What to Watch: Week of March 7

7 Mar 2022, by Sara Westbrook Share :

Multiple Bills Significantly Impacting Counties Up this Week

In addition to the property tax/sales tax replacement bill House Bill 741 which we have been tracking closely, many other key bills affecting counties will likely be on the move this week. Three of the bills mentioned below could provide property tax relief while still keeping counties whole. We encourage IAC members to reach out to your legislators (texting and phone calls work best) to share your positions on the bills described below.

IAC Priority Legislation

Workforce Housing

House Bill 701, sponsored by Representative Megan Blanksma (District 23), passed the House on Friday afternoon. You can see how your legislators voted by clicking on House Bill 701 and scrolling down to the bottom of the page. The bill has been transmitted to the Senate.

House Bill 701, would establish the Idaho Workforce Housing Fund which will be funded using ARPA dollars. The legislation includes a sunset clause of December 31, 2026. The Idaho Housing and Finance Association would administer the fund. Funding shall be used for gap financing. Preference would be given to developments that include a local government match in whole or part of the funds allocated. Match could be money, fee waivers, in-kind services, donation of assets, provision of infrastructure or a combination. At least 20% of monies will be set aside for use in rural areas. After 2 years, the remaining unused balance would become available to all communities.

We encourage IAC members to reach out to your Senators to explain the need for House Bill 701 in your counties and express your support. It could be heard in the Senate Commerce & Human Resources Committee by the end of this week. IAC Policy Director Sara Westbrook is the contact for this bill. If you have any questions, please contact Sara at swestbrook@idcounties.org or on her cell 208.695.6733.

Public Defense Bill

House Bill 735 sponsored by Representatives Jon Weber and Mike Moyle was introduced last Friday. It will likely receive a full hearing tomorrow, March 8th in the House Revenue & Taxation Committee.

House Bill 735 would Repeal the County Charity & Indigent Fund Levy to provide ongoing property tax relief. The bill provides two years of reimbursement to counties for the total amount each county levied under the repealed provisions. Starting in 2025 the bill routes the Tax Relief Fund money through the sales tax distribution formula. Also starting in FY25, $9 million per quarter will be transferred from local distribution to a new Public Defense Fund. Starting Oct. 1, 2024 the state general fund appropriation to the Public Defense Commission ($11.7 Million) combined with the amount automatically deposited will allow the state to fund indigent public defense relieving counties of that statutory obligation.

Finally, the bill includes legislative intent that a new model for public defense in the state will be adopted. Stakeholders will work together in the interim to determine the new public defense structure allowing time to determine the best path forward.

IAC Policy Analyst, Kelli Brassfield is the contact for House Bill 735. If you have any questions, please reach out to her at kbrassfield@idcounties.org or call her at 208.514.8737.

Other Legislation

Property Tax Relief through Surplus Eliminator

House Bill 690 sponsored by Rep. Jason Monks would create a surplus eliminator with monies left on the bottom line once legislature sets the budget. If at the end of the fiscal year there is a surplus, up to $80 million would be provided to cities and counties for property tax relief. This bill does not have a fiscal impact on counties or cities.

This bill passed the House last Friday, March 4th. Keep an eye out for House Bill 690 to be heard in the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee. IAC Policy Director Sara Westbrook is the contact for this bill. If you have any questions, please contact Sara at swestbrook@idcounties.org or on her cell 208.695.6733.

Involuntary Commitment Costs

Senate Bill 1327, sponsored by Senator Peter Riggs, passed the Senate late last week. Senate Bill 1327 would move multiple costs from county responsibility to state responsibility as a follow up to House Bill 316 from the 2021 legislative session.

If passed, Counties would no longer be responsible for covering the following costs: Senior Designated Examinations, Court required expert witness fees, pre-commitment psychiatric hospitalizations, pre-commitment usual and customary medical, post-commitment transportation. Transportation costs during the precommitment period shall be paid by the county of the person’s residence. The Department of Health and Welfare shall pay all transportation costs during the commitment period.

Senate Bill 1327 has been referred to the House Health and Welfare Committee, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. We encourage you to please reach out to the House Health and Welfare Committee Members to express your support for Senate Bill 1327. IAC Policy Analyst Kelli Brassfield is the contact for this bill. Please reach out to Kelli with any questions at kbrassfield@idcounties.org or call her at 208.514.8737.

Other News

SOS Candidate Filings Deadline This Week

The filing deadline for Declaration of Candidacy is this Friday, March 11th. With redistricting, we are expecting to see a lot of new faces in the legislature next year. If you are curious about who is running for the legislature in your district, visit the Secretary of State’s Office website by clicking here. At the top of the page, you will find a link to “Report of Candidates Filed”. This list is updated twice daily at 1 pm and just after 5 pm through the filing deadline.

While IAC does not take any positions on candidates running for office, we encourage our individual members to get to know the candidates and where they stand on county issues. Start building relationships as soon as you can and help the candidates to see counties as an educational resource for them, so they will know who to reach out to when county issues arise in the legislature.