Here are some other highlights from the House speaker and Senate president pro-tem’s annual talk and Q-and-A with the Idaho Press Club today:
NO PERSONAL PROPTAX SHOWDOWN: Both Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill said they’ve received no pressure or threats from Gov. Butch Otter to favor one or the other of the competing personal property tax measures now pending before a House committee. “I think it’s a little early for that,” Bedke said. “You just had the first day of hearings on the bills. The concepts have been swirling since Day 1. … At a certain point, you’ve got to bring a bill, you’ve got to get the dialogue started. … It doesn’t have the feel of conclusion yet. … There’s not consensus.” Hill said, “He’s made no threats to me,” and Bedke added, “It doesn’t have the feeling of a showdown.” Hill added, “We don’t have to deal with it ‘til we see what we get from the House. We get nothing from the House, we’re not going to deal with it.”
COOKIE TAX BREAK COULD CRUMBLE: Despite strong support in the House for legislation that cleared the House Rev & Tax Committee unanimously yesterday to remove the state’s sales tax from Girl Scout cookies, the bill – like other tax exemptions – may not go anywhere in the Senate. “I suspect that the Girl Scouts will make a compelling case to House members that may not be so compelling to the Senate,” Bedke said. Hill said, “I don’t even know if they’re going to get a hearing. The Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee has been the doorkeeper on that. … Once you start down that road, there’s no end to it. In 1965, I think we had 16 sales tax exemptions. Now we have well over 100.” He said Girl Scouts will grow up and in the future be moms shopping for groceries for their kids, and he doesn’t want to see the sales tax they pay rise because there are so many exemptions. “We need to broaden the base and lower the rate,” Hill said.
MERITS, NOT PROCESS: On the pending debate in the Senate on the public schools budget – to which some GOP senators on JFAC objected – Hill said, “We are to debate the merits of the bill,” and not the process. He said he’s advised his caucus of that.
NO NEW ABORTION LEGISLATION: Neither GOP leader expects abortion legislation to be introduced in the wake of a federal court decision overturning Idaho’s fetal-pain abortion law. “Idaho has some of the strongest informed consent laws in the United States,” Bedke said. “There’s nothing coming out at this point that I know of. … I think we can take a year off, personally.” Hill said, “I agree with the speaker. When you’ve got something that has so much to do with constitutional issues and you just had a statute thrown out by the courts, you need to regroup, you need to reassess, you need to make sure you’re coming up with something that will hold. I’m not sure you do that in two or three weeks.”