Idaho’s legislature finally adjourned; what came out of this year’s session?

Taya Thornton | The Arbiter

On April 6, Idaho’s 67th Legislature finally adjourned for the 2023 legislative session. The session was set to end on March 24, but was delayed two weeks to wrap up the state budget. 

Here are some of the notable pieces of legislation that have already or will soon go into effect in Idaho:

House Bill 24 — Idaho Launch grant program 

Gov. Brad Little first promised to expand the Idaho Launch grant program when funding was set aside for that purpose during the special session last September. 

The Idaho Launch grant program will provide $8,000 grants for qualifying high school graduates to use at a community college or career technical program, starting with the high school class of 2024. Students who qualify for the grant must still cover at least 20% of their own tuition and may not use the money toward a four-year degree. 

House Bill 179 — Banning ranked-choice voting

Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, as opposed to casting a vote for a single candidate for every race. 

There are at least 50 jurisdictions in the United States that have switched to a ranked-choice voting system for local, state or federal elections, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service in October 2022. 

This alternative method of voting has started to gain popularity because it guarantees that the winner of an election received a majority vote.

Over the past few years there has been some minor push in Idaho counties to implement ranked-choice voting in hopes that it will lower partisanship, but that will no longer be an option. 

On March 24, Gov. Little signed HB 179 into law which states that “no county elections office shall use ranked choice voting to conduct an election … of any candidate for any local government, statewide or federal elective office.” The bill goes into effect July 2023. 

[Idaho Capitol Building.]
Taya Thornton | The Arbiter

House Bill 242 — Abortion trafficking 

House Bill 242 makes it illegal to assist a minor in obtaining an abortion across state lines without parental consent, a practice the legislature dubbed “abortion trafficking.” 

This legislation is particularly notable as it is the first legislation of its kind to be enacted anywhere in the United States. 

A violation under this law is punishable by up to five years in prison, with a minimum two-year sentence, and the law goes into effect on May 5, 2023. 

The decision in the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned the right to abortion, specified that the government cannot limit traveling to obtain an abortion in another state, as there is a constitutional right to interstate travel. 

Several organizations, including Planned Parenthood Greater Northwest, have already said there are plans to challenge this law in court. 

House Bill 292  — Property tax relief

On March 27, Gov. Little vetoed House Bill 292, a property tax relief bill, which was the first veto of the session. Lowering property taxes was one of the major promises that Gov. Little made during his State of the State address in January. 

In a press release about the veto, Little said that the bill sent to his desk was too complicated and would cause unintended consequences, including cutting transportation infrastructure projects.  

“The people of Idaho deserve simple property tax relief that will endure over time,” he wrote.

While the bill was slightly amended after the veto, the House and Senate both reached the required supermajority needed to override the veto, making HB 292 the only bill going into law this session without Gov. Little’s signature.

In the first year, HB 292 will provide $355 million in property tax relief to Idahoans.

Senate Bill 1176 — Public universities budget

One of the most impactful pieces of legislation for Boise State is Senate Bill 1176, which is the state budget for the public universities in Idaho. 

For the upcoming fiscal year, the legislature allocated $282,541,800 to Boise State University, which is roughly a $10 million increase from last year. 

Tuition costs have not increased at Boise State, or other Idaho colleges, since prior to the pandemic. However, it was expressed in the Boise State Student Tuition and Fees hearing last month that an increase may be necessary to cover growing costs caused by inflation. 

Boise State will likely not have a definitive answer on whether tuition will be increased for a few more weeks, but it’s very plausible that tuition goes up by roughly 10%.

House Bill 71 and Senate Bill 1100 — Trans youth

The Idaho Legislature recently passed two controversial bills that target trans youth across Idaho. 

House Bill 71, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024, makes providing gender-affirming healthcare, including hormone therapy, surgery and puberty blockers, for those under 18 a criminal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. This applies to parents and healthcare providers. 

Senate Bill 1100 requires that all public K-12 schools in the state separate their bathrooms and locker rooms by biological sex. The law specifies that schools may not provide a non-gendered bathroom unless it can only be accessed by one individual at a time.

Parents are able sue a school district for up to $5,000 for each violation their child experiences. This means many transgender children in Idaho will have to start using a bathroom that conflicts with their gender identity.

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