Thirty-five senators and 70 representatives will represent Idahoans across the state as the Legislature begins its annual session on Jan. 9.
Rexburg falls under Idaho’s 34th legislative district. Each district elects two congressmen to send to the House of Representatives and one senator to the Senate.
Even though the first day of session is in January, representatives actually took their oaths of office on December 1, which is known as the organizing session.
During the organization, senators and representatives receive committee assignments. However, the process of picking committees differs for the House and Senate.
Committee assignments in the House are at the discretion of the Speaker of the House. Prior to the organizational session, each representative fills out a form where they list their top three preferences. Committees cover a large breadth of topics including local government, agriculture and transportation.
Picking committee preferences in the Senate is based on seniority: The longer a person has been a senator, the more likely they’ll be able to serve on the committees they want.
Not all committees are exclusive to one branch of the legislature. Joint committees feature members of the House and Senate focusing on issues such as legislative oversight and budgeting (through the Finance and Appropriations committee.)
Each member of the legislature will sit on 2-3 committees. The representatives for Madison county sit on the following committees for the 2023 session:
Rep. Britt Raybould
— Joint Finance and Appropriations
— Resources and Conservation
— Environment, Energy and Technology
Rep. Jon Weber
— Commerce and Human Resouces
— Local Government
— Revenue and Taxation
Sen. Doug Ricks
— Local Government and Taxation
— Judiciary, Rules and Administration
— Commerce and Human Resources
What happens on Day 1?
On the first day of the Legislature, all the Idaho representatives will gather in the House chambers to hear the governor deliver the State of the State Address where he outlines legislative priorities for the session.
“It’s great to see everybody together in the one chamber for the governor’s state of the state,” Raybould said. “It’s very exciting for everyone to be there and to be a part of that.”
While the first couple of days feel slow as legislation develops and congressmen introduce bills, Ricks said by the second week the pace picks up significantly.
“Coming in, it felt like drinking from a firehose because there’s just so much to learn,” Ricks said. “You got to try to learn it fast and get up to speed. For new legislators coming in, it’s very overwhelming for a lot of them when they first get started. Even now, in my third term, there’s just still so much more to learn.”
District 34 Legislative Goals
Raybould’s and Ricks’ personal legislative goals centered on their respective committee assignments.
Ricks will serve as the chair of the Local Government and Taxation Committee. He wants to keep an open mind and create a fairer tax policy for property tax that will balance the rates on individual properties versus commercial or agricultural properties.
“Every time you make adjustments, especially on tax policy, there’s always some unintended consequences or effects,” Ricks said. “When people of any group or organization feel like their taxes go up, then they all come out in force. Property taxes have risen quite a bit just by the way our state has done its budget and how the local counties and cities do their budgets. It’s kind of swung a little heavier to houses and individual properties, versus commercial or agricultural (properties).”
According to the Idaho Constitution, the legislature must pass a balanced budget for the state. Expenditure matches income. Since Raybould sits on the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, her goal is to make sure this happens despite the increased number of new legislators.
Raybould’s increased focus on budgeting means that crafting and introducing her own bills will move to the back burner.
“My focus has been so targeted on the budget, that I haven’t spent a great deal of time focusing on any particular pieces of legislation, but I would anticipate, as the session goes, that there probably be a few things that come up,” Raybould said.
Senator Ricks intends to propose bills in three main areas:
— Donating your tax return to Idaho schools. Ricks hopes this option would open an avenue for schools throughout the state to receive more funding.
— Improving access for students with disabilities in K-12.
— Limiting the presence of Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) processes in banks. Ricks said his bill would prohibit access to state money if a bank implements an ESG process for investments or determining credit scores.