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Top tags: City Officials' Day at the Capitol 

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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Governor Little issues statewide stay-home order, signs extreme emergency declaration

Posted By Justin Ruen, Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Boise, Idaho – Following the guidance of Idaho’s public health experts, Governor Brad Little issued a statewide stay-home order today for all Idahoans.

He also signed an extreme emergency declaration, which allows the state to more effectively increase health care capacity, take steps to reduce and slow coronavirus spread, and take rapid and decisive steps to improve the condition of Idahoans whose job and incomes are being harmed by the pandemic.

From the get-go, our focus has been to slow the spread of coronavirus to protect our most vulnerable citizens and preserve capacity in our healthcare system,” Governor Little said. “And from the beginning, I stated my commitment to making decisions about our response to coronavirus based on science. With confirmed community transmission of coronavirus now occurring in Idaho’s most populated areas, we need to take strong measures to ensure our healthcare facilities are not overburdened. I am following the guidance of our public health experts and issuing a statewide stay-home order effective immediately.

The stay-home order requires citizens to self-isolate at home if you can, not just if you are sick. This excludes healthcare, public safety and other essential workers as defined in the order. If you are high-risk, avoid leaving home. People can leave home to obtain or provide essential services as defined in the order. Employers that do not provide essential services as defined in order must take all steps necessary for employees to work remotely from home. Grocery stores, medical facilities, and other essential businesses as defined in the order will remain open. Restaurants across the state are being ordered to close dine-in but drive-thru, pick up, and delivery will still be available. Non-essential businesses and services will close their physical locations. This includes bars, nightclubs, gyms, recreational facilities, entertainment venues, convention centers, hair and nail salons, and others not included in the “essential” category as defined in the order. People must limit public transit unless to provide or obtain essential services. People must limit all discretionary travel. People must limit all non-essential gatherings of any number of individuals outside the household. When you go for a walk, run, bike ride, or other outdoor recreation near your home, stay 6-feet away from individuals who are not part of your household.

Our healthcare and public safety workers are putting themselves in harm’s way to respond to the coronavirus emergency, and we owe it to them to do our part by following this statewide stay-home order,” Governor Little added.

The statewide stay-home order is effective immediately and will remain in effect for 21 days. Governor Little and public health officials will evaluate later whether to extend the order past 21 days.  

Governor Little made the announcement at Gowen Field, where he visited with the Idaho National Guard personnel he recently mobilized to support civil authorities and local jurisdictions during the coronavirus emergency. At the Governor’s request, the Guardsmen are prepared to stand up a joint task force to provide mobile testing support, transport commodities, provide facilities, tents or other equipment, and other perform other duties as needed in Idaho’s coronavirus response effort. The Idaho Office of Emergency Management, a part of the Idaho Military Division, is the key emergency response planner and coordinator for interagency preparedness in Idaho.

We will get through this together as long as we all play an active part in fighting the spread of coronavirus. I am proud of Idaho and the way we support and love our neighbors. Let’s keep it up,” Governor Little said.

The statewide stay-home order is being finalized with public health, local officials, and business today and will be available later today at https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/.

View Governor Little’s extreme emergency declaration here.

 

 

 Attached Thumbnails:

 Attached Files:

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Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Posted By Payton Grover, Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the Act) was signed into law on March 18th. The Act provides eligible employees a right to emergency paid sick leave and paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) for certain qualifying coronavirus-related reasons. Most employers impacted by this law will be reimbursed for the mandated benefits in the form of tax credits against their employer’s portion of Social Security taxes (subject to certain limitations). Local, state, and federal government employers have been specifically excluded from receiving these tax credits.  The statute will take effect on April 1, 2020.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

Employers with fewer than 500 employees and all government employers must provide full-time employees who are unable to work or telework with 80 hours of paid sick leave. This leave shall be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day, due to circumstances associated with COVID-19 including quarantine, treatment or diagnosis.  Part-time employees are eligible based on the normal number of hours worked in a two-week period. This paid sick leave must be made available to employees regardless of how long they have been employed. Employees are not required to use other accrued paid leave that is available to them before they use the Paid Sick Leave afforded to them by the Act.

