Adjournment / Vetoes
We were on the floor until midnight Friday when finally every bill had been voted on. I moved to adjourn sine die to end the session, but my motion was defeated on a near party-line vote as the GOP wanted to remain in session to potentially override any vetoes by the Governor. We are heading back in Thursday morning at 11 am to take those votes. Meanwhile, the Governor has issued a number of vetoes, including of H782 to dramatically overhaul the Judicial Council and the Coronavirus Pause Act to ban private employer vaccine requirements. We shall see Thursday whether the vetoes are upheld!
The final stretch involved wrangling over the foundational work of the legislature – passing budgets. Unexpectedly, library funding became one of the most contentious issues. HB666, the bill to jail librarians, teachers and museum workers for allowing minors access to “harmful materials” was blocked in the Senate, but in retaliation the House GOP took nearly $4 million out of the Commission on Libraries budget (which was only $11M to begin with). They cut out all funding for e-books and eliminated funds to establish telehealth facilities in rural libraries. I voted no on the final libraries budget because I thought it was inappropriately punitive and cut out needed services.
On other budgets, it was remarkable how many agencies and services barely survived. When I started in 2014 budgets were non-dramatic affairs that passed almost unanimously, but times sure have changed! The following is a list of budgets that were were opposed by a majority of House Republicans and only passed because every Dem voted in favor:
- Department of Public Health
- Supreme Court
- Full-day kindergarten
- Affordable workforce housing
- Division of Medicaid
- Commission on Hispanic Affairs
- Commission on Aging
- Department of Health and Welfare
- Division of Human Resources
- Division of Financial Management
- Attorney General’s Office
- Child care assistance
- Developmental Disabilities Council
- Commission on the Arts
- Domestic Violence Council
- Workforce Development Council
- Office of Species Conservation
- Idaho State Lottery
- Office of Energy & Mineral Resources
As the House Democratic Leader, I’m proud we were able to play such a meaningful role in keeping the ship of state afloat, but I’d like to get back to a time where there is more bipartisan agreement on providing vital government services.
I am ecstatic that all of the voter suppression bills were held in the Senate! So, you will all still be able to register to vote using bank statements, utility bills etc. just as you always have, you can change from unaffiliated on election day to vote in a Republican primary (Dem primaries are open so your affiliation doesn’t matter), and you will still have ready access to absentee voting and ballot drop boxes. Idaho has some of the safest and most accessible elections in the nation, and I’m glad they will remain so – at least until next session.
Good news! As you know, we have been working on funding optional full-day kindergarten for years, and it passed. I was a co-sponsor. We also passed the higher ed budget with a significant increase, and we passed $1000 bonuses for teachers. All of this is in addition to putting teachers on the state health insurance plan. Unfortunately it is likely that Idaho will still remain last in America for education funding, but we made some progress this year. No progress was made on early childhood education, but we did allocate some funds to childcare assistance.
Thankfully HB741, which would have raised the sales tax to 8%, was abandoned. But again, our property tax reduction bills were denied hearings and not enough was done on this front. We did shift public defender funding off of property taxes and onto internet sales tax funding, which will help slightly. We also did a little damage control from HB389 (passed in the 2021 session over my fervent objection) that had stripped thousands of low-income seniors of their property tax assistance. This session we passed a bill that restores assistance to some of those seniors. Next year there will be a new Chair of the Tax Committee, so we may have a chance to make more progress on lowering property taxes.