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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 

Security & Emergency Preparedness: Opportunity to Participate in GridEx Exercise

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Thursday, March 7, 2019

Water sector utilities are invited to participate in GridEx V, an exercise to demonstrate how electric utilities would respond to cyber and physical attacks.  This is a great opportunity to learn more about how an event impacting the electric sector would affect your utility.  Here are the main points to consider, with more detailed information from WaterISAC copied below:

  • GridEx V is a distributed exercise, meaning participants will play from their normal work locations. It will be held from November 13-14, 2019.
  • The recording and presentation from a March 4 webcast WaterISAC convened about GridEx V is available on WaterISAC's portal HERE. (Note: Information about WaterISAC and how to become a member is HERE, or contact support@waterisac.org.)
  • You can register as your organization's lead planner by contacting gridex_registration@bah.com (lead planner registration ends on May 30, 2019).


Also, please let Johanna Bell with AIC know if your utility or city decides to participate.

 

Background Information from the The WaterISAC Team:

GridEx V: Opportunity for Water Utilities to Participate in Electric Grid Security Exercise

Is your utility interested in participating in an exercise involving physical and cyber threats and incidents to electric utilities, with cascading impacts to the water sector and other critical infrastructure sectors?

If so, consider registering for GridEx V, an exercise planned and conducted by the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC) and designed to provide electric utilities an opportunity to demonstrate how they would respond to and recover from cyber and physical attacks. Given the interdependencies between the electric and water sectors, incidents at electric utilities could also impact water utilities. Water utilities will have an opportunity to work with electric utilities to understand these impacts and coordinate their responses.

GridEx V is a distributed exercise, meaning participants will play from their normal work locations. It will be held from November 13-14, 2019. Participation in the exercise is open to all water and wastewater utilities; you do not need to be a member of either WaterISAC or E-ISAC to participate. However, water and wastewater utilities that wish to participate will have to be matched with an electric utility that is playing in the exercise. WaterISAC and E-ISAC can assist with facilitating these connections.

How do organizations register for GridEx V? Each organization that intends to participate in the exercise needs to designate one lead planner who would be responsible for liasing with GridEx staff and managing play at their organization during execution. You can register as your organization's lead planner by contacting gridex_registration@bah.com (lead planner registration ends on May 30, 2019).

Additionally, WaterISAC encourages any member of the water and wastewater sector playing in GridEx V to email analyst@waterisac.org. This is not required, but doing so will allow WaterISAC to coordinate with your organization prior to and during the exericse.

Want to know more about GridEx V? The recording and presentation from a webcast WaterISAC convened about GridEx V on March 4 is available on WaterISAC's portal here (accessible to WaterISAC members only - the presentation can be emailed to non-members upon request). Jake Schmitter, E-ISAC's lead planner for GridEx, provided an overview of the exercise and answered questions from the audience.

Questions? Please contact us at support@waterisac.org or 866-H2O-ISAC.

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Water Reuse Action Plan Announced

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2019

EPA is facilitating development of a Water Reuse Action Plan in collaboration with other federal agencies, states, tribes, and water sector stakeholders to enhance the availability and effective use of our Nation’s water resources.

The Water Reuse Action Plan will seek to foster water reuse as an important component of integrated water resource management. EPA will facilitate discussions among federal, state, and water sector stakeholders and form new partnerships to develop and deploy the plan. A draft of the plan is scheduled for release and public review this September at the Annual WateReuse Symposium in San Diego.

EPA’s actions are part of a larger effort by the Administration to better coordinate and focus taxpayer resources on some of the Nation’s most challenging water resource concerns, including ensuring water availability and mitigating the risks posed by droughts. This includes working closely with the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other federal partners to collaboratively address western water supply, resiliency, and other resource management challenges.

More Water Reuse Resources and Updates:

SAVE THE DATE: 2019 Idaho Reuse & Operators Conference (IROC)

Federal News and Goods:

US House of Representatives Convene Hearings on Key Drivers for Water Reuse

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife heard from witnesses on the State of Water Supply Reliability in the 21st Century, while the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing Examining How Federal Infrastructure Policy Could Help Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change. The Water Supply Reliability hearing included significant discussion of water recycling and the Climate Change hearing included testimony on the importance of investment in modern water reuse infrastructure and the need to encourage water use efficiency.

