Even as the legislature enters its tenth week, legislators continue to introduce bills into the House and Senate.

Property tax relief

Rep. Jason A. Monks and Rep. Mike Moyle introduced legislation providing immediate and long-term property tax relief to all property taxpayers in Idaho, something that has been a goal for many legislators this session.

“Property taxpayers, I think, have seen their property taxes go up significantly and they are demanding relief,” Monks said during Monday’s public hearing over the bill. ” … I think this bill, House Bill 292, is an attempt to respond to that.”

If the bill passes, Idahoans will receive up to $355 million dollars in property tax relief the first year the bill is implemented. In the second and third years, approximately $210 million will be used to reduce property taxes.

During the second and third years of implementation, approximately $100 million will be distributed to school districts based on average daily attendance to do the following:

— Pay school bonds

— Pay school levies

— Save for future school facility construction

— Save for new bonds

Even though the bill was introduced in the House, it has received plenty of support in the Senate. Doug Ricks, the chair of the Local Government and Taxation committee, worked with Monks, Moyle and Sen. C. Scott Grow to create a hybrid bill of the many property tax bills introduced by these three over the course of the session.

“Neither one wanted to give much turf to begin with, so we had to negotiate and come to a compromise,” Ricks said.

The bill passed the House and now heads to the Senate for a vote. Ricks believes the process will go smoothly due to the effort made by legislators in both bodies before the bill was introduced.

Protecting the initiative process

The initiative process has been at the center of quite a few pieces of legislation.

Rep. Sage Dixon introduced legislation that would require individuals gathering signatures to register with the Secretary of State.

If passed, signature gatherers would also need to complete a training administered by the Secretary of State.

According to the bill’s statement of purpose, “This legislation is intended to protect the integrity of the initiative and referendum process.”

Refining Idaho Launch program

Sen. Jim Guthrie introduced a bill adding changes to Governor Little’s proposed Launch program. The proposed program would provide students graduating from Idaho high schools $8500 to use toward higher education or trade school in Idaho.

The bill is known as a trailer bill since it’s a separate bill ‘trailing’ after HB 24, the bill assigned to the Launch program. It makes changes to the program through a separate bill as opposed to amending HB 24.

According to the bill’s statement of purpose, it makes three primary changes:

— Enhances legislative oversight of the Idaho Launch program to enhance program accountability

— Capps the maximum state match at $8500 or 85% of a program’s total cost (whichever is less) to ensure greater “skin in the game” from Launch participants

— Limits the use of Launch funds to just tuition and fees. (Prior to this, funds could be used on room and board.)

One way the bill increases program oversight by the legislature is through an annual report by the Workforce Development Council.

By Jan. 1 each year, the bill says the council should report the following to the state legislature:

— The number and demographics of eligible students applying for grants

— The number and type of eligible institutions approved by the council

— The list of in-demand careers prioritized by the council

— The number of grants awarded and demographics of participants

— Data to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program, including but not limited to program completion rates, satisfactory academic progress, job placement rates, and retention rates of participants in Idaho upon program completion

To keep track of legislation going through the Idaho House and Senate, visit the Idaho Legislature website here.