Promoting county interests, advocating good public policy
and providing education to Idaho's county officials

From the Executive Director: Legislative Preview

Happy New Year! With a new year comes the beginning of another legislative session. IAC is making a few changes this year to better communicate what transpires in Boise with the membership. This legislative bulletin will be the first of many weekly bulletins arriving in your inbox each Monday throughout the 2020 Legislative Session. The legislative bulletin will include relevant information from the preceding week (including positions taken on legislation by the IAC Legislative Committee), what to expect in the week to come, an update on the status of IAC initiated legislation, as well as links to IAC Legislative Committee agendas and minutes. Contact information for IAC policy staff and IAC Legislative Committee members will also be included in the bulletin to ensure the membership can communicate any concerns or comments regarding IAC Legislative Committee agenda items or positions. We hope it becomes a weekly must-read to stay up to date on relevant legislative proceedings.

As for the issues, expect an active year for counties. In addition to initiating legislation to advance IAC legislative priorities, IAC expects a lot of activity on Medicaid expansion funding and property tax relief. This year more than ever, the IAC membership needs to be actively engaged. We will invite many of you to come to Boise to attend committee meetings and provide testimony on how Medicaid expansion and property tax relief legislation impacts counties. IAC Policy Director Sara Westbrook has been compiling a list of county officials willing to come to Boise to testify before legislative committees. If you have not done so, please reach out to her via email and let her know that you are willing to testify. The more county officials we have present at the Capitol, the more impactful our organization will be in advancing the interests of Idaho counties. 

Regarding Medicaid expansion, both the Governor and members of House and Senate leadership have indicated that counties need to come to the table to assist with funding costs associated with Medicaid expansion. How and what that looks like is to be determined, but will likely include a contribution of up to $8.5 million taken out of revenue sharing. The IAC Legislative Committee will work with policy staff to identify how to accomplish this with minimal impact to county budgets. As part of the Medicaid expansion framework, IAC sees an opportunity to potentially consolidate the charity, current expense, and justice levies into a single levy to provide greater budget flexibility. It is also likely that the county indigent and state CAT programs will be significantly scaled back, if not eliminated, further saving county taxpayers and relieving counties of a currently mandated service. 

Property tax reform presents counties with a different set of challenges. On one hand, counties have mandated state responsibilities to operate and maintain much of the state’s criminal justice, emergency management, property tax, and transportation systems. On another, rising residential property values are shifting a greater share of the burden of paying for county government services on to homeowners. State mandates, unprecedented growth, supplemental levies, and a diminished homeowners exemption are impacting county taxpayers. House leadership has invited cities and counties to the table to discuss ways to provide meaningful tax relief. IAC policy staff will keep the membership in the loop on these discussions and follow direction from the IAC Legislative Committee as we strive to find a sustainable solution to funding county government services.

Stand by each Monday for weekly legislative bulletins. From time to time, you will also receive more targeted legislative action alerts requesting immediate action on a single legislative topic. As always, never hesitate to reach out to myself or others on the IAC policy team for assistance with legislative matters.