Bill Proposed to Increase Funding for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Title XVI Water Recycling Competitive Grant Program

Rep. Grace Napolitano, concerned that water-recycling infrastructure is underfunded, has introduced HR 1162 to increase funding authorization for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Title XVI water recycling competitive grant program to $500 million from $50 million. Witness Tony Willardson, Executive Director of the Western States Water Council, said that his organization supports Rep. Napolitano’s approach to diversifying water resources and supplies.

State Updates:

Legislation Introduced to Change Terminology for Recycled Water in California

California Assembly member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) introduced a WateReuse California sponsored bill (AB 292) on January 28 that would remove the terms “indirect” and “direct” from sections of the California code that discuss potable reuse. AB 292 builds on previous legislation and recent work by the State Water Resources Control Board and WateReuse California to align the terms with how California water agencies are using recycled water. In 2017, Assembly member Quirk introduced AB 574, which was signed by the Governor, and requires the state water board to develop regulations for the safe use of recycled water through raw water augmentation. The legislation introduced last week is intended to ensure clarity in the uses of recycled water. In 2016, in a report to the Legislature the water board concluded it is feasible to develop and adopt regulations for using recycled water as drinking water, provided that certain research and key knowledge gaps are addressed.

Washington State - One Year Into Reclaimed Water Rule Adoption

On January 23, 2018 the Department of Ecology adopted a new rule, Chapter 173-219 WAC, Reclaimed Water. This rule addresses all aspects of reclaimed water; including permitting for the generation, distribution, and use of reclaimed water across Washington state. It applies to all existing and proposed facilities that are — or will be — designed, constructed, operated, and maintained in the state of Washington to generate, distribute, and/or use reclaimed water.

 

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FY 2020 City Budget Calendar Completed

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Monday, March 4, 2019

The FY 2020 City Budget Calendar has been completed and may be downloaded in PDF or Word versions by clicking the links at the bottom of this post. 

The first deadline is Tuesday, April 30, which is the deadline to provide written notice to the county clerk of the date, time and location of the city's budget hearing for the upcoming fiscal year. 

AIC is working hard to get the FY 2020 City Budget Manual completed and we hope that it will be ready next month.  We appreciate your patience!

Click HERE for a PDF version of the FY 2020 City Budget Calendar

Click HERE for a Word version of the FY 2020 City Budget Calendar

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Please Contact Members of the House to OPPOSE House Bill 127 That Would Make County Planning Optional

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Friday, March 1, 2019

Since 1975 The Local Land-Use Planning Act has required Idaho's counties and cities to develop a comprehensive plan, plan for capital improvements and establish zoning and subdivision requirements. House Bill 127 proposes to make that responsibility optional for Idaho’s counties. HB 127 is opposed by AIC, the Idaho Chapter of the American Planning Association, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and the Idaho Association of Realtors.

Among the results these organizations wish to avoid are the following:

  • Radical Inconsistency:  Ada County (population 421,000) and Canyon County (population 196,000) would have no planning responsibilities while Murtaugh (population 117) and Midvale (population 165) (just to name a couple) would be responsible to carry out the requirements of this long-standing statute.
  • Exact Opposite of Conservative Policy: Planning should precede expenditures of public funds. Claims that unplanned public facilities and public spending will save money are inaccurate.
  • Citizen Participation Would Not Be Assured:  The Local Land Use Planning Act assures residents an opportunity to be heard regarding the surroundings of their homes and businesses.  Current requirements have been the law for nearly one half of a century.
  • Inconsistent Standards and Weakened Communication Between Counties and Cities:  Required cooperation assures communication between counties and cities. Standards are regularly coordinated in order to avoid future public expenditures to remedy substandard wastewater services, fire protection, and water systems that are essential in a thriving modern economy. Cooperation fosters economic activity and government efficiency.
  • A Complex World Without Planning:  What is it about the complex issues that local governments must face that would recommend that planning be abandoned?

