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The AIC Blog connects the association staff to our membership, provides informative updates on state and federal policy issues, and spotlights upcoming AIC training, conferences and events.

 

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Top tags: City Officials' Day at the Capitol 

AIC-Supported Bill Reforming Whistleblower Statute Passed into Law

Posted By Justin Ruen, Thursday, April 2, 2020

An AIC-supported bill that will make needed improvements to the state whistleblower statute was signed into law by Governor Little. 

House Bill 583 clarifies that employers may not take adverse action against an employee because the employee in good faith participates or communicates information in an investigation, hearing, court proceeding, legislative or other inquiry, or administrative review concerning the waste of public funds, property or manpower, or a violation or suspected violation of a state or local law, rule or regulation. 

The bill also limits total noneconomic damages to $370,000 (with an annual inflation factor) and provides that government entities are exempt from punitive damages.

House Bill 583 takes effect July 1, 2020.

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Local Bridge Funding Bill Vetoed by Governor over Concerns about State General Fund Revenues

Posted By Justin Ruen, Thursday, April 2, 2020

Legislation to dedicate a portion of state sales tax revenues for funding replacement of local bridges passed the Senate and House handily but was vetoed by Governor Little over concern about potential state general fund revenue declines resulting from the Coronavirus.

House Bill 325 was amended in the Senate to split the $18 million in revenue 60% to the Transportation Expansion and Congestion Mitigation Program for state highways and 40% to a new local bridge replacement fund administered by the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council.

“Due to the uncertainty in the coming fiscal year and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, I am vetoing this legislation because it results in a fiscal impact to Idaho’s general fund,” said the Governor’s veto message.  “…I encourage the Idaho Legislature to pursue a comprehensive package when the state is facing a more positive economic outlook.”

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April 1, 2020 is National Census Day; Idaho Gets Mobile!

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Starting in mid-March, 2020 households throughout Idaho began receiving letters asking the adult in charge to complete a form called the 2020 Census.  However, even before the global COVID-19 pandemic emerged, United States officials have tried to simplify this year’s process. For the first time, responses can be made online, as well as by phone and mail.

The Idaho 2020 Census is a huge, and vitally important task for Idaho.  Why? Because the federal government uses the census information to determine how many seats in Congress each state should have, and how to divvy up federal support each year - support that helps states fund road construction, schools, hospitals, fire departments, and more.  More than 100 programs, include Head Start and food assistance for low-income community members also rely on the census to direct funds to where the need is greatest.

The 2020 Census asks who lives in each household, how they are related, their age, race, and other information.  It does not ask for citizenship information in order to ease concerns and to hopefully boost the response rate of immigrants for greater funding for Idaho's communities.  The Census Bureau is required by law to protect people’s privacy. No one will be identified by name when officials analyze the numbers the census collects.

 

Important Dates

Counting every person living in the United States is a massive undertaking, and efforts begin years in advance. Here's a look at some of the key dates along the way, as they are currently scheduled:

2020

  • January 21: The Census Bureau started counting the population in remote Alaska. The count officially began in the rural Alaskan village of Toksook Bay.
  • March 12 - March 20: Households received official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail.
  • April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. When you respond to the census, you'll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.
  • April 29 – May 1: The Census Bureau will count people who are experiencing homelessness over these three days. As part of this process, the Census Bureau counts people in shelters, at soup kitchens and mobile food vans, on the streets, and at nonsheltered, outdoor locations such as tent encampments.
  • April 16 – June 19: Census takers will work with administrators at colleges, senior centers, prisons, and other facilities that house large groups of people to make sure everyone is counted.
  • May 27 – August 14: Census takers will interview homes that haven't responded to the 2020 Census to help make sure everyone is counted.
  • December: The Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.

2021

  • March 31: By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to the states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.

Census Trivia

This year marks the 24th national people count, which the Constitution requires be held every 10 years. The first census, in 1790, was early in the presidency of George Washington. About 650 men set out on foot or horseback to count everyone living in their assigned areas.

