2017 Legislative Update, Week 5

Last Monday we hosted our 2nd Grassroots Lobby Day at the Idaho Capitol. IORC members met with legislators on both sides of the aisle to talk grocery tax and our concerns with oil and gas development in Idaho. We’ve got a lot to report so check it out!

Food Tracker 4000.
IORC has joined a coalition of Idaho-based hunger relief and farming organizations to continue our push to exempt groceries from the state sales tax. The organizations include the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force, the Idaho Interfaith Roundtable Against Hunger, the Idaho Farmers Market Association, and the Idaho Grassroots Organization. In an op-ed recently published across the state, the coalition describes why it is time to exempt groceries from the state’s sales tax:

“We believe that exempting groceries from the state’s sales tax will increase access and affordability to food for all Idahoans, increase profits for our local farmers and food producers, and remove a competitive disadvantage for Idaho communities at our borders.”

While our organizations support exempting groceries from the state’s sales tax, we aren’t advocating for any other tax cuts this year.

“We acknowledge that the sales tax on food makes an important contribution to the state budget. We look for a fairer future tax system that does not rely on funding state operations by taxing an essential need like food.”

During the lobby day, members met with several lawmakers to discuss the need for an exemption, and the political momentum needed to get a bill passed. We will continue to work with key legislators, and we are expecting a bill to be made public in the coming days.

In order to get this important legislation passed, we will need everyone to reach out to their legislators to show support. This policy has been bouncing around in the halls of the statehouse for some time, but legislators are saying they have not heard enough from their constituents to make it a priority. Find out how to contact your legislator HERE.

Legislature Sends Message to IDL.
A resolution was introduced this Thursday to reject changes to the state’s oil and gas rules delivering a clear message to the Idaho Department of Lands that they are not pleased with the process or outcome. IORC and allies asked the Department to implement split estate, environmental and public health protections, and better bonding. However, many of these concerns went unaddressed. We are pleased with the legislature’s actions and look forward to working to protect Idahoans living with oil and gas.

We are currently tracking two bills and expect three more to be introduced Monday. House Bill 52 authorizes Idaho to join the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. The Compact engages in pro-industry lobbying for oil and gas companies. Membership comes at a cost and we oppose the use of our taxpayer resources to attack laws that protect our drinking water and the environment. It passed the House of Representatives on Monday and now heads to the Senate Resources & Environment Committee.  You can write a message to the committee HERE.

House Bill 64 fails to address the fundamental problems in Idaho oil and gas law resulting from last year’s Senate Bill 1339. While we agree some of the Department’s proposed changes are positive, until the fundamental problems with split estate and rights to due process are addressed, we do not support it. House Bill 64 will be up in the full House Monday.

If you live in District 9, the town hall meetings have been rescheduled for February 18 (previously scheduled for Feb. 4).

Congress Attacks Oil & Gas Waste Standards.
At the Federal level, Congress set its sights on the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Waste Prevention Rule, which limits venting, flaring and leaks of natural gas from oil and gas sites on public and tribal land. Congress is using a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal a wide range of Obama-era rules. The CRA allows Congress to roll back recent administrative rules. It blocks use of the filibuster in the Senate. Even worse, a successful CRA resolution means no federal agency can put similar protections in place in the future — ever — without permission from Congress.

IORC was in Washington, D.C. all this week lobbying to protect the rule. You can help too by writing your Senator and asking them to stand up for American taxpayers and public health. Click here to go to WORC’s action page. Hurry, because the Senate is expected to vote as early as Tuesday of next week!