We urge city officials to contact members of the House and respectfully ask that they oppose House Bill 127.  You can find a list of House members here.  You can find out who is your legislative representative is here.

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Bill to Preempt Local Ordinances Banning Use of Handheld Electronic Devices while Driving Dies in House Transportation Committee

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Friday, March 1, 2019

In one of the most dramatic committee hearings this session, the House Transportation and Defense Committee refused to advance an AIC-opposed bill that would preempt city ordinances banning drivers from using handheld electronic devices.

Please thank the following committee members who voted against the motion to send the bill to the floor: Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian (Committee Chair); Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer; Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa; Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell; Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise; Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise; Rep. Muffy Davis, D-Ketchum; and Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise.

We extend our appreciation to all the city officials who responded to the legislative alert by contacting legislators and writing letters to the committee.  Your help really does make a difference!

House Bill 77 was sponsored by Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon.  The bill’s sponsor argued that the ordinances adopted by cities resulted in a patchwork of different laws that is confusing for drivers. 

AIC Executive Director Jess Harrison testified that AIC opposed the legislation for two reasons: (1) protection of public safety and (2) preemption of local control.   

“The cities that undertook these ordinances did not do so lightly. They did so based on research, data, and information gathered from their local law enforcement.  They held hearings on the ordinances and put together comprehensive communication and education plans.”

“The concept of local control is grounded in a philosophy of government premised on the belief that the individuals and institutions closest to the people are the most knowledgeable about their communities and therefore best suited to making important decisions impacting their communities.  AIC strongly supports this philosophy and believes that House Bill 77 is in direct conflict with these principles.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, three motions were made: (1) to send to the floor with a do pass recommendation, (2) to hold for two weeks to give the sponsor time to make changes, and (3) to hold in committee.  In a dramatic series of very close votes, all three motions failed, leaving the bill dead in committee. 

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Bureau of Reclamation makes funding available for projects that build long-term resilience to drought

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Bureau of Reclamation has made a funding opportunity available as part of its WaterSMART Drought Response Program for projects that build long-term resilience to drought and reduce the need for emergency response actions. Reclamation anticipates awarding between 10 and 15 drought resiliency projects this year.

Drought resiliency projects increase the reliability of water supplies, improve water management or provide benefits for fish, wildlife and the environment. Proposed projects that are supported by an existing drought plan are prioritized. 

The funding opportunity is available at www.grants.gov by searching for opportunity number BOR-DO-19-F003. Applications are due by March 27, 2019, at 4 p.m. MDT.

Federal funding is available in two funding groups:

Funding Group I: Up to $300,000 per agreement for a project that can be completed within two years.

Funding Group II: Up to $750,000 per agreement for a project that can be completed within three years.

Those eligible to apply for funding include states, Indian Tribes, irrigation districts, water districts, or other organizations with water or power delivery authority located in the western United States or United States Territories as identified in the Reclamation Act of June 17, 1902, as amended. Applicants must also provide a 50 percent non-Federal cost-share. 

For more than 100 years, Reclamation and its partners have worked to develop a sustainable water and power future for the West. This program is part of the Department of the Interior's WaterSMART Program, which focuses on improving water conservation and reliability, while helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. 

To find out more information about Reclamation's WaterSMART program, visit www.usbr.gov/watersmart, or visit the Drought Response Program at www.usbr.gov/drought.

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AIC-Opposed Annexation Bill Moves to House Amending Order

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The House Local Government Committee voted to send House Bill 130, sponsored by Rep. Jarom Wagoner, R-Caldwell, to the amending order for changes to clarify provisions concerning shoestring annexations and possibly other matters. 

The AIC Board of Directors voted to oppose House Bill 130, and the American Planning Association Idaho Chapter also opposed the bill.   We appreciate the efforts by city officials around the state who sent in letters or contacted legislators in opposition to House Bill 130. 

“I work as a city planner,” said Wagoner, “and I’ve been in the planning field for 15 years.  My motivation with this bill was to make the annexation law more concise and more easily understood.” 

