BOISE — When the Idaho Legislature resumes work today after a two-week absence, at least a dozen of the 200 bills remaining to be addressed this session came from representatives of the 5th Legislative District.
Rep. Caroline Troy, R-Genesee, accounts for the bulk of those measures. She was the primary sponsored or co-sponsor of more than 20 bills and resolutions this year — so many she has to carry a spreadsheet around to remember their status.
“That’s the only way I can keep track of them all,” she said.
Four of the bills have already been signed into law, and her resolution honoring the 100th anniversary of the Idaho Statehouse has been adopted.
Among the measures signed into law was House Bill 96, which came from one of her constituents. The legislation gives district judges an option to grant restricted driving privileges to people who lost their driver’s license for nonpayment of child support.
The intent, Troy said, is to ensure that rural residents can still drive to work, so they can catch up on their payments.
Another measure that was signed into law, House Bill 94, makes minor changes in the Criminal Justice Integrated Data System.
While the legislation itself “isn’t a superstar,” Troy said, it could “do superstar things” by bettering the lives of Idahoans.
The legislation makes incremental improvements in the database that lets the state track people as they move through the criminal justice system, from juvenile corrections to adult corrections.
“Idaho has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation,” Troy said. The new database, which was just approved last year, will enable researchers to “take a deep dive” and see what treatment programs or educational opportunities actually help people get their lives back on track.
“In the past, we had no clue what was working and what wasn’t,” she said.
Some of the other bills sponsored by members of the 5th District delegation this session include:
HOUSE BILL 162 — Co-sponsored by Rep. Troy; Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow; and Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, the measure passed the House unanimously and is up for consideration in the Senate.
The bill names a portion of State Highway 6 near Potlatch after 19-year-old Robert “Bobby” Chambers, who was killed in 1967 while serving in the Vietnam War.
Chambers earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart the same day he was killed.
Nelson noted that the Chambers family is raising money to provide signage for the section of highway, which runs from the western edge of Potlatch to the intersection with U.S. Highway 95.
HOUSE BILL 320 — Sponsored by Rep. Mitchell, the measure was introduced, but subsequently went to the House State Affairs Committee for potential changes.
“I don’t know if it’s going to make it through this session,” Mitchell said.
The bill eliminates the requirement that children under the age of 17 take a mandatory driver’s education before they can receive a driver’s license.
Instead, it allows learner’s permits to be issued to 14- and 15-year-olds, so long as they pass a written exam and vision test. The permits only allow them to drive when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Upon reaching the age of 16, an intermediate license — which includes restrictions on the hours of operation and number of passengers — can be issued to someone who received at least 50 hours of supervised driving with a parent or guardian or who successfully completed a driver’s education course.
Mitchell noted that more than a dozen other states allow parents to play a role in their children’s driver education. Based on annual accident statistics, that approach doesn’t appear to be any worse than in states with mandatory driver’s education laws.
“I believe parents are very responsible,” Mitchell said.
HOUSE BILL 126 — Co-sponsored by Rep. Troy, this industrial hemp legalization effort passed the House 44-26 and is up for consideration in the Senate.
“If we can get that across the finish line, I’ll be thrilled,” Troy said. “I don’t know if the governor will sign it. It’s not his favorite bill in the world, but I’d sure like to get a signed copy to Tom Trail.”
Trail, who served eight terms in the Idaho House and chaired the House Agricultural Affairs Committee, spent years trying to educate his colleagues about the differences between hemp and marijuana. Troy continued his efforts after she was elected, but Idaho remains the only state that hasn’t legalized industrial hemp in some fashion.
This latest bill, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, and the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, tries to balance the concerns of law enforcement and the agricultural community. It keeps hemp on the list of Schedule 1 illegal drugs; however, it allows the legal production, processing and transportation of the crop, so long as it’s done in accordance with rules promulgated by the Idaho Department of Agriculture.
HOUSE BILL 344 — Sponsored by Rep. Mitchell, this is the third version of a voter identification bill he’s been working on with Sen. Regina Bayer, R-Meridian.
Current law allows same-day voter registration by anyone with a photo ID and proof of address. Mitchell is concerned those minimal requirements create an opening for voter fraud.
“Any picture ID is accepted, including a high school ID,” he said.
His proposal would amend the law to require same-day registrants to provide a current Idaho driver’s license or state-issued ID, or a tribal ID card that includes a photo, date of birth and physical address.
In cases where people can’t provide one of those means of identification, they would need to provide an alternative photo ID and proof of address. Acceptable alternatives include a U.S. passport, a current driver’s license issued by another state, a military ID card, a student ID card that includes date of birth, or a current concealed-weapons permit.
Proof of address options include a current lease agreement, a utility bill that’s less than 6 months old and a W-2 or 1099 federal tax form.
Mitchell said he worked with Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane on this latest version of the bill, which was introduced the day before the Legislature recessed.
Given the late date, he’s not sure the measure will have time to make it through the House and Senate this session.
“If I push, I think I can get it through the House, but I’m not sure I can get it through the Senate,” he said. “I think we’ve worked out all the kinks, but this sounds like a next-year thing.”
SENATE BILL 1028 — Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, is the primary sponsor, but every member of the Senate Democratic minority, including Nelson, signed on as co-sponsors.
The measure would increase Idaho’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10 on July 1. That would jump to $12.50 per hour next year, and $15 per hour in 2023. It also allows counties to set a higher minimum.
The bill was referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee and hasn’t received a public hearing.
HOUSE BILL 141 — Sponsored by Rep. Troy, the measure passed the House and Senate unanimously and was signed into law.
The legislation requires state agencies to engage in a competitive bidding process for any purchasing or service contracts they have with any of Idaho’s public institutions of higher education.
Troy noted that state agencies awarded more than $32.7 million in noncompetitive bid contracts to the higher education institutions in 2019 and 2020.
The legislation takes effect July 1.
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