The Legislature’s 2018 session is drawing to a close.
Lawmakers want to finish their work by March 23, leaving about 10 days to get things done. The target to adjourn the session is March 27.
Between now and then, the House and Senate have a series of proposals to vote on or kill for the year. Here’s a look at some of those bills, as well as other legislation that’s already been decided.
Dental coverage: House Bill 465, which passed the Senate on Monday, would restore preventive dental care to adults who receive Medicaid in Idaho. This practice was ended in 2011, but, if signed by Gov. Butch Otter, the legislation will bring it back. About 29,000 people would receive care, at a cost of $3.8 million. The federal government pays 70 percent of that cost. The legislation could save the state $2.5 million in future years by preventing dental conditions linked to diabetes, pneumonia, kidney disease and dementia, according to the bill’s statement of purpose.
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, and Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, voted in favor of it.
Child tax credit: House Bill 675 was introduced Friday and passed the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Monday. It increases the state’s new child tax credit from $130 to $205, at a cost of $25 million to the general fund. The House voted to approve it 68-0 on Tuesday.
The Legislature created the child tax credit in a bill that Otter signed Monday. That law conforms to the new federal tax reform, and implements a cut to the state’s personal and corporate income tax rates.
However, at $130, the credit would not cover a tax increase to single parents or families with three or more children. The new bill is intended to help, but Stennett wrote in a newsletter that it’s not enough. To offset the increase, Stennett wrote, the credit should be $287 per child.
Science standards: A debate over the Idaho public school system’s science standards cropped up earlier in the session, when the House Education Committee moved to reject a proposed standard and supporting sections, including some related to human-driven effects of climate change.
However, the Senate Education Committee balked at the change. The committee approved the science standards as written—including the sections on climate change—and those will take effect unless the House and the Senate agree on a resolution rejecting part of them.
The issue isn’t completely resolved. On Monday, House Education Committee Chairwoman Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, introduced a concurrent resolution that would reject a portion of the standards that reads:
• “Examples of environmental effects could include negative biological impacts of wind turbines, erosion due to deforestation, loss of habitat due to dams, loss of habitat due to surface mining, and air pollution from burning of fossil fuels.”
The resolution has not been voted on in the House or the Senate.
A separate House resolution wanted the Legislature to authorize the Legislative Council to study the effects of climate change on Idaho, but the legislation did not pass.
Campaign finance: Secretary of State Lawerence Denney received approval from the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to spend $1.2 million to upgrade the state’s digital database of campaign finance records, The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported.
The system is scheduled to be up and running in time for the 2020 presidential election.
Wilderness: House Joint Memorial 14 states that no new wilderness designations or national monuments should occur in Idaho without the approval of the Legislature and Congress. In the House, Miller and Toone voted to approve it. It received a voice vote in the Senate.
A separate memorial, House Joint Memorial 10, urges the administration of President Donald Trump to approve permitting for the Stibnite Gold Project near the South Fork of the Salmon River. The U.S. Forest Service started the permitting process for the proposed open-pit mining project from Midas Gold last year. The memorial passed by voice votes in the House and the Senate.
A House concurrent resolution aimed to support legislation in Congress to designate the White Clouds Wilderness as the Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness.
U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, introduced the legislation last fall, honoring the former Idaho governor who died in August.
The legislation in Congress is still pending, but the concurrent resolution in the Idaho House of Representatives has not gone to a vote.
Wolves: The House of Representatives passed House Bill 538, which extends the state’s Wolf Depredation Control Board for another year and allocates it $400,000. The board was set to sunset in 2019, but the legislation will extend it until 2020.
Toone and Miller voted to support the bill, which has not yet come to the Senate for a vote.