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Major Property Tax Legislation Fails to Pass, But Interim Committee to Look at the Issue

Posted By Justin Ruen, Monday, March 30, 2020

Despite many legislators’ belief that property taxes was one of the most important issues to address, the vast difference in outlook between the House and Senate meant that no significant bills would pass this session.

The House’s perspective is that property tax relief needs to happen in the context of cutting, or cutting the future growth of, property tax budgets at the local level. 

The Senate views the situation very differently, preferring help for elderly and disabled homeowners through increased Circuit Breaker relief and increasing and/or indexing the Homeowner’s Exemption. 

The gulf between the two bodies meant that meaningful policy change on property taxes was not possible this session, but a robust discussion will occur through an interim committee that will look at the issues in depth.

AIC’s perspective is that fast-growing cities face real costs that are covered by the property tax levy for new construction.  The growth that is powering Idaho’s economy is largely focused in the Treasure Valley, Kootenai County, Madison County and a few other rapidly growing areas. 

The new construction levy ensures that the additional service load required by this growth—new police, firefighters, street maintenance are covered.  Impact fees help with capacity expansion for infrastructure and capital costs—i.e. new police and fire stations, additional street capacity, new parks. But impact fees don’t cover the costs of staffing these new police and fire stations, new street maintenance workers, etc.  Those costs are borne by the new construction levy and that is why it matters significantly to growing cities.

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Link to Interview: (community health) COVID-19 from the front lines

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Monday, March 30, 2020

A recently published YouTube Video by a New York City ICU Doctor, Dr.David Price, provides an informative overview of COVID-19 from the front lines.

Recommended viewing for AIC Members, Affiliates, Sponsors, and Friends.

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AIC-Opposed Annexation Bill Defeated, But Legislation Passes on Annexation of Ag Lands

Posted By Justin Ruen, Friday, March 27, 2020

AIC successfully defeated an anti-annexation bill that would have curtailed cities’ ability to grow and extend their infrastructure and services in rational and cost-effective ways.  House Bill 489, sponsored by Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, passed the House overwhelmingly despite being poorly drafted as admitted by the sponsor.  Due to our efforts, the bill failed to get a hearing in the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee. 

One bill on annexation that did pass with AIC’s neutral position on the bill was House Bill 451, which would require the landowner’s written consent to annex land of five acres or more that is actively devoted to forestry, even if the property is enclaved and surrounded on all sides by land within the city.  A similar bill was introduced last session (House Bill 92), and the provisions of that bill were included in House Bill 130, which passed the House last session, but was killed by the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee on the basis of other issues not connected with the forestry provision.  House Bill 451 has an emergency clause and took effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature on March 24, 2020.

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COVID-19: Mapping the Number and Locations of Cases in Idaho

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Friday, March 27, 2020
A new interactive map created by Boise State graduate students gives Idaho residents up-to-date information on the number and location of COVID-19 cases within the state.

Counties are color coded to better illustrate the number of cases across Idaho. A line graph also shows the increase in the number of cases over time. A sidebar to the right of the map displays community resources and ways viewers can help. (For instance, Boise State has set up an emergency fund to support students. The United Way also has set up a COVID-19 Response Fund for Idaho.)

“As disaster communication researchers, we know that sharing accurate and timely information does not propagate fear and panic, but rather fosters trust and more accurate perceptions of the risk,” said Brittany Brand, an associate professor of geosciences and director of Boise State’s new Hazard and Climate Resilience Institute. “Our motivation is that visualizing the COVID-19 cases by location across Idaho and seeing how rapid the cases grow, via the graph, will help residents realize how serious COVID-19 really is, motivating them to take action.”

The map itself was created by Carson MacPherson-Krutsky, a Boise State geosciences doctoral student; Katie McConnell a doctoral student from Yale; and Lauren Hunt a doctoral student in Boise State’s human environment systems program. All three students are affiliated with the Hazard and Climate Resilience Institute (HCRI).

