Lawmakers pushing bills as session begins to wrap up

Legislators push bills as session end looms.

BOISE -- It has been a very busy week at the Idaho Statehouse as Idaho lawmakers continue hearing and voting on legislation that affects you and your families.

With legislators looking to wrap up the session in a week and a half, they are in a rush to get through business.

There are dozens of bills being heard each day, and the past few days have been critical for a lot of legislation that KTVB has been following for you.

Here is a wrap of some of the key things to be aware of:

There is a bill moving through the statehouse that would incentivize data center owners and operators to grow in Idaho through sales and use tax rebates. Twenty other states offer similar sales tax incentives/rebates on necessary and expensive data center equipment.

DataSite Wholesale Colocator owns a data center colocation in Boise and stands beside the Idaho Department of Commerce in pushing House Bill 217.

"For the kids in school today we are dealing with a 50- to 100-year industry evolution," DataSite owner Jeff Burges told KTVB. "Where data centers locate is where the digital world will flourish and Boise, Idaho is uniquely capable of being one of those hubs."

Idaho boasts what Burges believes is the "trifecta of value"​: He says we have the lowest utility rates in the nation, the best cooling​ climate and zero risk of natural disaster.

There are seven data centers in Idaho, and advocates of this bill say passing it would make the Gem State more competitive in the tech industry. The estimated cost of the bill would result in an annual reduction of the state's general fund budget by $531,000.

"They're very difficult bills because the idea is that we're picking an industry and giving it a benefit against other industries," Burges told KTVB.

This data center bill passed the Idaho House of Representatives on Tuesday in a 35-34 vote. It is now heading to the Idaho Senate and awaiting a committee hearing.

MOREIdaho House OKs bill offering incentives to data centers

The Senate Joint Resolution 103 on victims' rights passed the Senate floor unanimously on Wednesday and is now heading to the House State Affairs Committee. 

SJR 103, otherwise known as Marsy's Law for Idaho, expands victims' rights, giving them thorough protections and more of a voice throughout the criminal justice process.

MORE: Idaho Senate panel advances victims' rights amendment

Because the measure is an amendment to Idaho’s Constitution, it requires two-thirds majority support by the Legislature. If the Legislature approves the measure, it will then be voted on by Idahoans in the next general election. 

The personal delivery "robots" bill - House Bill 204 - also passed unanimously on the Senate floor on Wednesday, allowing robotic electrical devices to operate on sidewalks. It is now heading to the governor's desk.

MORE: Could delivery robots be on their way to Idaho?

Lawmakers on the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee heard Rep. Mike Moyle's (R- Star) income tax cut bill (H 67) on Wednesday. However it was sent to the 14th order for amendments. According to the Spokesman Review, the Idaho House and Senate are working on a tax cut compromise that won't create as large of a dent in the state's general fund.

Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel (Boise) held two informational hearings on two vastly different topics Wednesday afternoon. One of them covered mandatory minimums and the other was focused on climate change. Organizers tell KTVB there were about 600-650 people that turned out for the climate change hearing, filling up the Lincoln Auditorium and three additional rooms in the Statehouse.

MORE: Packed crowd for Idaho climate change hearing

Several experts presented long-term and relevant data and varying perspectives.

"i think the first thing we need to do is include climate change education in our science standards," Dr. Jennifer Pierce, associate professor in the Geosciences Department at Boise State University, said, "We owe it to our kids to educate them on the most important topic that confronts them."

One of the biggest issues still left on the table this session is covering the major funding shortfall for road construction. We learned that a new transportation funding bill was introduced in the Senate Wednesday afternoon after amendments were made to a previous version. This bill would provide more than $500 million in new state money for transportation projects.

Sen. Bert Brackett's (R- Rogerson) new bill would provide $300 million in GARVEE bonding; $200 million in general bonding that would be paid off with future sales taxes; extends the surplus eliminator from 2015 for five years; provides money from the Sales Tax Account for bond debt service and for funding the Idaho State Police; and provides for a sales tax exemption for materials actually used on public roads.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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