The second session of the 66th Idaho Legislature wrapped up on March 31. The theme of this session was more of the same old story we have seen year in and year out. In many ways, this session seemed unspectacular compared to the record breaking 2021 session. It was mostly a continuation of the attacks on pandemic response, voting rights, education, free speech, and more tax breaks for the wealthy.
There are a few noticeable trends that are worth pointing out. The 2022 session was average in length, lasting 81 days. IORC tracked 13 bills, down from 30 in 2021. A total of 338 new bills were signed into law. This is slightly below the 10-year average of 350. However, 569 total bills were introduced (bills that failed plus bills that passed). This is well above the 10-year average of 560. There is a trend developing that suggests the amount of legislation lawmakers are attempting to pass is growing. This could be a factor of hastily written legislation, half-baked policy solutions, or simply because they are just bad bills.
The session was marred by unjustified attacks on librarians, transgender healthcare access, legislative power grabs, and tax cuts that benefit the wealthy. Voting rights took center stage again this year as Republican lawmakers aim to restrict access to the polls to prevent alleged voter fraud. Often these proposals come at the expense of legitimate absentee voters, students, and members of already disenfranchised communities.
IORC Key Issues
Elections & Voting Rights
IORC opposed unjustified rollbacks of our constitutional right to vote. We support free and fair elections and believe that is accomplished by fostering greater voter participation by removing barriers to the democratic process. Not by banning ballot collection boxes and outlawing absentee voting. We were very fortunate the most harmful bills never passed the Senate. Instead, legislative leadership proposed to convene an interim committee to evaluate and propose voting and election related legislation. This means we will see more voting rights bills next year, but we hope they are at least more thoughtful and well considered. Regardless of the outcome of the interim committee, the IORC Grassroots Action team will keep fighting for your voting rights.
Citizenship & Driver’s Licenses
HB 527 was passed to bolster citizenship documentation requirements for voting. Representative Mitchell (Moscow) and Representative Moyle (Star) proposed creating an optional citizenship insignia on all Idaho IDs and driver’s licenses. IORC opposed this bill because it puts people at risk of unequal treatment by law enforcement, public service agencies, and private businesses if they choose not to display their citizenship status on their identification card. Additionally, Idaho already has Real ID compliant Star Cards that require applicants to prove citizenship or residency.
Marielena Vega, chair of the Vision 2C Resource Council stated in her written testimony “the State of Idaho already has processes in place, such as the Real ID identification cards, which require the applicant to prove they are a citizen or otherwise lawfully present in the U.S. Therefore any ‘new’ designation requirement is unnecessary and redundant. Additionally, this committee must realize that this optional ‘insignia’ puts members of Idaho’s community at risk of discrimination.”
Climate Change & Energy
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 40% of energy nationwide is consumed by buildings and 21% is consumed by residential homes. But the Idaho legislature passed HB 660 to have greater authority over building codes to limit local adoption of energy efficiency standards by locking Idaho into the outdated 2018 code. These codes are updated every three years and help local governments meet their climate change goals and lower heating and cooling bills for their residents. IORC opposed this short-sighted proposal because it chips away at energy efficiency and conservation requirements in the building and construction sector. We support the authority of local jurisdictions to implement building codes that meet the needs of their residents.
Agriculture & Food
HB 559 authorizes the creation of a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) environmental improvement fund to pay for animal waste management projects. The grant program is managed by an oversight committee made up of representatives from industry, government, and academia.
IORC supports efforts to clean up big ag, but believes large corporate interests are unfairly represented on the oversight committee. Additionally, we supported the addition of a cost-share amendment to help make sure that businesses taking advantage of the fund stand on sound financial footing and are willing to share some of the costs of their project. Overall the project is a good step forward and we hope our friends in the sustainable and regenerative agriculture community will find ways to take advantage of the funding opportunities.
2022 is a major state and federal election year. One U.S. Senator, both members of the U.S. House of Representatives, all statewide executive branch offices, and the entire Idaho Legislature is up for election. Now is a great time to get registered to vote leading up to the general election on November 8. Please visit https://voteidaho.gov/ to register, find your polling location, and check your voter information. We will publish a legislative scorecard again this year so you can evaluate how your lawmakers did on IORC issues.
Want to support our legislative work?
Member support is crucial to supporting the Grassroots Action Team’s important work to represent IORC members at the statehouse. You can help by joining as a member or donating to support our legislative efforts. Members are eligible to attend the Principles of Community Organizing Training, a nationally renowned training program hosted by the Western Organization of Resource Councils August 22-25 in Billings, Montana. If you would like a front row seat to the legislative process you may also participate in the member-led Grassroots Action Team. Please email Doug Paddock at dpaddock@IORCinfo.org to volunteer next session or to apply for POCO.
You may see the full list of bills we supported or opposed on the IORC bill tracker.