The 2013 legislative session is starting to hit high gear. This newsletter provides some tidbits about the issues that are being discussed.

   I know that there are many other issues that might be of interest to you. Please let me know if you'd like me to cover other issues in future newsletters. And please take the time to let me know how I'm doing and how I can improve this newsletter to better suit your needs.

   And let's be safe out there!

Whats Going On?

Voting Opportunity and Trustworthy Elections (VOTE) Initiative
   Democrats, noting issues with the last election (long lines, lack of early voting opportunity, taxpayer funding of a private election, lack of participation, etc.) proposed the VOTE Initiative with five bills meant to increase voting opportunity and strengthen our democracy. The five bills are:

  • Online Voter Registration Act - to modernize our election system to present day standards.
  • Motor Voter Act (HB-60) - registration materials to be provided to all who receive driver’s license or ID services (18 and above).
  • Private Election Taxpayer Compensation Act (HB-59) - requires any political Party requesting a closed primary to pay the additional costs incurred by the counties.
  • Early Voting Opportunity Act (HB-63) - requires counties to provide additional early voting stations based on population.
  • Voter Convenience Act - sets up a full service polling place that allows any voter in a county to vote or register at a central location on election day.

   We're working toward hearings for these bills and I'll update you as the session progresses.

Health Insurance Exchange
   An insurance exchange is an online marketplace where consumers can make apple to apple comparisons of health plans from different providers and determine whether they qualify either for a federal subsidy to purchase insurance (income up to $98,000 on a sliding scale) or for Medicaid. Under federal law either Idaho runs its own exchange or the federal government will run one for Idaho.
   The governor has broken from the Tea Party wing of his own Party and proposed a state-run exchange (SB-1042). This had led to a fight within his own Party that's currently playing out.
   The bill was sent to the Senate for a vote last week on an 8-1 vote. It should be an interesting debate this week. You can check our schedule here and you can watch here.
The Luna Laws Return
   The Idaho School Boards Association is resurrecting Proposition 1 (defeated by voters by 57%) through seven bills to impose labor restrictions on teachers. Needless to say there's concern among teachers, parents, voters, and others after the recent defeat at the poll. Administrators say that they need the restrictions to better run their school districts. The governor's task force has taken labor issues off the table clearing the way for these bills. Meanwhile the bills were withdrawn for "work" last week.

Farm Bureau Attempts to Restrict Access to The Initiative Process
   Fresh off the voters' resounding rejection of the Luna laws through the referenda process, the Idaho Farm Bureau (IFB) proposes making it much more difficult to get an initiative or referendum on the ballot by requiring a set percentage of signatures from each of at least 22 of the 35 legislative districts (SB-1026). This is reminiscent of the 1997 law (struck down by the court) that required signatures by county. The IFB says they're concerned about an animal rights initiative. This begs the question of whether the initiative process in Idaho is broken. The reality is that we haven't had a huge spate of initiatives and the people have been choosy about the ones they support. If you're concerned about SB-1026 you can contact the sponsor Senator Curt McKenzie at

Business Property Tax
   This is a hugely complicated issue with many moving parts. Big business wants to repeal the tax at an annual cost of $140 million to local governments and schools. The legislature already passed a law in 2008 (HB-599) with an annual cost of about $20 million that exempts the first $100,000 of property from taxation leaving over 85% of all business in Idaho to pay no tax. HB-599 waits to go into effect until state revenue rebounds.
   If the tax is repealed a good portion of the cost will be shifted to your property taxes and school districts will lose millions. Some conservatives want to repeal and avoid the shift by restricting local governments' ability to recoup the revenue loss reasoning that local governments haven't been hurt enough by the recession. This would likely result in cuts to primary services like police, fire, and ambulance. Big business wants to phase in the cut so your taxes slowly go up. I'll keep you posted on this issue.

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Senator Elliot Werk

In This Issue

  • VOTE Initiative
  • Health Insurance Exchange
  • Luna Laws
  • The Initiative and Referendum Process
  • Business Property Tax


Handy Web Links

Visit My Home Page and find out what's happening or fill out my latest survey

Visit the Legislative Web Page an excellent place to read bills, track legislation, contact legislators, and more

Visit the Secretary of State – Elections Page to view campaign sunshine reports, lobbyist registration, and more

Contact Me
Phone: 658-0388, Legislature: 332-1352
Snail Mail: 6810 Randolph Dr., Boise, ID 83709

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