your record, even misdemeanors, stays in public view to your dying day. The majority of states don’t operate this way. In fact, 41 states and the District of Columbia offer some mechanism for record-sealing for adults, and it has proven successful. The most comprehensive study we could find showed that for those with relatively minor offenses who had gone several years without reoffending and then had their record sealed, they were 22% more likely to be employed, and if previously employed their wages were 25% higher after sealing. Most importantly, this was accomplished with no threat to public safety; in fact there was substantial benefit. The recidivism rates for these former offenders were extremely low, and arrest rates for those with sealed records were actually 29% lower than those of the public at large. Remember Idaho’s 35% felony recidivism rate? This study showed a 1% felony recidivism rate for those who had successfully had their records sealed. It turns out that, having been given a chance to get their lives back on track, they did not want to blow their opportunity by reoffending.

Only infractions, misdemeanors, and nonviolent felonies that fall below a defined threshold would be sealed. This means those with a need to know, like law enforcement and judges, would still have access to ensure repeat offenders are accounted for. The point is to better define when justice has been served and allow individuals to move on with their lives.

We think it’s time for Idaho to seriously start addressing reform of our criminal justice system. Many of these folks deserve a real second chance, but we continue to hand out these collateral life sentences. We are proposing legislation referred to as a “Clean Slate” bill that would allow those who have committed non-violent, non-sexual offenses, who have completed their sentence (including probation and parole) and who have gone at least three years without reoffending to petition a court to have their public record sealed. If they can make their case to the judge that they are no longer a threat to society, they can earn a real shot at getting their lives back on track.

With the cost of our correctional system being second only to education in our state, it is time to consider different approaches to enable those who have paid their price to society move forward. We need those with criminal records to succeed, not reoffend. Taxpayers are footing the bill every time a person is reincarcerated in our already overburdened prisons, and it’s better for all of us when more of our citizens are employed. Instead of setting former offenders up for a life of frustration and desperation that may push them to commit another crime, let’s work to remove barriers to employment and empower them to learn from their mistakes.

4/5/2019 – Article: “House sticks with Medicaid work requirements”

  • Article Link: “House sticks with Medicaid work requirements”
  • Excerpt: “I am beyond disappointed to be in the situation we’re in today,” Rubel said. “I feel like, after an entire session of bouncing around, we’ve really landed in the worst possible world. There was a lot of talk about how this was going to be a compassionate solution, that it was going to offer people training and counseling and help get them into the workforce. … But that’s all gone. That all got yanked … The only thing in this bill is the part where we’re going to spend millions of dollars to hire an enforcement squad to chase down the poorest people in the state and kick them off Medicaid. We’ve pulled out the only part that would actually help them get jobs.”

4/5/2019 – Article: “Idaho House alters bill to remove people from Medicaid”

  • Article Link: “Idaho House alters bill to remove people from Medicaid”
  • Excerpt: “The only thing that’s in this bill is the part where we hire an enforcement squad to chase down the poorest people in the state and kick them off Medicaid,” said Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel in arguing against the bill.

4/5/2019 – Article/Audio: “Medicaid, Citizen Initiatives, And Two-Headed Camels”

  • Article Link: “Medicaid, Citizen Initiatives, And Two-Headed Camels”
  • About: It’s been a wild session and an even wilder week. Medicaid expansion sideboards and citizen initiative bills were the headliners. Lawmakers talked about everything from two-headed camels to moon shots to people losing their faith in lawmakers. “You know they talk about a camel being something that was made by a committee. We have a mangy, two-headed, rabid camel here,” says Democratic Representative Ilana Rubel.

3/29/2019 – Article: “Idaho House Signs Off On Two Initiative Restriction Bills”

  • Article Link: “Idaho House Signs Off On Two Initiative Restriction Bills”
  • Excerpt: Ultimately, opponents say the issue will be struck down by a judge on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional. An opinion from the Idaho Attorney General’s office says constricting the time-frame for signature gathering “could be problematic,” though that would be slightly increased under the new bill. “If you pass this, it’s going to go to court for sure and I slept like a baby last night because I’m very comfortable that this will not find its way into law,” says Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise), who’s also an intellectual property lawyer.