Idaho Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, proposed a new version of his bill to ban sanctuary cities in Idaho today, and again, the House State Affairs Committee meeting room was filled along with an overflow room with people concerned about his proposal. There are currently no sanctuary cities in Idaho.
The first version of Chaney’s bill, HB 76, would have removed state sales tax distributions from any city or county that declined to comply with federal immigration laws, and also required all local law enforcement officers in Idaho to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest on a misdemeanor or felony charge, and cooperate with federal immigration authorities based on the result. That’s not a role local law enforcement is tasked with now. The new bill removes half of the sales tax funding from cities or counties instead of all, and skips the check-all-arrestees’-status requirement.
Chaney said he made the changes after meeting with two agriculture groups, the Milk Producers and the Idaho Dairymen, and as a result, those groups agreed to be neutral on the bill. Chaney said he came up with the provision to remove 50 percent of a city or county’s sales tax funding, instead of 100 percent, as a way of “splitting the baby.”
He said his bill is designed “to keep locals and counties from protesting in a way that would be counter-productive to a solution to immigration reform as a whole at the national level.” Chaney said concern about immigration is “at an all-time high, and there’s a great deal of discomfort with any changes. … So that’s why this legislation is coming at this time.”
Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, told Chaney, “The only discomfort that I’ve heard was from the communities this (bill) is impacting, including the Hispanic community, to which you represent.” Chaney serves on the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs. “Those folks, along with the folks in the ag community that I represent have major concerns, including local officials in every city,” Jordan said.
Chaney said, “While certainly I haven’t addressed every single concern, and there are still plenty” among those groups who oppose his bill, “I have addressed and listened and undertaken this rewrite specifically as a result of those conversations.”
He said the “crux of the entire piece of legislation” is the part that states, “A governmental entity shall not adopt, enforce or endorse a policy under which the entity prohibits or discourages cooperation with the enforcement of immigration laws.”
Chaney said, “This is to prohibit the use of immigration policy and the sanctuary city sort of ordinance from being used as the means by which localities protest the Trump Administration. If localities wish to protest the Trump Administration, by all means, but this would be a very reckless and frankly irrational way to go about it.”
Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, asked Chaney, “If a mayor of a town declared that his town would be a sanctuary city, would the town then be held responsible for the mayor’s action?”
Chaney said yes. “It would be anyone to whom policy-making authority is given,” he said. He said even if a city didn’t pass an ordinance declaring itself a sanctuary city, if a mayor declared it such and its police force and other officials complied, the city would be in violation of the bill.
Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said a “rogue mayor” would be unlikely to trigger the bill’s sanctions against a city because the bill requires the state Attorney General to seek a writ of mandamus “or other equitable relief” from a court to cut the city’s sales tax distributions. Barbieri moved to introduce Chaney’s new bill.
Jordan offered a substitute motion, to reject it. That died on a party-line vote, with just Jordan and Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, supporting it. Barbieri’s motion to introduce the bill then passed on a party-line vote, with all Republicans on the committee supporting it. That clears the way for a hearing on the bill.