David Nelson for Idaho Senate
A Senator to support all citizens of Benewah and Latah Counties

Newsletter

Updates from the session

March 17th: SB1189 The Voter Revenge Act

We had another exciting week in the legislature!   It has now become clear that we won’t adjourn by the end of March because the big issues of the session have not been resolved. Although we seem to have sped up on dealing with many of the smaller issues, we have slowed down on the big ones. 

This has been very frustrating. As we’ve moved through the legislative session, the process has deteriorated, with a small group of legislators repeatedly making decisions about major and impactful legislation behind closed doors, without transparency, without stakeholders, and without the rest of the legislature.

I came to Boise to work with all parties to solve problems. I have had some impact in working across the aisle on transportation issues, but I continue to be stymied on the big issues: Medicaid Expansion, the initiative process, and the school funding formula.  These are the issues that will define this legislative session.

SB1159: The most restrictive initiative and referendum process in the nation

On Monday March 11, and then again on Friday March 15th, large crowds filled the Lincoln Auditorium to testify before Senate State Affairs Committee on SB1159.  Nearly everyone present was opposed to this proposed bill.  The Committee voted to hold the bill in committee at the will of the Chair. Stay ALERT! Chair Lodge has already said the bill will be voted on in committee again next week.

I oppose this bill that would make the initiative and referendum process the most restrictive in the nation and would put Idahoans at risk of being manipulated by wealth and power from outside the State.    Here’s how:  As initiative requirements become more restrictive, the only way to get an initiative on the ballot will be to hire expensive private companies to gather signatures. Idaho will become a place where these companies will get paid to peddle initiatives that come from a national platform (rather than from local interest groups) and which are supported by national dark money.  These initiatives are likely to leave Idaho with legislation that will not benefit our citizens and did not emerge from our own politics or people.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the changes proposed:

REQUIREMENT

CURRENT

PROPOSED

Signatures of registered voters

6%

10%

Number of legislative districts requiring signatures (of 35)

18 (51% of districts)

32 (91% of districts)

Time to collect signatures

18 mos (540 days)

180 days

Proposed source of funding

Not required

Required

Financial Impact Statement

Not required

Required

It’s actually even worse than it seems at first.   Because the financial impact statement for an initiative must be prepared by the State, and the preparation can’t begin until the 180-day clock starts ticking, and there is no deadline for the State to complete it, there could be little or no time left to collect the signatures! This is an untenable condition.

The requirement to specify a funding source is unique.  We do not require this of a legislative bill! Why the disparity?  Why would this be a requirement for an initiative that comes from the people and not be a requirement for the legislature?

Ironically, the legislature repeatedly crafts and passes legislation without proper fiscal notes, no impact statements, and only rarely with a consideration of the long-term financial implications to local governments. For example, the current Education Funding Formula bill in the Senate Education Committee, at 62 pages long, claims to have no fiscal impact. The irony is most evident in SB1159’s poor and inadequate fiscal note in which there is no provision for resources for the Secretary of State to educate voters, no revenue to counties for the extra burden of verifying signatures, and no indication of the cost of the Department of Financial Management’s services.

Signature Sheets: Currently all the signatures on a specific petition page must be from a single county.  SB1159 changes that to a single legislative district. If you live in Ada or Kootenai or Bonneville county, each of which has many legislative districts within it, this change is going to erect a barrier to collecting signatures, because people often don’t know which legislative district, they live in.

What can you do

  1. Contact Senators on the Senate State Affairs Committee, especially ones you know or have a connection to;

  2. If the bill gets out of committee and progresses, contact all your legislators and any legislators you have a connection to; 

  3. Reclaim Idaho has a response website you can use, but the more personal your contact, the better.  Talking to a legislator in person is more effective than an email.  

If you would like to see and/or hear a sample of the testimony we heard last week, here are some posts from Matt Erpelding, Betsy Russell at “Eye On Boise” and streams of the testimony online (large video download).

 

Tina+and+Medicaid+Volunteers.jpg

Below are some highlights on bills I have supported in conjunction with some of my Democratic colleagues in the last week.

First Responder Bill

Following nearly a year of work, legislation covering Idaho’s first responders for psychological injuries under the state’s Workers’ Compensation program is now law. At the bill-signing ceremony Tuesday, Representative Mat Erpelding/(D-Boise), who led the push for the change and sponsored the legislation, said Idaho can sleep a little safer tonight.

“We depend on our police, fire, dispatchers and emergency workers every day. This is going to improve their health and everyone’s safety.” Erpelding said. “This legislation is long overdue. I am grateful for the part my colleagues on both sides of aisle played in getting this bill passed. As elected leaders, we can never forget how vital Idaho’s first responders are to our well-being.”

Senate Bill 1028 touched a chord with fellow Democratic legislators who know all too well the mental strain first responders experience on a daily basis.

“Every night when I get home, I listen to what my husband deals with day-in and day-out” said Rep. Brooke Greene whose husband is an Ada County Sheriff’s deputy. “As a first responders’ spouse we are the first line of defense and see the toll this job can take on our loved one. One of the main reasons I ran for office was to do something about this problem and to be a voice for our law enforcement families. On a personal level, voting for the First Responders Bill was one of the most important things I’ve done since joining the House.”

Exploding Targets

Senator Michelle Stennett’s exploding targets bill passed in committee and now heads to the Senate floor. The legislation will align Idaho’s code on state lands with federal lands law to ban “exploding targets” during the designated fire season. Unfortunately, the flammable targets have been one of the biggest culprits of human caused blazes.

“Every year, an increasing number of fires in Idaho are caused by exploding targets.” Sen. Stennett explained. “In July alone, fire officials said that at least 8 wildfires were caused by exploding targets in southern Idaho, burning tens of thousands of acres.”

These large wildfires endanger thousands of lives in the area including the firefighters who are keeping us safe. This is also a massive blow to taxpayers because federal, state, and local tax dollars must be used to stop fires. Several resources are destroyed in these fires: private property, wildlife, public lands, and tourist attractions.

“Every time there is a large fire, we spend millions of dollars in taxpayer money.” She said. “We are not trying to ban exploding targets, but we need to be more responsible when using them. During the fire season, it can get so dry that even a small explosion can start a massive fire. It is dangerous and costly for us to allow this during this time period. For example, the 2018 Sharps Fire outside of Carey was ignited on state lands and burned over 65,000 acres at a cost of nearly $10 million.”

Solar Panels

On March 13th, Representative Ilana Rubel’s/(D-Boise) Solar Panel passed the Senate and now is awaiting the Governor’s signature. Rep. Rubel expressed the importance of passing the legislation.

“The current law ignores some of the important innovations that have been made in solar panel technology.” She explained. “In the past, Homeowners Associations (HOAs) have restricted their use because they were so ugly and obtrusive. Now, solar panels are nearly undetectable to the naked eye.”

Rep. Rubel has been working closely with HOAs to make sure that the law aligns with homeowners’ rights. She believes that we have to consider the value of property rights in our laws.

“Homeowners deserve the right to make choices about their energy consumption.” She said. “After working closely with HOAs, we have come up with legislation that will restore homeowners’ rights to make their own decisions about solar panels. I am extremely encouraged by the overwhelming support the legislation has seen in the House and Senate, so far. I hope that the Senate floor will prioritize homeowners’ rights in the same way other legislators have.”

Events

On March 23rd I will be joining Representatives Troy and Goesling in Town Halls at: 

  • 9:00 am at the Moscow Chamber office, 411 S. Main Street.

  • the Deary Community Center at 1:00pm

Hopefully this will be my last trip home for this legislative session but you never know!

David Nelson