Saturday, July 13, 2024

Legislative session beginning to pick up

by MARK SAUTER Contributing Writer
| January 22, 2023 1:00 AM


The 2023 Idaho Legislature's 2023 session has been running for two weeks now. Several of the standing committees (for example, Revenue and Taxation, State Affairs, and Agriculture) have started the process of making decisions on proposed legislation and State rules (IDAPA).

The standing committees are the first deliberative body for a new bill. Once proposed legislation has been introduced it is titled/numbered and assigned to a committee to be heard. The chairman of the committee assigns the matter to a committee agenda for a "print hearing." During the print hearing the new legislation is explained to the committee for the first time. The information can be fresh for members of the committee.

The purpose of the first hearing is to give the legislator(s) presenting the bill initial feedback on the bill and to decide if the proposed legislation deserves a full hearing by the committee. Vigorous debate on the matter is not encouraged at the print hearing as the time is generally short and members of the committee may have had little time to read/consider the bill. Essentially, the deliberation of the issue begins in earnest once a bill is approved for printing.

I have been assigned to three standing committees (Education, Agriculture, and Judiciary) and all three are in different stages of performance. The Education Committee is in a learning stage. We have met almost every morning to hear multiple presentations from state educational staff with the intent of learning and understanding how our State school system works and how it is funded. Many of the Legislators on the Education Committee are "freshman" legislators (me included) so the learning is important. The Education budget makes up almost half of the state budget. The Education Committee has not heard any proposed new legislation as of yet.

The Agriculture Committee has been meeting and working on State rules first. The Idaho Administrative Procedures Act is where most rules are found for business and Industry. These rules are very important for farmers and ranchers. Specific departments like the Idaho State Department of Agriculture make presentations and bring recommended rule changes and reductions. These presentations are important for our industry and enlightening for the committee members. The Chairman of the Agriculture Committee has decided to "hear" the proposed changes to IDAPA Agricultural sections first, and before any proposed legislation is considered. The Governor has made it a priority to reduce our State regulations and this committee has (so far) seriously reduced the scope and number of regulations for Agriculture. The Agriculture Committee meets 2-3 afternoons a week.

The Judiciary Committee has begun by blending the rules review process and hearing proposed legislation. We heard from the State Custody department last week and started the "print hearing" process by reviewing two proposed legislative matters. One proposal dealt with changes to the code for penalties for maliciously reporting child abuse. This bill was recommended for "printing" and a full committee hearing will be scheduled sometime soon. Another proposal involved terminating parental rights for sexual offenders, this matter was not approved for a committee hearing. The drafters of the proposal were encouraged to do some editing and consider some of the questions from the committee. It will be up to the drafters of these proposals to resubmit them for additional committee consideration.

The House of Representatives did vote on one bill. This new legislation essentially codified the current practice of the county clerks. In cases of a recount of machine ballots, the recount will be done by hand. I voted in favor of this bill.

I am currently working on several different bills regarding residential property tax, the homeowners’ exemption, elections, and a local water/environmental issue for our area.

I’ve been assigned to a Rural EMS committee with the objective of improving our EMS system statewide. This committee will likely produce information for the legislature this session with the intent of making recommendations for legislative action next year after more research has been done.

Yesterday, I was notified of my appointment to the Governors Permanent Building Fund Advisory Council. I’m excited to serve on this committee and hope I can add a responsible voice to the dialogue involving our state buildings.

As I walked back from a meeting a few evenings ago, a senior legislator mentioned the pace of this legislative session will likely pick up next week. By the time my next column is due, I’m guessing I will have considerably more specific bills to comment on in a future column.

My intent is to write to inform and report on the legislative session as time allows. I’m not a journalist or a writer so please give me some grace in your critique and I am appreciative of the Bee reaching out to me to share my perspective.

Mark Sauter represents Bonner and Boundary counties in the Idaho Legislature in District 1A. He can be reached at