Outstanding testimony was provided by AIC Legislative Chair Mayor John Evans of Garden City.  Mayor Evans testified that “annexation is foundational to healthy, growing cities and we are concerned that we haven’t had enough time to determine the impacts on cities, large and small.”  

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Report Back: February 20, 2019 "White House Improving Infrastructure Listening Session"

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Monday, February 25, 2019

The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs held a listening session on improving infrastructure on Wednesday, February 20 with William F. Crozer, Special Assistant to the President/Deputy Director,  White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and other senior staff. The purpose of the nationwide conference call was to hear from state and local elected officials about infrastructure priorities and ways to improve our nation’s infrastructure. 

Follow up information provided by the White House today includes the following:

I. Developing America’s Infrastructure – BUILD Grants

There is a lot of need for investments in infrastructure around the country. And so there is a lot of enthusiasm for the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grant program. Previously known as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER Discretionary Grants, the program provides a unique opportunity for the DOT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives.

The number of applications for BUILD grants doubled in 2018. Of those, the number of applications for projects in rural areas increased 136 percent. 60 percent of the applications were for projects in rural areas. Over $1 billion of this BUILD funding will be distributed to 60 road projects. Historically, in this program 40 percent has gone to road projects.  In this round, 69 percent of the funds will go to road projects.

Prior to this Administration, only 21 percent of the funding in this infrastructure program — which dates back to 2009 — was awarded to rural areas. In the Department’s selections in FY2017 and 2018, an effort was made to re-balance the under-investment in rural communities – to address overlooked needs. And so, in the last round of the BUILD program, in which 60 percent of the applications were for rural projects, 62 projects were awarded to rural areas. As a result, more rural communities will benefit from significant improvements in access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation.

A number of these projects in rural areas will also concurrently support installation of broadband infrastructure — which is critical to economic competitiveness in the 21st century. Broadband access is something probably everyone this room takes for granted and can hardly imagine being without. But for millions of Americans in rural areas, broadband is a modern marvel still, literally, out of reach.

More information on the BUILD Grants can be found here.

II. Streamlining the Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects

Before construction can begin on an infrastructure project, it typically must comply with numerous Federal statutes overseen by multiple Federal agencies, making for a lengthy review process.  In August 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13807 addressing the need for a coordinated, predictable, and transparent Federal environmental review and authorization process for infrastructure projects while protecting public health, safety, and the environment. You can find the text of the Executive Order (here) and a White House Fact Sheet (here).

The order uses three key tools to improve the permitting process:

  • One Federal Decision — project sponsor concerns in navigating the Federal bureaucracy are addressed through a One Federal Decision (OFD) policy. Under OFD, a designated lead Federal agency works with other relevant cooperating Federal agencies to complete a single record of decision.
  • A Predictable Schedule — each major infrastructure project will have a permitting timetable for environmental reviews and authorizations, and agencies will be held accountable to those timetables through performance measures and financial penalties.  This will provide greater predictability to project sponsors and potential investors as to when a project review will be completed.
  • Shorter Review Times — the order establishes an average two-year goal across all agencies to process environmental reviews and authorizations for major infrastructure projects.

To comply with Executive Order 13807, on March 20, 2018, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) signed a Memorandum titled “One Federal Decision Framework for the Environmental Review and Authorization Process for Major Infrastructure Projects under Executive Order 13807.” The MOU can be found here. CEQ is the primary entity within the Executive Office of the President tasked with ensuring Federal agencies meet their obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). More information on CEQ can be found here. Pursuant to that Memorandum, federal agencies signed a subsequent MOU, which was announced on April 9, 2018. The MOU can be found here. Signatories to the MOU include the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council.

For larger projects covered by FAST-41 and specific questions regarding permitting for infrastructure projects, please refer to the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC) website at https://www.permits.performance.gov. Created under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the Council is composed of agency Deputy Secretary-level members and chaired by an Executive Director appointed by the President. FAST-41 establishes new procedures that standardize interagency consultation and coordination practices. Importantly, FAST-41 creates a new authority for agencies to issue regulations for the collection of fees, which, if implemented, will allow the Council to direct resources to critical functions within the interagency review process. FAST-41 codifies into law the use of the Permitting Dashboard to track project timelines. Other FAST Act provisions that address the project delivery process and track environmental review and permitting milestones for transportation projects are set out in Title I and Title IX. Project sponsor participation in FAST-41 is voluntarily.”

