What to Watch: Week of March 14

14 Mar 2022, by Sara Westbrook Share :

This week we encourage IAC members to reach out to your Senators to express support for House Bill 735, the public defense spending bill and to keep an eye on the appropriation bills to determine whether or not the legislature will adjourn soon.

Public Defense Funding

House Bill 735, sponsored by Representatives Jon Weber (District 34, Madison) and Mike Moyle (District 14, Ada) passed the House floor (63-1-6) last Tuesday, March 8th. It is now in the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee. This is an IAC Priority for the 2022 Legislative Session. We need IAC membership’s help to see this bill through to passage. Please reach out to your Senators this week to express your support for House Bill 735.

Bill Summary

  1. House Bill 735 is a property tax relief bill that solves two important issues: addressing public defense funding needs and eliminating the county medically indigent program.
  2. House Bill 735 establishes a dedicated funding stream for public defender services. Beginning July 1, 2025, $36 million from online sales tax money will be dedicated through the revenue sharing formula for public defense funding. The $36 million will increase 3% a year for five years to $41.7 million in 2030. 
  3. House Bill 735 will bring public defense stakeholders together to propose an alternative public defense delivery system which will need to be in place by July 1, 2024. House Bill 735 does not prescribe what the new model will be, rather it encourages stakeholders to come together to find a solution.
  4. House Bill 735 provides $20.9 million in property tax relief beginning in the 2023 county budget year. This will result in needed property tax relief to Idahoans.
  5. House Bill 735 repeals the county charity property tax levy, repeals the county medically indigent program, and phases out the CAT program. Eligibility for the county medically indigent and state CAT programs was significantly limited in 2021 with the passage of House Bill 316. House Bill 735 will remove any liability from counties and the state resulting in an ongoing savings to the state general fund and county taxpayers.
When will Legislature Adjourn?

JFAC is nearly finished setting budgets, so the Reading Calendars for the House and Senate are both filling up with appropriation bills. This signals that the Legislative Session is about two weeks out from adjourning sine die.

If budgets are voted down in the House or Senate, then that means those budgets will have to be redone which can delay the completion of the Legislative Session. For example, the House voted down the Commerce Department budget on Friday morning due to disagreements on different issues with the budget including concerns expressed by members of the Idaho Broadband Advisory Committee that $100 Million that is supposed to be for Broadband Funding was not specifically earmarked for that use. JFAC will now work with LSO to rework the Commerce Department budget to something the House would consider more palatable.

Keep an eye on the House and Senate floors as they debate these bills to get an idea of when the legislature will adjourn sine die.