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A Seat in the House

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Bills of interest as we approach the end of the 2007 session

The pace is starting to accelerate as we get closer to the end of the session. The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee set the budget for about 50 agencies the week of February 19; however the large budgets of Public Education and Health and Welfare are yet to be done. 

In addition to the appropriations process there are several pieces of legislation that I think would be of special interest to our River Journal readers.

House Bill 81, that increases the grocery sales tax credit to $70 for senior citizens and to $50 for all other Idahoans, ran into a problem in the Senate. The Local Government and Taxation Committee held committee hearings on the bill on February 22, but after lengthy testimony by many citizens supporting different versions of a grocery tax credit, the committee couldn’t reach any consensus, and as a result, voted to send the bill to the Senate floor for possible amendments. Depending upon Senate floor action the bill could wait for several days (possibly weeks) until Senate Republican leaders decide to hold a debate on the Senate floor over which changes, if any, should be made to the legislation.

House Bill 206 is proposed legislation that would phase out the tax on business personal property, including machinery, tools, furnishings, equipment and some fixtures.

The legislation phases out the tax over a set period of time, immediately and retroactive to January 1, 2007 for property up to $50,000 of taxable value. The remaining personal property in excess of $50,000 taxable value will be phased out from 2008 to 2016.

The $50,000 immediate exemption would shift between $4 and 7 million in tax liability to other classifications of property.

The remaining phase-out of the higher value personal represents a loss of revenue to local governments; but to keep local governments whole, the loss of this revenue would be covered by reimbursement to the counties from the state general fund account. By the end of the phase-out period in 2016 it is estimated that the amount required annually from the state general fund to reimburse the local government’s loss will be approximately $96 million.

House Bill 184 provides that Idaho’s minimum wage be linked to the Federal minimum wage law. Congress is expected to raise the minimum wage this year and House Bill 184 allows the Idaho minimum wage to take effect on the same date as the federal law would take effect. 

This legislation was not without controversy, but did pass the House on a 47 to 19 vote. There were some members of the House who wanted to both increase the minimum wage over the proposed federal government proposal and, in addition, add an index to the minimum wage that would increase the minimum wage in parallel with increases in the CPI index. The bill now goes before the Senate.

House Bill 121 removes the exemption for bowling alleys from the clean indoor air prohibition on smoking in a public place. The bill, if passed into law, would outlaw smoking in bowling alleys. After a lengthy debate over personal property rights and the philosophy that business owners shouldn’t be mandated to eliminate smoking in their own place of business, House Bill 121 passed the House by a vote of 48 to 17.

House Joint Memorial #3 is a joint memorial sending a message to Congress and to our Congressional Delegation that the Idaho legislature objects to the mandates of the Real ID Act of 2005 passed by Congress. 

The REAL ID act of 2005 has serious constitutional and privacy problems. It forces all states to issue driver’s licenses to the federal ID standard and attempts to force the states to become part of a national database with 50,000 access points to sensitive data on every American citizen. The act also creates an unfunded mandate on every state with an initial cost to Idaho estimated at $39 million and over $9 million annually.

Governor Otter has also expressed opposition to the REAL ID act and announced that he is working to get other governors to join him in opposing the act.

This legislative session is still scheduled to end March 19, and based on the speed at which the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee is doing its work on setting the budget, it appears that we may in fact end the session on the 19th.

In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with issues of concern to you. My phone number in Boise is 1-800-626-0471, e-mail at id[email protected] and my mailing address is: House of Representatives, State Capitol Building, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, Idaho 83720-0038.

Thanks for reading!


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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

Tagged as:

taxes, Idaho Legislature, House Bill 81, House Bill 206, credits, grocery credit, House Bill 184, minimum wage, REAL ID Act

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