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Wednesday, April 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  ID Government

Eye on Boise: Another freeze on property tax freeze bill

By Besty Russell Idaho Press

When it came time to debate HB 409, Rep. Mike Moyle’s one-year property tax freeze bill, in the House on Thursday, it was put off for a second time, this time until Tuesday.

Moyle, R-Star, said there are many conversations going on on that topic. Meanwhile, the Senate passed SCR 134, Rep. Jim Rice’s resolution for an interim study committee on property taxes that would meet over the summer.

“This is not a substitute for the things that may get done this session, but we need to take a comprehensive look at all options,” Rice, R-Caldwell, told the Senate. The vote was unanimous, 34-0.

A day earlier, minority Democrats held a news conference to complain that numerous property tax relief bills, including proposals to increase the “Circuit Breaker” tax break for the low-income elderly and the homeowner’s exemption, still haven’t been allowed to be introduced.

On Friday, Moyle said there are lots of meetings going on among stakeholders, including some on Friday and another set for Monday.

“So people are talking,” he said. “We just haven’t gotten anything that everyone’s agreed on yet, and I don’t know if we will, but we’re going to try.”

The one-year freeze would freeze the property tax collections portion of local governments’ budgets; it’s been strongly opposed by local government officials, who say it would crimp services in fast-growing cities and rural counties alike, and wouldn’t actually provide relief to homeowners, whose property taxes are rising fastest.

Local senators split as jobs bill passes Senate

The Idaho Senate on Friday voted 21-13 in favor of SB 1318, the Fair Chance Employment Act sponsored by Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, sending it to the House. The “ban the box” legislation, like laws already enacted in 24 states and by Congress for federal hiring and contracting, asks employers to wait to ask about criminal backgrounds until after the job posting and application process, so that those with records have a chance to present their qualifications.

“This legislation is crafted to remove barriers,” Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, told the Senate. “This is an Idaho bill with Idaho values in mind. We believe in giving people a fair chance.”

There was much debate in the Senate. Among those speaking out in favor of the bill was Senate Judiciary Chairman Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, who praised Buckner-Webb for how she crafted the bill. “This gives people an opportunity to get their foot in the door. … If at the end of the day, the employer says, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t accept this criminal conviction,’ they have the opportunity to do that,” he said.

“This will help with our prison population,” Lakey said, “but more importantly it will help people be a contributing member of society once they’re out instead of being a cost and a detriment.”

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said a past incarceration, even long after the sentence was served, can function as a “scarlet letter.” “To me, this is about the image of someone coming in asking for a job, and on the very front of the application is a box where they put a scarlet letter, where they take off their nice suit and put on their jail clothes,” he said. “I think this is a fair way to help people and try and keep them from going back into a prison system that’s not working.”

Among those speaking against the bill was Rice, who said it would “impose burdens on those who have not committed crimes.” Businesses, he said, should decide how they handle hiring. “It is not reasonable as an operation of government to take that choice away,” he said.

Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, said, “We have to give these folks a chance. Doesn’t mean they have to be hired, but we have to give them a chance.”

Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, who voted “no,” said, “My heart’s with it, but I come back to the point of government telling businesses what to do.”

In her closing debate, Buckner-Webb said, “I just want to be clear that employers do not give up their ability to make hiring decisions that are best for them or their business.” The bill leaves that up to them, she said.

SB 1318 now moves to the House side, where it would need approval from a committee, passage in the full House and the governor’s signature to become law.

Roden honored

Bill Roden has been awarded the Idaho Medal of Achievement posthumously; the award was presented to Roden’s family in a private ceremony in the governor’s office last week. The Idaho Medal of Achievement recognizes Idaho citizens who have demonstrated exceptional, meritorious and inspirational service to the people of Idaho. It is the highest civilian honor Idaho bestows.

“For nearly 60 years, Bill Roden helped shape the quality of life we enjoy in Idaho,” Gov. Brad Little said in a statement. “Bill was always generous in giving his advice and counsel to new legislators and governors, and his advice was not just welcome but needed. Those of us serving in public life aspire to what Bill represented. He was civil at all times, stood for good governance, and worked tirelessly to make Idaho a great place to live.”

Roden was an eight-term state senator and former Senate majority leader, one of Idaho’s most prominent lawyer/lobbyists for decades, and a human rights advocate. He died in July at the age of 90.

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