Idaho Legislature

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Maureen Wishkoski is a morning person. Wishkoski is the court advocate manager at the Women’s and Children’s Alliance in Boise. Most days she gets up before 6:00 a.m. and heads to the Ada County Courthouse, where she meets with clients in need of legal help.

Some of her clients are looking for relief from stalking, a crime that she says can have serious mental and emotional impacts. According to the national Stalking Resource Center, 7.5 million people are stalked across the country every year. 

Ada County Statehouse Capitol Building Joint Finance Appropriations Committee
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

State budget writers have found a way to finance two crisis centers in southern Idaho to serve as a safety net to treat at-risk mentally ill people whose symptoms often land them in hospitals or jail.

The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee voted 16-2 on Wednesday to divert nearly $1.5 million to fund two crisis centers that will likely be located in Boise and Twin Falls.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The President Pro Tem of Idaho’s Senate, Brent Hill (R-Rexburg) Tuesday said his greatest disappointment for the current legislative session is that lawmakers have not brought forth a bill to prevent discrimination against the LGBT community that also ensures religious freedom. A week ago Hill told KBSX that negotiations had been going on behind the scenes and that there was still time in the session to present a bill.

Legislature Live screenshot

A packed meeting at the Idaho statehouse this afternoon focused on the hot topic of federal lands. The House and Senate resource committees convened to welcome speakers from Utah advocating that public lands be transferred from the federal government to Western states. The meeting did not include any public testimony.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

A national suicide prevention organization and several Idaho groups with the same mission plan to spend Thursday trying to convince Idaho lawmakers to implement four recommendations. Those recommendations are the top priorities from a twelve-point suicide prevention plan created last year by the Idaho Health Quality Planning Commission.

The HQPC is a group of healthcare professionals, insurance industry reps and academics that advises Idaho lawmakers on ways to improve healthcare. It has identified suicide as one of the biggest public health threats facing Idaho. 

Why Idaho LGBT Activists Are Not Protesting Right Now

Feb 23, 2016
Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

We’re more than a month and a half into the 2016 session of Idaho’s legislature. By this point in last year’s session, dozens of protesters had been arrested. They wanted lawmakers to pass a bill making it illegal to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The year before saw similar protests but this year they’ve been largely absent.

Nicole LeFavour, one of the leaders of the Add the Words movement says it’s because a group of senators has been meeting to craft a bill that could get bipartisan support.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho House has voted to ban cities from hiking the minimum wage. The bill prohibits local governments from instituting ordinances to raise the minimum wage. It also bans doing it through ballot initiatives.

Supporters of the bill, including Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, say it’s not about wages, it’s about keeping laws uniform across the state.

“When it comes to minimum wage, a patchwork approach is bad policy. Wages in Idaho can’t be resolved adequately by a heavy-handed approach that hurts business,” says Malek.

Jennifer Pack / Flickr Creative Commons

A Republican lawmaker from eastern Idaho is backing a bill that would require a woman be told where she can get a free ultrasound before undergoing an abortion.

Rep. Ron Nate of Rexburg says the legislation would require the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to compile a list of providers that offer free ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. The list would be part of the informed consent brochures abortion providers are required to distribute.

Jeff Youngstrom / Flickr

In the span of a week, lawmakers in the Idaho House voted to ban cities and counties from banning plastic grocery bags and took up a bill that could ban cities from increasing the minimum wage.

That’s after Hailey residents voted five years ago on a bag ban, and McCall residents voted last year on a higher minimum wage.

Supporters of both pieces of legislation say they're business friendly bills that would keep laws the same across the state.

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Two Idaho Democratic female lawmakers say the Idaho code isn't just for men.

Reps. Melissa Wintrow of Boise and Elaine Smith of Pocatello are backing legislation that would require gender neutral language in all of Idaho's copious laws. Wintrow says the bill is important to show young girls that they belong in all circles, particularly state government.

The two-paragraph bill says legislation should contain non-gendered phrases such as "he/she" or "his/her," rather than use the masculine pronoun by default.

Provided by Lex Shapiro

Last week, the Idaho House passed a bill that would prohibit cities from banning the use of plastic grocery bags. If it becomes law, the bill would prevent the formation of local movements — like one Lex Shapiro was a part of in Hailey five years ago — to make the bags illegal.

The 21-year-old college student grew up in the Wood River Valley, where she learned a deep appreciation for the outdoors. 

J Biochemist / Flickr Creative Commons

A bill that would allow public utilities to keep blueprints and other documents secret from the public has passed is first hurdle in the Idaho Legislature.

The House State Affairs Committee introduced the measure Friday.

The proposal would exempt the public from seeing emergency response plans, computer and telecommunication systems and building blueprints.

