Thursday, April 3, 2008

Legislative Session Ends After 87 Days

(BOISE) The 59th Idaho Legislature wrapped up business in the fading light of a windswept day at the old Ada County Courthouse after 87 long days, the second longest session of the decade.

It was slowed from the start by a downturn in the economy, declining state revenues, internal partisan strife not to mention harsh critism from Governor Butch Otter.

Speaker of the House Lawrence Denney had hoped to end the session by mid-March but the optimism faded after harsh disagreements over tax exemptions,transportation, and primary elections. Despite critism the body got a lot of state housekeeping work done.

The final hurdles to adjournment boiled down to an exemption on personal property tax on business equipment. The legislation exempts up to $100,000 of equipment for 88 percent of Idaho businesses at a cost of $17.8 million. Lawmakers prudently added a clause that called for the exemption when the state's general fund grows by 5 percent.

"If you don't know what this bill does at this point, you probably don't deserve to be re-elected," Senate Tax Committee Chairman Brent Hill, (R-Rexburg), said prior to voting. The Speaker then called on the bills sponsor, Rep. Jim Clark of Hayden Lake to open debate, Clark was so exhausted and spent, said only,"It's a good bill, should pass."

With the vote the legislature came to an end with some lawmakers like Rep. Margaret Henbest (D-Boise) giving a touching farewell speech after 6 terms.

Even though lawmakers were unable to raise all of the highway money, there were a number of road issues that did get solved. One involved GARVEE funding, which provided about $100 million for large road construction projects in the Treasure Valley.

On Tuesday the legislature sent a message to developers and addressed growth, passing a bill that forces developers to contribute to the infrastructure costs, making growth pay for itself.

With little fanfare the Legislature passed HB 428 which set up significant water legislation that will conduct in-depth scientific studies of our aquifers. The bill also develops comprehensive management plans for aquifers throughout the state.

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