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2019 Legislative Session Finally Ends

Posted By Justin Ruen, Tuesday, April 16, 2019

After an unusually long and acrimonious session, the Legislature adjourned on Thursday, April 11th.  They convened with four main issues to tackle: Medicaid expansion, the public school funding formula rewrite, tax revenue shortfalls and prison overcrowding. They ended by punting on several of these issues. 


The session began in January with state tax revenues coming in approximately $100 million dollars behind forecasts. This was attributed to under withholding on personal income taxes triggered by tax reductions at the federal and state level. While some of this shortfall was recouped January through March, the month of April will ultimately determine whether the state will be able to meet its revenue projections.  This uncertainly had negative consequences for cities in regard to transportation funding. The Legislature hesitated to reauthorize the surplus eliminator legislation that will sunset in July. However, we were able to get approximately $3 million in additional funding to the highway distribution account by moving the Idaho State Police’s portion to the general fund. After full implementation over 5 years, the total will be over $15 million in new dollars flowing through the distribution formula.


Unfortunately, as is increasingly becoming the trend, the majority of our time with the Legislature is spent opposing legislation harmful to cities.  In working with other local government stakeholders, it is clear that we all now have to use most of our political capital to prevent bad legislation.  This leaves little bandwidth and legislative will to devote to enacting legislation beneficial to locals.  


AIC spent a great deal of time working to kill legislation that would be harmful to cities, including a bill to preempt local ordinances banning cellphone use while driving, two annexation bills that would have substantially altered city annexation authority, legislation that would have significantly changed the sales tax revenue sharing distribution formula, legislation that would have prevented severance pay for public employees, and a bill that would have allowed counties to opt out of land use planning. 


We were successful in preventing the passage of every single bill that we actively opposed except for two pieces of legislation, both of which we were able to get amended. One bill radically reduced the ability to utilize urban renewal dollars by requiring a vote any time tax increment financing is used on a project. We were able to get significant amendments to add back in a threshold before a vote is required and remove the emergency clause, so the bill won’t go into effect immediately.  We were also able to get a sunset clause on the sections of a bill that direct the sales tax collections by online marketplace facilitators into a tax relief account rather than through the sales tax distribution formula.  The fact that these bills did not go through as originally drafted were significant victories especially since both passed the House unamended by large margins.


We were also able to help shepherd through several pieces of legislation beneficial to cities.  AIC supported legislation that ensures exclusive jurisdiction to locals to determine overweight truck routes and fees to support engineering grants for route evaluation, a bill to simplify overly burdensome permits for beer and wine in city plazas, and legislation that modernizes and streamlines cooperative purchasing among others.


There is broad agreement that this was one of the most hostile and least productive sessions on record.  However, we were able to prevent the most egregious bills from passing and get through some legislation that will be helpful to cities.  Our legislative success was due to the engagement of city officials in contacting their legislators.  We want to express our gratitude to all of you who followed our bill tracker and reached out to your local legislators on issues that would impact your city. We cannot be effective without your efforts and they are greatly appreciated!


To get a complete overview of this year’s session, we invite you to attend the Spring District Workshops being held at various locations around the state. We look forward to seeing you there!


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