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Idaho bill would withhold taxes from cities that won’t enforce abortion ban

By Ryan Suppe Idaho Statesman

BOISE – A new Idaho bill would withhold tax money from local governments that defy the state’s abortion ban.

If local officials fail to enforce felony statutes, “we’re going to end up like Portland or Seattle, in anarchy,” bill sponsor Rep. Bruce Skaug, R- Nampa, told the House State Affairs Committee, which voted to introduce the legislation Wednesday.

The bill would direct the Idaho State Tax Commission to withhold sales and use taxes owed to a city or county government if local officials declare that they won’t enforce Idaho’s criminal abortion statutes. The tax commission collects sales and use taxes before distributing them to local governments.

Last year, the Boise City Council passed a resolution declaring that city law enforcement would not “prioritize” or provide “additional resources” to investigations for the purpose of prosecuting abortion providers. The resolution also said that city funds will not be used to store or share information about abortions with other government agencies, “except to the extent otherwise required by state or federal law.”

Maria Weeg, spokesperson for Boise Mayor Lauren McLean, said “it’s very early in the legislative session,” and city officials “anticipate many bills being introduced and discussed.”

“We’ll continue to monitor potential legislation that may impact our community and advocate for the health, safety and prosperity of our residents,’‘ Weeg told the Idaho Statesman by email.

Idaho law makes it a felony to perform, or attempt to perform, an abortion. An abortion provider convicted of “criminal abortion” faces a minimum two-year prison sentence, along with a suspension of their professional license.

The Idaho Supreme Court last week upheld the state’s abortion ban, which faced a constitutional challenge from Planned Parenthood.

Skaug’s bill amends the No Public Funds for Abortion Act, a 2021 law that bars public agencies, including cities, counties and public schools, from contracting with abortion providers or promoting abortion care.

In addition to the penalties for local governments in defiance of abortion restrictions, the new legislation would clarify that the law does not apply to classroom discussions about abortion in schools, colleges and universities.

In September, the University of Idaho issued a memo recommending faculty limit abortion discussions in their classrooms, over fears of violating the law.

“That’s not at all the intent, never was,” Skaug said Wednesday.