As of Monday, March 28, 2016
BOISE The Idaho Legislature wrapped up its 2016 session this week after legislators addressed some significant last minute bills - with topics ranging from abortion to tax cuts - and gave tributes to their retiring coworkers.
The Unborn Infants Dignity Act, sponsored by Representative Brent Crane (R) - which would prohibit the sale, transfer, or distribution of the remains of an aborted fetus - passed the House 54-14 on Thursday, to the chagrin of House Democrats.
“This is a terrible bill,” Representative Matt Erpelding said on the floor during debate.
Fellow representatives Paulette Jordan (D), Elaine Smith (D), John McCrostie (D), and Melissa Wintrow (D) stepped out of the House during the bill’s hearing. The representatives also stepped out of the House State Affairs Committee they serve on for the bill’s first reading.
That was not the Democrat’s biggest loss in the final days of the session though, as a much anticipated bill - which would have addressed the 78,000 person healthcare gap in Idaho - failed in the House on a party line vote.
The bill’s line items included $400,000 for a study of the gap, $5 million in grants to various Idaho community health centers, and an added amendment to apply for a Medicaid expansion waiver.
The amended bill passed the Senate Thursday night. Shortly after, the Senate adjourned Sine Die at 9:03 p.m.
But the bill failed to pass the House the next day, effectively killing it and leaving Idahoans in the gap with no solution this year.
"Talk to the physicians in your community and ask them whether we've made progress or not,” Representative John Rusche said in a press conference after adjournment. “I'd submit that we didn't.”
The House also passed some last minute budgets by the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee that drew controversy, including $2 million to the Constitutional Defense Fund, $400,000 to the Wolf Control Fund, and a new budget for the Arts Commission, $200 more than an original budget which failed to pass.
With little time left and the Senate already adjourned, a bill pushed through the House by Representative Mike Moyle (R) that would have expanded Internet sales taxes and cut income taxes, was voted unanimously by the House to be left on the calendar without taking it up, effectively killing the bill.
The House adjourned Sine Die at approximately 12:12 p.m. on Friday.
In the Senate, Senator Lori Den Hartog (R) gave an emotional plea for what Senator Dean Mortimer (R) called “the last public education budget” of the session.
H 647 calls for additional funding to the Public School Support Program/Division of Children’s Programs and the State Board of Education to be used for literacy interventions, local school innovation, and the career ladder.
“If we don't take care of this,” Sen. Den Hartog said with teary eyes, “we will have failed our responsibility to our kids.”
The original Arts Commission budget was $782,900. The extra $200 was just to get the budget passed, since when an original budget fails, they cannot try and pass an identical budget. The $200 was just to make it different than the original, if only by a small amount.
Also, Rep Gayle Batt was recognized, as she is also leaving the legislature this year.
The bill passed both the Senate and the House and was sent to Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s desk.
Before adjournment, both bodies paid sometimes emotional tributes to their retiring members, including Representatives Rudolph (D), Demordaunt (R), and Bateman (R), and Senators McKenzie (R) and Lacey (D). Senators Bart Davis (R) and Mortimer also received thanks for their services to the legislature.