The map was created using the ArcGIS story map platform. Confirmed cases are updated daily by members of the institute, using data pulled from the Idaho webpage for the Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19.

“We hope to see this increase begin to flatten over the coming weeks as residents follow the governor’s order to stay at home for 21 days,” Brand said. “We also display relevant community resources, such as how to find your local food bank, and state and national recommendations for protecting yourself.”

In addition to the map, members of the Hazard and Climate Resilience Institute are submitting a National Science Foundation grant to extend findings of two previous studies: one dealing with natural hazard risk perception and preparedness behavior, and another that assessed the influence of cultural variables on household emergency preparedness.

“Both of these studies were conducted within the last year, and provide pre-COVID-19 data on hazard beliefs and preparedness behavior, such as storing water, food and prescription medicines. We have an opportunity to compare those pre-COVID-19 preparedness data to concurrent COVID-19 preparedness behavior, and further explore how the perceptions of the current pandemic (e.g., threat severity, immediacy and duration; effectiveness of protective actions) influence protective action behavior,” Brand said.

“In addition to the intellectual merit of advancing scientific understanding of people’s responses to a broad range of environmental threats, this project will have the broader impact of providing data to health professionals and emergency managers that can inform their messaging in current and future events.”

Resiliency isn’t just about being prepared to meet a community’s physical needs during times of crisis. Brand reminded people that attitude counts, as well.

“We realize that these are challenging times, both emotionally and for many of us financially. Try to stay positive. You may be practicing social distancing, but that doesn’t mean we cannot smile and wave, sending positive energy to those around us. Be kind, be patient and be diligent in your practice to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

To learn about other hazards in Idaho and how to be prepared for them, check out the Hazard and Climate Resilience Institute website, or email hcri@boisestate.edu with questions or to find out how to get involved.

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Understanding the Statewide Stay-Home Order and How it Applies to Cities

Posted By Justin Ruen, Thursday, March 26, 2020
Updated: Thursday, March 26, 2020

As the Statewide Stay-Home Order was issued yesterday evening, AIC staff have been reviewing the order and supporting documents, and this update will provide guidance on how to approach the situation with respect to the city’s own employees.  As always, it’s very important to seek guidance from your city attorney on these issues. 

Each city must promptly post the order on its website and on the notice board at city hall (and your city social media page, if you have one), and provide it upon request by any citizen.  You can access the order through this link.

The term of the order is until 11:59 p.m. on April 15, 2020 or until it is extended, rescinded, superseded or amended in writing by the Director of the Department of Health and Welfare. 

The order requires people to self-isolate—to stay home—except for essential activities and for work at essential business and government services.  Gatherings of people outside the home are prohibited, except for certain essential activities, essential travel, or to work for essential businesses and government agencies. 

A large swath of community and civic gatherings are now prohibited from happening in person, including public meetings of government agencies (must happen by conference call or video conference), leisure, faith-based, sporting events, parades, concerts, festivals, conventions, fundraisers, and any other types of public or private gatherings.

All first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, and law enforcement personnel are categorically exempt from the order. 

The order also provides that those performing or accessing essential government functions can continue to provide that work for a local, state, federal or tribal government agency and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.  Those falling under this category must comply with physical distancing requirements to the extent possible (see paragraph on Physical Distancing requirements below).

All travel is prohibited except for essential travel, essential activities, travel required by law enforcement or a court order, and essential government functions.  Travel must comply with physical distancing to the greatest extent possible.

Physical Distancing means staying at least six feet away from others, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes into the sleeve or elbow, regularly cleaning high touch surfaces and not shaking hands.

