Message from Representative Stevenson – 06/16/2014

2014 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

banner imageThe Idaho Legislature adjourned its 2014 Session on March 21. There was plenty of debate and a great deal of cooperation to get things done for Idaho. I want to thank you for allowing me to serve you this term in the Idaho House of Representatives. It is truly an honor and a privilege.

You will hear much negative conversation about Idaho’s economy and its future. I do not share that view. The economy continues to grow and my optimism for Idaho’s future grows as well.

I am running for re-election as your Representative and can still use the support you have given me over the past two years. I face a tough challenge in the General Election, but I am the ONLY candidate who brings to the table the right combination of relevant public and private-sector business background AND the necessary legislative experience to fulfill the role of your Representative for District 6.

I take my responsibility as your Representative very seriously, and I appreciate hearing from you. Please give me the benefit of your opinions, which allows me to serve you and our communities.

We accomplished much this Session. I want to summarize some of the good news so that you can spread the word to your friends and neighbors.
• Funding restored where cuts were made in previous years to accommodate lower revenues during the recession
• $2.9 billion State budget, about a 5% increase over last year
• 5% increase in spending for K-12
• Just over 6% increase for higher education
• 2% increase in pay for state employees who have not had a pay raise in several years. Of that pay 1% is permanent and 1% is a one-time bonus. (Note that legislators did not receive a pay increase. In the last 8 years, legislators received only one $200 increase.)

KEY ACTION DETAILS
(To review the text of any bill, visit the Idaho Legislative Tracking Bill Center)

AGRICULTURE
The Agriculture Security bill, S1337, protects property rights by disallowing people for gaining employment under false pretenses on agriculture facilities to intentionally do harm to agriculture interests.

EDUCATION
H 637 – H 643 cover education funding. Education received $1.7 Billion, the largest portion of Fiscal Year 2015 State funds.
• FY 2015 public school funding – $66 million increase, 5.1% state general fund spending increase.
• FY 2015 contains a 1% teacher salary increase.
• There is $16 million to begin implementing the Governor’s Education Taskforce recommendations.

H 504 and H 521 implement recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education. Teachers will be able to receive leadership premiums of between $850 and $5,780 for mentoring fellow teachers, teaching in multiple disciplines – like English and Math, or taking hard-to-fill jobs. Local districts have great flexibility to decide how the leadership premiums are awarded. The $16 million premiums are the first step in creating a teacher career ladder program for teachers as recommended by the Governor’s education task force.

S1233 makes scholarship money available for high school juniors ($200) and seniors ($400) for dual credit classes or test fees for advanced placement classes and professional certification tests.

S 1372a provides security and safeguards for student information.

According to the American Education Report Card:
• Idaho ranks 29th overall – outperforming Oregon, Utah, California and Arizona.
• Receives an Education Policy grade is B-, with only six states with a higher grade.
• Idaho ranks 28th in fourth grade reading proficiency
• Idaho ranks 19th in eighth grade reading proficiency
• Idaho is 11th place in eighth grade math

National Assessment of Educational Progress shows:
• Eighth grade student reading proficiency is only 10% below number one Massachusetts
• Massachusetts spends $113,920 per student by the end of eighth grade while Idaho spends $68,200.
• D.C. eighth grade reading proficiency is only 1% above Idaho students, but spends 2 ½ times per student.

Idaho Legislative Services Office research found that:
• Idaho is 16th nationwide on the ACT test.

BUDGET
• A General Fund agency spending comparison: 2014 Session Summary Sine Die Report.
• Based on positive economic forecasts
o General Fund appropriations were increased by 5.6%
o Public schools received a 5.1% increase
o higher education a 6.6% increase
o Medicaid a 3.1% increase
o Department of Correction a 11% increase

BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
HB 546a, Tax incentive legislation: The state is allowed to consider rebating up to 30% of a company’s sales tax, income tax and corporate tax. The rebate incentive applies to both new companies as well as existing companies. A rebate can be considered if a company brings at least 20 new jobs to a rural area or 50 new jobs to an urban area. The new jobs must pay higher wages than what is typically paid in the area.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
Bills from the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Interim Committee:
H 542 establishes a State Public Defense Commission.

S 1357, Justice Reinvestment, addresses three challenges facing Idaho’s criminal justice system: a revolving door of recidivism from supervision and diversion programs, use of prison space and oversight of recidivism-reduction investments. It could avert up to $288 million in new prison spending over the next five years.
Reformation in probation and parole to help people leaving prison achieve greater success in changing their lives is a great legislative achievement.
It benefits everyone for those on probation and parole to be successful contributors to the community by holding jobs, paying taxes and by taking care of their families.

S 1374a allows inmate labor to work for private employers in the production, harvesting and processing of perishable Idaho agricultural food products.

S 1254, firearm Legislation becomes effective July 1, 2014, allowing special Enhanced Concealed Weapons permit holders 21 and older to carry on college campuses under certain specific circumstances.

HEALTH CARE
H 475 provides that Idaho Health Exchange users may comparison shop before submitting private data and provides that a warning will be given to users regarding the security of data being submitted.

SB 1352 authorizes development of behavioral health community crisis centers.

HJM 6 requests the Secretary of Health and Human Service to suspend PPACA “Obamacare” taxes on the Healthcare industry and conduct a national review of the impact of passed the House and Senate. The 2.3% medical device tax alone could cost Idaho nearly 100 jobs with an economic impact of $11.5 Million and the impact to United States is estimated to be $29 Billion over the next 10 years.

NATURAL RESOURCES
HB 479 allocates $15 million to more actively and effectively manage surface and underground water sources throughout Idaho. The funding will enable the State to plan and implement projects aimed at ensuring communities, industry, agriculture; recreation and tourism have the water needed for many years to come.

HB 547 allocates $5 million for statewide aquifer sustainability The Idaho Water Resource Board will use the money to identify and fund recharge and other projects.

HJM 7, The 2011 Federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) would cost some small business at least $2,000 and Idaho Farmers more than $30,000 annually. This Memorial asks Congress to prohibit FDA adoption of the numeric water-quality rules and the transportation rules until a clear impact of the rules can be known and also requests the Commissioner of FDA to suspend imposition of the rules and conduct a national review of their impact.

GENERAL GOVERNMENT
HJR 2, the “Regulatory Freedom” bill, makes the legislative rule review authority a part of the Idaho Constitutional; was signed March 19, 2014 and now must be approved by the voters. Currently the Idaho Legislature has the legal authority to review, approve or reject proposed state agency rules. Agency rules have the full force and effect of law. Because agency rules must directly reflect the legislative intent of Idaho law, this authority is very important for every Idahoan and the legislature takes the rule review responsibility very seriously.

HB 378 creates an annual celebration, Idaho Day, to be celebrated on March 4th. This date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the day Abraham Lincoln created the Idaho Territory. Idaho Day, however, will not be an official state holiday.

TAXATION
H 441a clarifies issues dealing with personal property tax exemptions from 2013.

HB 530, Use Tax exemption: Effective 3/18/2014, agricultural producers and processor donations of food and beverage to support community and youth events, to family members and neighbors, to non-profit organizations or items served as product samples are now exempt from the previously imposed 6% use tax.

May God continue to bless you and our great State of Idaho,

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Representative Thyra Stevenson

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