Employees are also eligible for paid sick leave at 2/3 of their regular rate of pay (up to $200 per day) to take time off to care for an individual who is subject to quarantine, or to care for a minor child due to school or daycare closure.

Covered employers may elect to exclude healthcare providers and emergency responders from the paid sick leave requirements of the Act.

Public Health Emergency Leave

 

The Act also temporarily amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide full-time and part-time employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees and all government employers who have been on the job for at least 30 days up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave. To qualify for Public Health Emergency Leave, an employee must be unable to work or telework due to quarantine or a need to care for their minor child because of school or daycare closure, due to a public health emergency. The first two weeks of leave may be unpaid, or the employee may choose to substitute Emergency Sick Leave pay or accrued paid time off, but an employer cannot require an employee to do so. The following 10 weeks will be paid at 2/3 of the employee’s normal rate of pay (not to exceed $200 per day or $10,000 total). The Act does not expand the standard 12-week per 12-month FMLA entitlement. If an employee has used leave for other FMLA-qualifying reasons, they will not be able to go beyond a combined 12 weeks.

As with Emergency Paid Sick Leave, the Act provides that an employer may exclude employees who are health care providers or emergency responders from Public Health Emergency Leave coverage.

 

Please contact your city attorney for additional information about implementing this legislation.  Many of your personnel policies already provide many of the required benefits for affected employees.  If your city attorney is unable to respond AIC will do its best to provide answers.  Be safe.

The Department of Labor will observe a temporary non-enforcement period of thirty days after the Act takes effect so that employers will have time to comply with the law.  During this period, the DOL will not bring enforcement action against any employer for violations of the Act as long as the employer has “acted reasonably and in good faith” to comply.

Fact Sheet for Employers

 

Fact Sheet for Employees

 

FAQs

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Uncontested City Elections will be Canceled in the Future Under New Legislation

Posted By Justin Ruen, Monday, March 23, 2020

The Idaho Association of Counties sponsored legislation this session that passed and was signed into law by Governor Little that allows uncontested elections for mayor and council to be canceled, saving counties the costs of having to list those races on the ballot.  This will work the same as laws already on the books allowing uncontested races for school trustees and other special districts to be canceled.

Senate Bill 1306 would allow these uncontested city elections to be canceled in the event only one  candidate, nominated or write-in, files to run for a position, in which case the city clerk declares that candidate elected and they are sworn in and seated at the first council meeting in January following a city general election.  The bill takes effect July 1, 2020.

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Firefighter Collective Bargaining Binding Fact Finding Bill Fails to Advance After Opposition by Cities

Posted By Justin Ruen, Monday, March 23, 2020

Legislation to implement binding fact finding in collective bargaining with firefighters was introduced but failed to advance after stiff opposition from cities.  We appreciate the many city officials who contacted legislators in opposing Senate Bill 1302.  It is clear this issue will remain a priority for the Professional Firefighters of Idaho in coming years, so it is definitely worth watching closely in the future.  AIC encourages city elected officials to work with their Fire Chiefs and firefighters to try to find an agreeable alternative to this type of legislation.

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Using Electronic Devices while Driving Now Prohibited Effective July 1, 2020

Posted By Justin Ruen, Monday, March 23, 2020

After over a decade of attempts to address the epidemic of distracted driving the Idaho Legislature passed legislation making use of an electronic device behind the wheel an infraction with a $75 fine for a first offense.

House Bill 614 provides a number of exceptions for first responders and utility employees, emergency situations, using GPS, taking or receiving a call by one-touch access or voice command, voice-operated or hands-free mode, use by government or commercial users similar to a two-way radio communication device, and use by farmers or ranchers. 

The bill empowers law enforcement to pull over drivers for using electronic devices behind the wheel as a primary offense and also preempts any local ordinances on this policy area.

The bill takes effect July 1, 2020, but only warnings and no citations will be given until January 1, 2021.

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Idaho Legislature Adjourns Sine Die

Posted By Justin Ruen, Friday, March 20, 2020

This morning, the Idaho House of Representatives voted 32-28 to adjourn sine die, bringing the session to a close.  The Senate adjourned for the session yesterday evening.  It was a challenging session made even more threatening in the last few weeks by the potential for Coronavirus infection among the hundreds of legislators, state staffers and others that are in the Capitol every day. 

