Newsletter: March 4, 2018

March 4, 2018

Some major bills passed the legislature this week. As the legislature winds down, there will be even more important bills to consider.

The legislature passed an approximately $200 million-dollar tax cut. Idaho is the fastest growing state in the union, and our revenues are increasing at a rate that provides more money than is needed. The legislature has saved about $400 million in rainy day funds. The education budget has been set with a 5.9% increase in spending. That equates to an increase of just over $100 million to K-12. Included in that is year 4 of increased spending on the career ladder for our wonderful teachers. With all the state’s needs met, a tax cut was the responsible thing to do.

Of importance to understand is the fact that the federal government’s tax cut will provide decreases in federal taxes to Idaho families. However, as the State of Idaho conforms to the federal tax policies, it causes a $97 million-dollar tax increase on Idahoans. This week’s tax cut returns that $97 million back to Idahoans and adds another $100 million in tax cuts. Even after the tax cuts and increase in budget spending, there will still be a proper amount of carryover from the 2019 to the 2020 budget.

Texting and Driving
The Senate killed Senate bill 1283a, which would have allowed only hands-free cell phone use, and would have banned the use of all electronic devices by drivers, except GPS devices. Idaho already has a texting ban while driving. The Idaho Senate defeated the bill, in part because of the belief that people should be responsible for their own actions. Debate also included strong comments about over-regulation.

Cannabidiol Oil
The house passed H577, a bill legalizing CBD oil for medical use, on a 59-11 vote. Those for the bill say in some instances CBD oil may be helpful with certain medical conditions. Those against the bill point out that CBD oil is still against federal law, no matter what Idaho does. They further say that in most other states, legalizing CBD oil has been the first step to legalizing all uses of marijuana. CBD oil has not been approved by the FDA, and there are no purity standards. Those using the oils have virtually no idea what is in the product they use. It could be pure, or it could be contaminated with any number of harmful additives. This is an issue about which I would appreciate an email.

State Hospital South Skilled Nursing Facility
The Senate State Affairs passed a concurrent resolution directing the bonding authority to issue state bonds for the construction of a new skilled nursing facility in Blackfoot. I am the sponsor of the concurrent resolution. We have spent considerable time working with the Dept. of Health and Welfare to adjust the size and building layout to make it more efficient and cost effective. Rep. Neil Anderson was successful in bringing those efficiencies to fruition. The current Syringa Chalet (nursing facility), was built in 1938 and was a doctor office and surgical unit. It has been repurposed to be a skilled nursing facility. The building has community restrooms, no kitchen to provide meals to patients, and critically outdated electrical and plumbing. Food must be carted over 200 yards to the hospital, in all inclement weather, 3 times per day. The badly needed facility will provide safety for patients and staff and the ability to serve those very vulnerable, yet sometimes violent members of our society. The bill will be debated on the Senate floor this week.

Please contact me at to let me know about the issues which you have concerns.

Senator Steve Bair
Chairman, Senate Resources and Environment Committee
Senior Member, Joint Appropriation-Finance Committee

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