The IAC Legislative Committee met Wednesday, July 22nd to discuss three important topics related to county government: the Property Tax Study Committee, Coronavirus liability reform, and the many challenges the coronavirus is creating regarding the fast-approaching November election.
IAC Executive Director Seth Grigg kicked off the Legislative Committee meeting reporting local government budget transparency will likely be a major outcome of the work of the study committee. Counties could see a uniform budget reporting system put in place that would display budget information on a Transparent Idaho-like repository. There are many hurdles to overcome before such a system could be implemented, however.
The Property Tax Study Committee Chairs asked counties to report on two aspects of the budget process: areas of duplicated services and statutory mandates that create inefficiencies in services. Law libraries and law clerks were given as examples of service inefficiencies, while overlapping law enforcement authority and multiple transportation districts in a single county are potential areas of duplicated services. Please reach out to IAC if you have any duplicated services and/or inefficiencies to report.
Counties could face a battle when the study committee examines property assessment processes. The committee is looking at ways to balance tax shifting when new exemptions are granted, and to make it easier for property owners to appeal their assessments.
Another potential battle may occur over local budgets. There will likely be a competing narrative between study committee members over a hard 3% property-tax cap, as advocated by House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, or looking at county services to potentially leverage sales tax to fund those services as a way to provide property tax relief. Misunderstandings about county budget processes is a considerable challenge IAC is facing with legislators. IAC is working diligently with the committee members to dispel any lingering misconceptions, especially regarding the difference between cash forward balances, savings, and rainy-day funds.
Executive Director Grigg then briefed the Legislative Committee on areas of potential liability and exposure counties are facing due to COVID-19. Examples of potential exposures include coronavirus cases in county jails, obstacles related to social distancing with jury trials and elections, as well as potential liability from new whistleblower cases related to the virus.
Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane and Executive Director Grigg both spoke on the mounting pressures county clerks are facing regarding the upcoming November election. Phil McGrane has drafted several pieces of legislation to mitigate the hardships county clerks will face with an election in the midst of a global pandemic. IAC is calling on the legislature to convene a special legislative session this summer to enact election legislation before it is too late.
The meeting adjourned with Executive Director Grigg advising members of the barriers coronavirus has created in meeting with members of the legislature, hindering IAC’s ability to lobby effectively. It will be a necessity for members to reach out to their legislators to help in the lobbying effort more so than ever before.