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Politics & Government

Legislative Roundup: Preferential Hiring, Grocery Tax Credit Given A Green Light

Roam Yocham
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho lawmakers weren’t idle on President’s Day. The legislature was in full motion as it took up banning the practice of preferential hiring, among other subjects.

Nearly every House Republican gave a thumbs up to a bill that would bar state, city or county governments from giving preferential hiring treatment to certain people.

The proposal from Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) checks off several traits that governments and school districts and anyone contracting with them would not be able to base hiring decisions on in most cases.

“It’s deeply offensive to hire someone or not based on their race, sex, their color, ethnicity or national origin,” Scott said.

Scott once turned down a job because it was only offered to her based on her gender, she said.

But Democrats – all of whom voted against the bill – say it actually excludes certain types of people.

Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) pointed out that it would still allow employers to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation.

“This is nothing but a discrimination bill,” Gannon said. “It is an inequality bill.”

Nine other states include similar restrictions on the use of preferential hiring. Scott’s bill now heads to the Senate.

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee also sent a bill to the floor that would help offset sales tax on groceries despite objections calling it a “Bernie Sanders plan” to redistribute wealth.

House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) sponsors the bill, which would boost the grocery tax credit by $35 that each Idahoan receives when they file their state income taxes. That would total $135 per person, including dependent children.

An individual would need to spend more than $187.50 per month on groceries to ultimately end up paying more in sales tax.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture releases a monthly cost of food index outlining how much it would cost someone to eat nutritiously. A man between the ages of 19 and 50 on the thriftiest plan outlined in the federal report would spend nearly $186 a month on food. A woman in the same age range would spend about $165 each month under the thrifty plan.

Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird) says Bedke’s bill takes up a “noble cause.”

But, Giddings said, “A good policy decision doesn’t redistribute wealth and, to me, this is not a good policy decision. Unfortunately, this is a Bernie Sanders plan.”

Last week, the same committee shot down a proposal from Giddings who wanted to completely eliminate sales tax on groceries.

Bedke says his bill is the fairest way to offset that tax while still collecting money from those who live out of state but vacation in Idaho.

It now heads to the full House for consideration.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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