This year’s legislative report will be a series of blog posts on major issues, rather than a single longer report, with the goal of making it quicker and easier to read in small chunks as everyone’s primary focus remains on Coronavirus prevention and response.

AIC is so grateful for the grassroots support from city elected officials and staff in weighing in on policy issues with your legislators.  Your help really does make a difference!  

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Governor’s Proclamation Provides Guidance on Open Meeting Issues During Declared Emergency

Posted By Justin Ruen, Thursday, March 19, 2020

Today, Idaho Governor Brad Little issued a proclamation confirming that city councils and other governing boards may meet by conference call, teleconference, or using other technological options for the duration of the Coronavirus declared emergency and that cities and other local governments can find ways for citizens to monitor and participate in these meetings during that period instead of in-person attendance at the official meeting site.  You can find a link to the Proclamation at the bottom of this blog post.

AIC recommends that cities consult their legal counsel in interpreting the Governor’s proclamation and for guidance on how to approach specific meeting scenarios.

Because a growing number of cities are closing city halls and other facilities to public access to protect their staff and facilities from the Coronavirus, there was debate as to whether local governments still had to allow members of the public to attend meetings in person, although that would potentially defeat or compromise the purpose of the facility closure.  The Governor’s proclamation resolves that issue and provides clarity for city councils and other governing boards for the remainder of the Governor’s declared emergency. 

The intent of the proclamation appears to be that governing bodies can hold public meetings using technological means as opposed to at a specific physical location.  The meeting must be conducted using technology that allows all—the governing board and  the public—to hear and be heard as procedures allow.  When public hearings are required (e.g., planning and zoning, budget amendments, vacation of platted rights of way, etc.) opportunities for public participation must be accorded as required by law – just not necessarily at a definite physical location. 

Cities have flexibility to approach the public accessibility of meetings as is appropriate for their size and technological capability.  For example, small cities could use conference calling numbers for governing board members and the public to participate.  Larger cities may use more sophisticated platforms like Zoom.com or GoToMeeting.com 

It is imperative that cities provide clear instructions on meeting notices and agendas explaining how to access the meeting.  It is also important that audio be clear enough to allow the governing board members and members of the public to hear and be heard. 

If you have adopted a planning and zoning public hearing procedures resolution as required by Idaho Code §67-6534 you may want to see if changes are needed to allow such procedures to be followed. 

The Proclamation (see link below) includes some suggestions for practices that could improve the local hearing/meeting process.

 Attached Files:

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Should Our City Declare a Disaster Emergency?

Posted By Justin Ruen, Thursday, March 19, 2020

AIC is getting lots of questions about whether individual cities should declare a disaster emergency.  Certainly, every city should make their own decision about whether one is necessary in consultation with the city attorney, but generally speaking the disaster emergency has three major benefits.

1.       Increased liability protection for local government employees and contractors in responding to the crisis.

2.       Ability to purchase without the need to go through competitive purchasing to address the crisis.

3.       Ability to have eligible costs reimbursed at the rate of 75% federal money, 15% state and 10% city.

The first step that should be addressed is a declaration of emergency.  Governor Little has already declared a state of emergency at the state level.  The state of Idaho has established a web page concerning the coronavirus at https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/  This site contains the latest information provided by the Governor’s office and the Department of Health and Welfare.

Provisions in Idaho’s Disaster Preparedness Act (Idaho Code chapter 10, title 46) govern the authority of public officials to declare emergencies and outline the consequences of such a declaration.  Idaho Code §46-1011(1) provides as follows:

1) A local disaster emergency may be declared only by a mayor or chairman of the county commissioners within their respective political subdivisions.  It shall not be continued or renewed for a period in excess of seven (7) days except by or with the consent of the governing board of the political subdivision.  Any order or proclamation declaring, continuing, or terminating a local disaster emergency shall be given prompt and general publicity and shall be filed promptly with the local county recorder.