Flickr Creative Commons

Cities and counties in Idaho would need state approval to enforce plastic bag bans under a new proposal currently making its way through the Idaho Statehouse.

The Idaho House voted 52-17 on Wednesday to make it illegal for cities to impose bag bans, restrictions on Styrofoam containers and other disposable products. If approved, local officials would need permission from the Idaho Legislature to enact the restrictions.

Currently, no cities enforce plastic bag bans in Idaho, but such efforts have been made in the past.

The Idaho Legislature's first-ever hearing on expanding Medicaid eligibility attracted hundreds of supporters Tuesday, but lawmakers declined to vote on whether to send the measure forward after listening to an hour of testimony.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee held an information hearing on a proposal that would expand Medicaid eligibility to cover everyone who earns less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Democratic Sen. Dan Schmidt of Moscow introduced the legislation as a personal bill earlier this session.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho legislature is considering a new bill that would cut income tax rates for top-earners and corporations. The bill is the first of its kind in this year’s session. 
 

Kathrine Jones / Idaho Staesman

A Spokane pastor was in Boise last week to warn Idaho lawmakers that refugees pose a security threat to the United States. That’s a position some Idaho lawmakers already hold and the issue may come up in the current legislative session.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Nearly 200 people at the Idaho Capitol Thursday night listened to speeches from an anti-Islamic preacher and a member of a right-wing, national security advocacy group. The topic was refugee resettlement.

Before the speeches, about 100 people lined the marble hallway to the Capitol’s largest public meeting room. They held signs reading things like “Idaho is too great for hate.” Kristin Ruether’s sign said, “refugees welcome” in English and Arabic.

Kevin Rank / Flickr Creative Commons

For the fourth year in a row, Idaho lawmakers on an economic outlook panel have sided with Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter' revenue projections on how much money will flow into the state in the 2017 fiscal year.

The Joint Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee voted 13-4 Thursday in favor of the estimate Otter released Monday's State of the State address. The governor's forecast predicts $3.34 billion in tax revenue or 4.9 percent more than the current year.

The committee's recommendation now moves to the state's budget committee for final approval.

Being a Muslim In Idaho During a Time of Backlash

Jan 14, 2016
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

It has not been an easy past few months to be a Muslim in America. After the Paris attacks, presidential candidate Donald Trump said there should be a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country. His polls immediately soared. In Boise, the Islamic Center says the Muslim population in the Treasure Valley may well be over ten thousand.  Now, some of Boise's Muslims are sharing how it feels to be a Muslim in the current political climate. 

tilproject.com

Idaho lawmakers Thursday evening are invited to a presentation by an anti-Islamic preacher and an anti-immigration advocate. The speakers will be in the Capitol’s largest public meeting room, the Lincoln Auditorium.

LISTEN: Why Idaho Lawmakers Got A Class On Being Civil

Jan 13, 2016
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Tuesday was the second day of the 2016 session of the Idaho legislature but lawmakers did not spend the afternoon crafting policy. Instead they did a five-hour training on civil discourse. Legislative leaders participated in the training a few months ago and decided all lawmakers needed to hear it. It’s presented by the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona which works with Congress, state legislatures and the media to promote civility in political conversation.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter began outlining his budget and policy priorities for state lawmakers during his "State of the State" address Monday afternoon, naming public education as his primary focus for the year.

The annual speech kicks off the start of the legislative session, with state lawmakers, members of the judiciary and other leaders gathered in the Idaho Statehouse to hear Otter's remarks.

Otter reminded lawmakers of the state's constitutional requirement to provide a general, uniform and free public school system. He proposed a 7.9 percent increase to the state's public education budget. That would bring the total to $1.59 billion. It's the second year in a row that Otter has proposed steep hikes for education spending.

S. Hellstrom / Bureau of Land Management

As tensions mount over the occupation of a federal building in an Oregon wildlife refuge by an armed group, some are asking the question: Could it happen in Idaho? The Gem State has had its own arguments over the use of federal land, including the Legislature considering taking control of all the federal land within Idaho’s borders.

Kaiser Family Foundation

According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study, the 29 states that expanded Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act have – not surprisingly – witnessed increased enrollment and spending. Those states brought in new low-income enrollees that were not eligible before. In California alone, 3.4 million people were added to the state-run health insurance program.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Strengthening Idaho's system for purchasing goods and services comes down to careful training, good research, picking the right providers and following the law, some state employees told a group of lawmakers on Thursday.

The legislative interim committee is digging into Idaho's contracting system in the wake of several scandals, including an illegally awarded $60 million school broadband contract that was voided by a judge earlier this year.

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