III. Investing in Rural America

Rural Development

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to the president. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure, and increasing coordination of existing resources through partnerships and innovation are key recommendations of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic. More information on the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity can be found here.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

Rural Broadband

In his State of the Union address, President Trump promised to “deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting edge industries of the future.” The need for infrastructure investment is particularly strong in rural America, where over 39 percent of Americans lack a sufficient broadband connection. To that end, the Trump Administration has been working to close this gap between urban and rural areas.

The Department of Commerce and USDA recently released the American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report, which outlines the Trump Administration’s vision and actions to increase broadband access across rural America. More than 20 agencies are working together on this initiative to remove barriers, streamline processes, and use Federal funds to improve broadband availability and access, including the Interior Department. Among the key actions that the Administration is taking are (i) Preparing to deploy $600 million on an rural broadband pilot program (more information below), (ii) Mapping more than 7,000 Interior Department towers across America to help providers expand broadband service, and (iii) Streamlining the federal permitting process to develop broadband infrastructure.

More on the Rural Broadband Pilot Program

 In December, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering up to $600 million in loans and grants to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s new ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service.

USDA will make available approximately $200 million for grants (applications due to USDA by April 29), as well as $200 million for loan and grant combinations (applications due May 29), and $200 million for low-interest loans (applications due by June 28). For additional information, see page 64315 of the Dec. 14 Federal Register (PDF, 255 KB).

For more information, please visit USDA’s ReConnect Loan and Grant Program. You can find information there on how to apply for grants, eligible applicants, etc. 

More on Community Connect Grants

In addition to the ReConnect Loan and Grant Program, USDA also offers other grant programs, like Community Connect Grants, designed to help fund broadband deployment into rural communities where it is not yet economically viable for private sector providers to deliver service. More information on Community Connect Grants can be found here. Note that the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) will host webinars focused on the Community Connect Grant Program on February 26th from 2:00 to 3:00 pm EST and March 7th from 10:00 to 11:00 am EST. For more information see the Webinar flyer.

IV. Promoting Resiliency

The Administration understands how important it is to develop a continuously adaptive and holistic approach to mitigation and resilience.  In the face of the most complex and dynamic threats that the nation has seen in decades, it is imperative that we be able to anticipate potential disruptions and adapt to them before they cause harm to Americans.  Having just endured two of the worst years for natural disasters on record, we are faced with the effort of rebuilding disaster impacted communities in a way that will mitigate potential harm for decades to come.  To do so, we must harness the remarkable capabilities of our public, private, and non-governmental sectors towards a shared purpose of enhanced resilience while leveraging the resolve of the American people, using American materials, and American labor. 

State and local governments are uniquely equipped to be a galvanizing force towards this goal.  It will require foresight and planning to understand how to engage their communities in long term efforts addressing a variety of risks they face.

By promoting Pre-Disaster Mitigation and signing the Disaster Recovery Reform Act into law, a deliberate approach of addressing our vulnerabilities before disasters strike was made by President Trump.

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AIC-Opposed Bill to Preempt City Ordinances Prohibiting use of Electronic Devices while Driving up for Hearing Thursday

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Monday, February 25, 2019

The House Transportation & Defense Committee will consider legislation at a hearing on Thursday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. that would preempt city ordinances banning the use of handheld wireless electronic devices while driving.

House Bill 77 is sponsored by Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon. 

Prohibiting use of electronic devices while driving is a rare issue that has strong bipartisan support, as evidenced by a recent Idaho Politics Weekly survey that showed 83% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats support such the policy.  The Idaho Politics Weekly survey also showed that large majorities support local governments being able to ban the use of electronic devices while driving if the state fails to adopt such a policy.

