Last week, a logjam broke when House and Senate leaders agreed which stalled-out bills would advance, and which would not. It was obvious, because on Tuesday we were buried under a figurative avalanche of ill-advised legislation. We saw a few glimmers of hope when JFAC funded parks, water, and other priorities, but I’m sorry to report it was mostly bad news.
The House is taking today (Monday, March 27) off for a break after some marathon floor sessions last week. They rejected the Medicaid Budget, and a handful of other controversial bills on divided votes. Speaker Moyle is waiting for the Senate to catch up, as they currently have 145 items on their agenda for Monday. The Senate has limited debate and certain floor procedures to get their work finished up. I expect they’ll power through the remaining bills this week.
One key measure that still hasn’t come up for a House vote is the Constitutional Amendment seeking to limit citizen initiatives and referendums. Senate Joint Resolution 101 is expected to pass the House but the big question is whether it will have the requisite ⅔ vote. Take a moment to contact your Representative and ask them to vote NO!
Resolutions and Memorials aren’t signed by the Governor, so unfortunately there’s no opportunity for a gubernatorial veto.
BUT, there are other measures that we hope the Governor will veto, including a bill that undermines energy efficiency. We’re also concerned with efforts to limit bikeability and walkability, including an effort to do away with the bike lanes that surround the Capitol. Finally, a costly Anti-ESG bill will reduce Idaho’s already short list of 9 state depository banks. It’s complicated, but the bottom line is you, I, and every taxpayer will pay more because of the Legislature’s misplaced fears of environmentally and socially responsible risk management.
After they get bills to the Governor’s desk, they’ll likely take a break for 3-4 days to see if the Governor vetoes any of the measures. If he does, and if they have the votes, they’ll try to muster up the ⅔ majority necessary in the House and Senate to override the vetoes. The Governor already vetoed the Property Tax Relief bill today. Here’s to hoping he’ll take a close look at other bills as well.
In the meantime, here’s the skinny on what else is going down…
The logjam breaks
It was obvious last week there had been a breakthrough in negotiations between House Speaker Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star) and Senate President Pro Tem Senator Chuck Winder (R-Boise). On Tuesday alone we saw dozens of controversial measures advance, mostly on party line votes. This included several that ICL has been watching closely all session, including a bill exempting Yellowstone Bear World from state rules, an anti-Rattlesnake Bill allowing unlimited killing of rattlers, along with several troubling measures seeking to undermine citizen initiatives, efforts to address climate change, Tribal Treaties, grizzly bear protections, and public transit measures, to name a few.
And after a month of lying in wait, the Senate State Affairs Committee approved House Bill 190, a bill that seeks to limit the use of ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) investing principles by private banks. ICL was the only voice of opposition against the measure.
I asked the committee, “at this moment of financial turbulence and unease in the banking sector, do you believe that plopping banks in the middle of a partisan battlefield will actually make things better? Especially when 90% of Idaho’s current depositories are located in other states and will be torn by opposing forces?” Testifying in support of the measure were the National Rifle Association, Idaho Rifle and Pistol Association, and the Idaho Farm Bureau.
You might say we were a little outgunned…but we spoke truth to power and once again served as your voice for conservation in the statehouse. It advanced on a party-line vote and we expect it to pass the Senate this week, and ICL will ask the Governor to veto the bill.
That wasn’t the only climate-related bill, nor the only one ICL is asking for a veto on.
Senate Commerce Committee advances anti-energy efficiency bill
House Bill 287 would eliminate an agreement that allowed some cities to retain updated building codes if they’d been locally adopted before 2018. That deal was negotiated and agreed upon by stakeholders, and adopted by the Idaho Legislature back in 2018 and was reinforced in 2022. Rep. Joe Palmer’s (R-Meridian) bill passed the House (on a party-line), and now awaits a vote in the Senate after the Senate Commerce Committee advanced the bill on a party-line vote last week.
But wait, the bill would go beyond just rolling back building codes for Boise, the Wood River Valley, and other cities, because it would also prevent any “energy-related…ordinance, process, or regulation.” This could eliminate the cost-saving incentive programs or energy saving investments in city-owned buildings, transportation fleets, and more.
