Summary of the 2020 Legislative Session
from IOGA Lobbyist, Jeremy Pisca
IOGA Guides & Outfitters,
The Second Regular Session of the 65th Idaho Legislature adjourned sine die at 9:17am on March 20th, 2020, after 75 legislative days. The legislature introduced 629 bills, proclamations and resolutions throughout the session. The Coronavirus pandemic had a significant effect in speeding up the conclusion of the session, with busy days and late nights in the final week. It’s likely that the session would’ve extended another week or two, but the first case of coronavirus on in Idaho on March 13th really changed the tone in the statehouse. There were a few policy issues being disputed between the House and Senate that were left unsettled. However, the legislature concluded all its business for the year and have adjourned Sine Die.
The session started off at a rapid pace this year with administrative rules review taking far longer than normal years due to the legislature’s unprecedented decision not to extend the administrative rules last year. The legislature normally reviews all new rules during the first couple weeks of session, but this year it was forced to review the entire administrative. The process took nearly a month. Some of the more contentious rules drew large crowds and long debate. Ironically, the legislature didn’t address the rule extension again this year. The Governor and the Division of Financial Management foresaw that might happen, so in a memo to agencies on January 31st, they had all agencies submit temporary rules that go into effect today - the day the legislature adjourned. This means that the state will continue to run as usual and all rules will continue to be in effect. It’s likely that this summer the agencies will propose all their rules over again and we’ll go through the same lengthy review process again next session.
The legislature agreed with Governor Little’s direction that the state set a conservative budget this year with the idea that the time to prepare for the bad times is during the good times. The legislature came in slightly above the Governor’s recommendation of 3.75% spending growth for Fiscal Year 2021. The Governor recommended, and the Legislature followed suit, in reducing all agency budgets by 1% for FY2021 except K-12 education. Agencies have been put on notice that budget requests for FY2022 shall be reduced by 2%.
At the end of the session, with concerns about Coronavirus and its effect on the economy, the legislature gave the Board of Examiners authority to transfer moneys from the budget stabilization fund to the general fund if needed to keep a balanced budget. The Board of Examiners is made up of the Governor, Controller, Attorney General and the Secretary of State. With fear of imminent reductions in sales tax revenue from bar and restaurant closures and the possibility of delayed income tax payments, there was concern that the state could get into a situation where the budget isn’t balanced which is constitutionally required in Idaho.
Property taxes were a major theme throughout the legislative session. Significant population growth mixed with limited housing supply in several cities around the state have resulted in skyrocketing property appraisals and taxes on residents. Though a few small measures were passed, no comprehensive solution was agreed upon. The legislature established an interim committee to work on the issue. Based on the discussion, a variety of topics will be brought forward in that committee including: how counties set budgets, property tax exemptions, homeowners exemption indexing, county medical indigency responsibilities, and more.
As the legislative session kicked off in January, Governor Little made it clear in his annual State of the State Address that education is his number one priority. Through H523, teachers will now be eligible to receive an increase in salary up $63,000 a year, based on new performance evaluation criteria. This was one of the Governor’s biggest goals for the session. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved a 4.1% increase for K-12 education, which is a total of around $79 million. Within this budget, the committee also approved $26.1 million for Idaho’s K-3 literacy initiative program. With lively debate throughout the session in the House Education committee, the body ultimately decided not make any changes to the funding formula. Additionally, the Governor created a new higher education task force to develop a five-year plan regarding higher education in Idaho.
On the healthcare front, it was a relatively quiet year. The committees were active on a variety of things, but didn’t have the huge, overarching issues there have been in healthcare for the past several years. The Department of Health and Welfare began enrolling the new Medicaid expansion population on January 1, 2020. The question that remained this session was how the legislature would fund the first full year of Medicaid expansion (FY2021). Early in the session, it was expected that a bill would pass that would remove the counties’ obligation for funding indigent healthcare. With removal of the duty would come a redirection of county funding of $8-12 million to help pay for the Medicaid expansion population. None of the measures that were introduced went forward, however. The Medicaid budget that passed was a little low, but it’s expected that expansion numbers won’t reach the projected enrollment. If they do swell in numbers, a supplemental appropriation can be passed next session to fill the hole.
There were many issues we tracked on behalf of the IOGA this year. The most up to date version of your 2020 Legislative Tracking report is available on the shared file.
To Review the IOGA Bill Tracker, please click the link below.