So, an emergency has been declared – in what way does that matter?  Pursuant to provisions of Idaho law the consequences of an emergency declaration are as follows:

Idaho Code §46-1017.  Neither the state, nor the office, nor any political subdivision thereof nor other agencies, nor, except in cases of willful misconduct, the agents, employees or representatives of any of them engaged in any civil defense, disaster or emergency and the planning or preparation for the same, or disaster or emergency relief activities, acting under proper authority, nor, except in cases of willful misconduct or gross negligence, any person, firm, corporation or entity under contract with them to provide equipment or work to be used in civil defense, disaster or emergency planning, preparation or relief, while complying with or attempting to comply with this act or any rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to the provisions of the act, shall be liable for the death of or any injury to persons or damage to property as a result of such activity.  The provisions of this section shall not affect the right of any person to receive benefits to which he would otherwise be entitled under this act or under the worker's compensation law or under any pension law, nor the right of any such person to receive any benefits or compensation under any act of congress. 

Accordingly, the statute raises the applicable liability standard to willful misconduct or gross negligence when actions must be taken to address the Covid-19 virus.  The city council can also authorize extraordinary actions that can be taken to carry out the city’s response to the emergency.

Other steps can be taken to implement other measures to protect the public health.  Meetings of the city council can be conducted telephonically [Idaho Code §74-203(5)].  Different measures to collect utility charges remotely can be initiated and access to city facilities can be restricted to implement a social distancing strategy.  Cities should contact their City Attorney to determine how to implement the necessary steps to protect the public health in these circumstances.  Also, do not hesitate to contact your local health district for additional guidance.

Steps in Emergency Declaration Process:

•     Mayor executes initial Declaration of Emergency

•     Mayor and City Council develop special procedures and limitations to be established for duration of emergency

•     Within seven (7) days of mayoral declaration City Council passes resolution that includes steps to address emergency – drafted or reviewed by city attorney.

•     Duration should be until the “all clear” is sounded by the Centers for Disease Control or the Governor of Idaho.

The city council can act at a special meeting called for such purpose.  A full business day’s notice and an informative agenda are essential.  Include notice to the media and on any city web or social media presence.

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AIC Coronavirus Update: March 18, 2020

Posted By Justin Ruen, Thursday, March 19, 2020

This afternoon, representatives from dozens of Idaho cities convened on a conference call with Idaho Governor Brad Little, Idaho Office of Emergency Management Director Brad Richy, and Idaho Department of Health & Welfare Director David Jeppesen to hear updates about the Coronavirus.  We appreciate Governor Little’s openness and availability to city officials and willingness to answer their questions.  You can listen to the conference call by dialing 1-719-457-0820 and use the passcode: 178057085#  The call is approximately 30 minutes in length and the Governor does not begin until about one (1) minute into the call.

One of the questions answered by the Governor involved potential orders to close restaurants and bars.  The Governor said that the State has not mandated closing these businesses and urged local elected officials to consult with health districts on the issue.  Governor Little noted that in a state as large and diverse as Idaho, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer and that individual communities will need to make that determination based on local needs.

Governor Little confirmed that federal funds will be available to reimburse cities or counties with declared disaster emergencies for expenses they incur with 75% of the funds coming from the federal government, 15% from the state, and 10% from the city or county (link to more information about Category B Emergency Protective Measures eligible for FEMA funding).

Governor Little noted that his staff and people in the Attorney General’s office are looking into how to handle public meetings in a way that prevents the spread of the virus and also meets the spirit of the Open Meeting Law and those recommendations should be available shortly and will be shared with city officials as soon as they are available. 

If you have other questions that you would like to ask Governor Little, please email them to Sheila Christensen at schristensen@idahocities.org and AIC staff will reach out to the Governor’s office and get back with the answer.

Coronavirus Resources

AIC’s Coronavirus Resources webpage has a bunch of information to help city officials with this topic, including:

Model Mayor Declaration for Disaster Emergency

Model Council Resolution Affirming Emergency Declaration

Process for Adopting a Local Disaster Emergency Declaration

Emergency Protective Measures (Category B) Eligible for FEMA Reimbursement

Help from Idaho Office of Emergency Management

National League of Cities Coronavirus Response Resources

The State of Idaho has produced a new Interim Guidance for Mass Gatherings and Public Events in Idaho (March 17, 2020 update). 

A lot of resources are also available on the State of Idaho Coronavirus website

 

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