There were 4,973 distracted driving crashes in Idaho in 2016, with 64 fatalities and 367 serious injuries, with a combined economic impact of $1.1 billion.  This is a public safety problem that must be addressed, and cities are right to try to protect their communities by raising the profile on this important issue.

We ask city officials to contact members of the House Transportation & Defense Committee to respectfully ask that they oppose House Bill 77.  The committee members and their emails are listed below.

Rep. Joe Palmer, Chair — jpalmer@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Paul E. Shepherd, Vice Chair — pshepherd@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Terry Gestrin — tgestrin@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Clark Kauffman — ckauffman@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Rick D. Youngblood — ryoungblood@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Sage G. Dixon — sdixon@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Steven Harris — sharris@house.idaho.gov

Rep. James Holtzclaw — jholtzclaw@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Jason A. Monks — jmonks@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt — gdemordaunt@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Scott A. Syme — ssyme@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Megan Blanksma — mblanksma@house.idaho.gov

Rep. James S. Addis — jaddis@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Doug Ricks — dricks@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Melissa Wintrow — mwintrow@house.idaho.gov

Rep. John Gannon — jgannon@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Muffy Davis — mdavis@house.idaho.gov 

Rep. Ilana Rubel — irubel@house.idaho.gov

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House Rev & Tax Committee Does Not Advance Monks Revenue Sharing Bill

Posted By Johanna M. Bell, Monday, February 25, 2019

The House Revenue & Taxation Committee voted Monday morning to hold at the call of the chair House Bill 154 sponsored by Rep. Jason Monks, R-Nampa, on the revenue sharing distribution formula.

Some committee members expressed concern about what they described as inequities in the current system, but it is not clear at this point whether the bill has enough support to advance. 

We greatly appreciate the efforts by city officials who contacted legislators in regard to this legislation.

The hearing provided an opportunity for folks on all sides of the issue to share their perspectives. 

Rep. Monks characterized the current system as grossly inequitable, noting that cities of similar population size received widely differing amounts on a per capita basis.  “The current system is not fair, and population would be a fairer way to do it.”

Burley City Administrator Mark Mitton warned the committee members about possible unintended consequences when distribution formulas allocating state revenue are changed. 

AIC Executive Director Jess Harrison noted that AIC established a Revenue Sharing Task Force, which met over last summer to look at the issue in depth and to help inform the AIC Board’s policy position.  The Board’s decision to oppose the legislation was taken after considerable discussion of various points of view and the potential implications of policy changes.  

“One thing that I can tell you for certain after months of meetings with diverse stakeholders is that defining what is fair is almost impossible,” Harrison said.  “Is it fair to not include point of sale?  Is it fair to penalize those who don’t have large retail bases?  Is it fair to remove a historical component that was part of a promise of changing a previous formula?  Is it fair to take much needed revenue away from our rural cities that are stagnant in their populations?  Is it fair that to some these dollars represent a significant portion of their budget while to others the overall loss or gain is de minimis? These are just a few of the challenges of defining what is fair in a large group of diverse and interested parties.”  

“Our Task Force did agree on the following principles for any formula alternatives, including reliable and verifiable data; stability and predictability for city budgeting purposes; simplicity and ease of implementation; and a hold harmless so that communities don’t entirely miss out on growth and have their dollars eaten away over time by inflation.” 

We extend our appreciation to Rathdrum City Administrator and Revenue Sharing Task Force Member Leon Duce who provided excellent testimony on the bill.  Duce noted the challenges under the Monks bill of budgeting for revenue sharing increases annually for cities that are close to the per capita average.  “A city may be capped in one year and receive an increase in the next year and that is too unpredictable for budgeting purposes.” 

Duce noted that the base replacement dollars for the business inventory replacement are capped in dollars and that future growth in the County Distribution is being allocated solely on a population basis. 

Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti noted that his city has one of the lowest property tax levy rates for a city of its size in the state and has been challenged to fund infrastructure and services required for its rapidly growing population.  “How can a city like Ammon that’s growing keep up with the costs of growth when revenue is going to cities that aren’t growing?” 

AIC will continue to follow this issue closely and provide updates as needed.

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