Building codes ensure that homes are affordable, built to last, and safe. Consumers depend on building codes because once a home is built, it’s difficult to replace windows, insulation, heating ducts, or wiring.
The Senate will likely approve the measure this week. Join us in asking Governor Little to veto the bill!
The Idaho Legislature wasn’t the only one thinking about climate, energy, and the environment last week.
President Biden commits to climate-smart policies and Snake River Salmon
President Joe Biden was busy thinking about some of the same climate-smart policies last week when the White House issued a comprehensive 500+ page Economic Report of the President. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, here’s a good listen on what it means for you and me: Should the government pay for your bad climate decisions? (New York Times – The Daily)
We agree with the bottom line of the report: we must eliminate misguided federal programs that deepen the climate crisis, increase emissions, and threaten our water, land, air, and wildlife.
Later in the week, the President met with Nez Perce Tribal (NPT) Chairman Sam Penney and Vice-Chairman Shannon Wheeler, Rep. Mike Simpson and other leaders as part of a White House’s Conservation in Action Summit. The President “committed to working with the Tribal leaders here — as well as Senator Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, and Representative Mike Simpson — to bring healthy and abundant salmon runs back…” As the President’s fisheries experts found last year, the only solution that can actually achieve this abundance is breaching the four Lower Snake River dams.
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) was quick to respond. With House co-sponsors Reps. Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (both R-Washington), he introduced a bill seeking to keep those four dams in place. Their bill would codify a Trump Administration-approved plan that Tribes, ICL, and others have challenged because of concerns that it will lead to the extinction of Snake River salmon and steelhead. That extinction is drawing nearer every year as climate change exacerbates the impact of dams on fish. The Bureau of Reclamation recently predicted that, due to ongoing drought in Idaho, it will not be able to send the required 400,000 acre feet of “flow augmentation” water downstream to the lower Snake to help juvenile salmon and steelhead migrate through the dams.
As NPT Vice-Chair Wheeler noted during a panel discussion at the White House summit, Tribal Treaties have not been respected in light of the sacred promises to provide for hunting and fishing in “usual and accustomed places.” After all, if there are no fish, how have we honored those treaties?
The Senate approved a significant boost ($95 million) to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to invest in our state park system, which has seen increased use in recent years. We expect the House to follow suit on Tuesday. Several other budget bills are also nearing the Governor’s desk, including funding for sewer and drinking water upgrades ($115 million), water quality funding for agriculture ($12 million), fire preparedness funding ($5.6 million), and more.
As we noted last week, we did have some questions about $750,000 included in the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) budget for the spraying of roadsides in Idaho with ground-applied Phosphate-based fire retardant before fire season starts.
I chatted with a representative from the manufacturer promoting the new product and apparently ICL wasn’t the only one asking questions. The bill was delayed by several days to consider some obvious questions. When I chatted with a representative of the retardant manufacturer, I got some answers:
- What happens when it rains? A: It apparently washes off with ¼ to ½ inch of rain and needs reapplication.
- It’s ammonium phosphate, isn’t that fertilizer? Does it make plants grow thicker, contributing to the “fuel load?” A: Yes it is a fertilizer and makes the plants grow taller and thicker.
- Does it harm fish or water quality? A: Yes, it can kill fish, and the application instructions apparently rely upon local rules to protect water quality. (Note: Idaho doesn’t have the best stream protection rules).
Apparently the answers provided to Senators and Representatives were more satisfactory, because the bill passed the House and Senate. The bill does include other important conservation, fire management, and other priorities, but ICL and others will surely keep a close eye on the fire retardant project as it moves forward into the IDL procurement process.
The end is nigh
This may be the last full update for the session, so you won’t get a weekly email from me in your inbox.
BUT, at the end of each session, ICL sends out a full Sine Die Report with all the gory details of what went down during the 2023 Idaho Legislative Session.
So, if you want to receive the special Sine Die Report as well as the upcoming special ICL 50th Anniversary Publication later this spring, and many other benefits, become a member today!
Tie of the Week: Using all the tools
Whether it’s testifying before committees, analyzing bills, asking the Governor to veto, working with partners, or promoting citizen engagement, ICL uses all the tools in the toolbox. Plus, with all the focus on building codes and climate-related infrastructure, this week’s tie was an obvious choice!
For Idaho, Esto Perpetua,