CITY EMPLOYEES CLASSIFIED AS PROVIDING ESSENTIAL SERVICES

PUBLIC SAFETY

·         Personnel in emergency management, law enforcement, Emergency Management Systems, fire, air medical, and corrections, including front line and management

·         Emergency Medical Service Technicians

·         911 call center employees

AIRPORTS

·         Air transportation employees, including air traffic controllers and maintenance personnel, ramp workers, aviation and aerospace safety, security, and operations personnel and accident investigations

·         Workers who support the maintenance and operation of cargo by air transportation, including maintenance, airport operations, and other on- and off- airport facilities workers

PUBLIC WORKS

·         Workers who support the operation, inspection, and maintenance of essential dams, locks and levees

·         Workers who support the operation, inspection, and maintenance of essential public works facilities and operations, including bridges, fleet maintenance personnel, construction of critical or strategic infrastructure, traffic signal maintenance, emergency location services for buried utilities, maintenance of digital systems infrastructure supporting public works operations, and other emergent issues

·         Support, such as road and line clearing, to ensure the availability of needed facilities, transportation, energy and communications

·         Support to ensure the effective removal, storage, and disposal of residential and commercial solid waste and hazardous waste

·         Workers who maintain, ensure, or restore, or are involved in the development, transportation, fuel procurement, expansion, or operation of the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power, including call centers, utility workers, reliability engineers and fleet maintenance technicians

·         Workers who maintain and inspect transportation infrastructure

·         Employees needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure, including:

Operational staff at water authorities

Operational staff for water and sewer main breaks repair

Operational staff at community water systems

Operational staff at wastewater treatment facilities

Workers repairing water and wastewater conveyances and performing required sampling or monitoring

Operational staff for water distribution and testing

Operational staff at wastewater collection facilities

Operational staff and technical support for SCADA Control systems

Chemical suppliers for wastewater and personnel protection

Workers who maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting water and wastewater operations

 

OTHER COMMUNITY-BASED GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS AND ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS

·         Workers to ensure continuity of building functions

·         Workers who are needed to process and maintain systems for processing financial transactions and services

·         Employees who repair and maintain vehicles

·         Security staff to maintain building access control and physical security measures

·         Elections personnel

·         Federal, State, and Local, Tribal, and Territorial employees who support Mission Essential Functions and communications networks

·         Bus drivers and mass transit workers

·         Workers who maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting other critical government operations

·         Workers at operations centers necessary to maintain other essential functions

·         Workers supporting communications systems and information technology used by law enforcement, public safety, medical, energy and other critical industries

 

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS

·         Workers who support hazardous materials response and cleanup

·         Workers who maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting hazardous materials management operations

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Statewide Stay-Home Order Has Been Issued

Posted By Justin Ruen, Wednesday, March 25, 2020
The Statewide Stay-Home Order has been issued and can be reviewed online.  As Governor Little indicated, it has many similarities to the order for Blaine County that has already been in place.  AIC staff will review the order and have additional information as soon as we can.  Cities should review the order with their city attorney and determine what impacts it will have.

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A Message from AIC President Suzanne Hawkins: Governor Issues “Stay Home” Order

Posted By Justin Ruen, Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Today, March 25, 2020, Governor Little announced his intent to issue an order for all Idahoans to “Stay Home,” limiting outside travel and social activities to efforts that are essential parts of life.  The Order was backed up by an extreme emergency declaration.  Certain documents are scheduled for execution later today.

What does that mean for Idaho cities?  We are on the front lines of this battle.  The services that cities provide (along with those provided by our counties) are among the most basic to protect public health and safety.  Most services provided by cities are considered essential at the local level.  Maintaining compliance with our laws, providing utilities, suppressing fires and delivering emergency medical services are part of our essential nature as a society. 

If cities have employees whose activities might be considered non-essential in the short run, consider the possibility of “repurposing” their efforts because the cost of their sustained employment will still be borne by the cities. National policy is to keep people employed, and the Families First Coronavirus Act imposes that requirement irrespective of the size or prior policy of an employer.  This may be the time when Idaho’s cities undertake whatever may be necessary to serve residents.  These are extraordinary times.

More details will be forthcoming in the next few days as more flesh is added to the bones by the Office of the Governor.  As those details become known, AIC will try to push current information to you as promptly as we can.

Stay safe and maintain our shared commitment to public service.

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