The general election is just around the corner and the 2019 Idaho Legislative Session on its heels. Many of you will be meeting with your legislators prior to January to begin discussing county legislative needs. I encourage you to take advantage of opportunities to meet with your legislators to continue building relationships and developing lines of communication between now and the start of the session. In addition to discussing your individual county needs, please take the time to discuss general county priorities, including priorities set by the membership at our September conference.
This year, IAC has been busy monitoring a number of potential legislative items including potential property tax exemptions, caseload limits on public defenders, transportation funding options, campaign finance reform, and justice reinvestment. In addition to these items, IAC staff have also been working with stakeholders to advance IAC’s legislative priorities for the coming year.
The IAC Legislative Committee convened shortly after the September IAC Annual Conference to prioritize policy resolutions adopted by the membership. It was a difficult task, especially considering the number of proposals adopted by the membership. Nonetheless, the IAC Bylaws require the Legislative Committee to identify up to ten annual legislative priorities. This year, the IAC Legislative Committee identified the following policies as IAC’s top priorities for 2019 (in no particular order):
Work with the legislature and other stakeholders to establish a state-based public defense system (with opt-out provisions for those counties wishing to maintain a county-based public defense system), increase state funding for public defense services, and a cap on overall county public defense expenditures.
Advocate for either an increased statutory levy limit for the justice levy or greater flexibility to use revenues from other county property tax levies to fund justice related services.
Advocate for a local option sales tax to fund the construction or remodel of county jails.
Expand the ability of the courts to utilize tax intercept programs to collect debts owed to the court for infractions, juvenile offenders, and fines and fees owed to the court that are less than $50 (all of which are not currently allowed to be elected through tax intercept).
Authorize counties to collect fees for pretrial supervision services through Odyssey (court information system).
Clarify that the county sheriff is not responsible for inmate medical expenses once an individual has been lawfully released from the custody of the sheriff.
Establish a predictable flat fee for recording documents in the county recorder’s office.
Increase the mail ballot precinct threshold from 125 to 190 registered voters as well as establishing the elections held in March and August as mail ballot elections.
Authorize governmental entities the option of posting legal notices on government websites in lieu of publishing them in the newspaper.
Advocate for extension of the Strategic Initiatives program (also known as the “Budget Surplus Eliminator”) to continue providing one-time funding for shovel ready transportation projects.
In addition to the ten identified legislative priorities, the membership also voted to support the following policies which will be the official position of the IAC during the upcoming legislative session:
Partner with the Idaho Department of Agriculture to advocate for additional funding for noxious weed abatement.
Work with stakeholders to identify policy solutions to protect Idaho’s continued eligibility for the National Flood Insurance Program.
Support legislative efforts to expand Medicaid eligibility for those Idahoans in the “gap” population who arecurrently unable to qualify for Medicaid or subsidies to purchase insurance on the state insurance exchange.
Provide for greater flexibility in allowing county commissioners to serve on the appointing authority for behavioral health boards.
Support efforts to establish a project based local option tax to fund the capital costs of voter approved local government facility and infrastructure projects.
Remove the requirement for county clerks to provide information pamphlets on AIDS to couples seeking a marriage license.
Allow counties greater flexibility in rehiring individuals who have retired with PERSI benefits.
Update quarterly reporting requirements for county treasurers.
Allow the county sheriff the option of establishing residency requirements for sheriffs’ deputies.
Require those who sell or transfer private land to the federal government for conservation purposes to pay a fee in lieu of taxes to the affected county equal to the taxes that were previously paid on the land under private ownership.
As you can see from the list, IAC will be extremely busy this year. It will take the joint efforts of the full membership to work with legislators to enact legislation that addresses the policies as identified by the membership and prioritized by the Legislative Committee.