Saturday, January 5, 2008

2008 Legislative Preview

In preparation of the 2008 Legislative Session, I’ve put together the following legislative preview. In this preview you will find the issues that I plan to work on as well as other major issues facing the Idaho Legislature.

Legislation I will be sponsoring:
Early Childhood Education – As an extension of HCR18 from last year’s session, I will be working with a bipartisan coalition to move forward on establishing a Quality Rating System for Idaho child care settings. This is a crucial step in improving early learning and safety for children throughout Idaho. By passing this legislation, parents will be better equipped with more information to choose the right child care provider for them and their children.

Permanent Absentee Ballots – In conjunction with the Idaho Association of County Recorders and Clerks (affiliate of the Idaho Association of Counties) and bipartisan co-sponsors, I will continue to work on allowing Idaho voters to opt-in to getting permanent absentee ballots. By opting-in, Idaho voters would be able request that in all future elections (or until they move or become ineligible to vote) they receive an absentee ballot in all elections. This will cut bureaucracy, improve access to voting (especially for elderly), and increase efficiencies in our democracy.

Credit Report Freeze – In an attempt to protect consumers I will be joining a bipartisan group of legislators seeking to give consumers the option to freeze their credit reports in the event of identity theft.

Major issues for the legislature:
Alternative Teacher Compensation – Both Superintendent Luna and the Idaho Education Association will present legislation that would change the way public school teachers in Idaho are compensated. The cost of doing so and the potential impacts upon the teaching profession and children’s education will be paramount.

Local Option Tax/Road Funding – Once again the Coalition for Regional Public Transportation will be bringing legislation that will permit local communities to tax themselves for public transportation. This year’s bill, however, will also include a provision which would permit taxpayers to choose to fund road projects as well. By bundling road and mass transit into this bill, the hope is to expand the number stakeholders and improve the chances of seeing this bill finally pass the House Revenue and Taxation Committee and subsequently the legislature.

Water – While admittedly my understanding of the water debate is limited to a rudimentary issue of supply and demand (and senior versus junior water rights), this is issue will once again rise to the surface. Stay tuned.

Personal Property Tax – Once again the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI) will attempt to eliminate the personal property tax. Personal property tax is a tax paid by businesses for property used in the production or operation of the business. This proposal comes with a hefty price tag. The fundamental question facing this proposal is whether or not legislators want to give businesses another tax break at the expense of the individual taxpayers. A secondary proposal may be offered limiting the scope of the elimination with the goal of targeting small businesses.

Sales Tax on Groceries – There will be myriad of proposals again this session looking to either eliminate the sales tax on groceries and/or increase the grocery tax credit.

Property Tax – Governor Otter will likely propose a change to Idaho’s law with regard to the assessment of property taxes. A constitutional amendment may be necessary.

Growth - Impact fees and other tools to limit or change the way growth is managed are top priorities in the Treasure Valley and other parts of the State. Keep an eye on this one.

Health Insurance - With healthcare costs skyrocketing and more families without insurance, lets hope the legislature steps up and addresses this issue. I will be sure to support any responsible proposal that helps with the cost of healthcare.

Closed Primaries - As with the lawsuit filed last year, it is highly likely that the legislature will hear another bill that would close primaries. More on this later in the session.

There are many other big issues, but in the interest of time, I’ll stop there for now. Stay tuned to this blog for more information and updates throughout the session! As always, if you have questions or comments, please let me know.

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