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AIC Executive Director Jess Harrison Reviews Productive 2018 Legislative Session

Posted By Justin Ruen, Thursday, March 29, 2018

The 2018 legislative session was a busy one for local governments. AIC was actively involved in supporting cities and stopping harmful preemption on a variety of issues. Overall, it was a successful session.   

First, I would like to thank all of you for your strong support of AIC’s legislative agenda this session. The grassroots involvement of city officials throughout the state is critical to our legislative advocacy efforts and your help is greatly appreciated. 

The biggest issue for AIC this session was magistrate court funding legislation that concluded decades long controversies between cities and counties. A workgroup of Idaho’s counties and cities met with the administrative arm of the state court system throughout 2017 to seek a stakeholder driven solution for local court funding.  At the heart of the issue for cities was finding a way to address Idaho Code Section 1-2218 which allows judges to determine that cities will be responsible for building, staffing and equipping magistrate court facilities with no sideboards or parameters. AIC strongly asserted throughout the workgroup meetings and the legislative session that there is a significant problem with one interested branch of government being able to order another branch to fund its operations.

After considering a wide range of options, the workgroup decided to support a proposal dedicating a portion of future revenue growth from the State Liquor Fund to provide additional court funding. AIC and the Idaho Association of Counties (IAC) then engaged in months long negotiations with leadership in the House to come up with a final proposal that could get through both bodies and gain the Governor’s approval. The legislation, House Bill 643, involves both cities and counties foregoing a portion of liquor revenue and the State diverting court fees from the state general fund to magistrate courts. This consensus legislation satisfies the need for court funding as well as preventing future litigation between cities and counties. Idaho’s counties will benefit by receiving needed revenues to provide support for the state’s unified judiciary. Idaho’s cities will benefit by the removal of Idaho Code 1-2218. Limited property tax dollars will remain available to cities and counties and the State will provide support for magistrate courts through fee diversions.

AIC believes that this legislation is a model for local government cooperation and problem solving. Rather than fighting battles in the legislative arena and having a solution imposed upon us, we brought stakeholders to the table and came up with a proposal we could all live with that solved a critical court funding problem. AIC is committed to continuing this model on other issues and to staying engaged with our local government and other partners.

AIC also worked with other local government stakeholders to support legislation that prevents the use of the initiative and referendum process to overturn land use decisions as well as ensuring that legislation regarding notice to water delivery entities in the planning process was not burdensome to city staff.  

Most of the other work this session was to prevent legislation that was detrimental to cities. AIC stopped proposals to limit annexation authority, reject rules regarding important backflow device testing, disclaim forgone revenue outside of the budget cycle, preempt cities’ regulation of e-bikes, and a last-minute amendment that would have prevented the use of revenue sharing dollars for cooperative agreements between public entities. Additionally, AIC opposed legislation to allow county commissioners to exempt business personal property tax for all taxing districts and to prevent local governments from rerunning bond and levy elections in the same year. With the support of our members and other stakeholders we were successful in stopping all of these proposals from becoming law.

AIC also actively opposed legislation to restrict cities and counties from amending building codes. Because of our combined efforts, House Bill 547 was amended in the Senate to maintain much needed local flexibility in key areas of the residential building codes.

As with most legislative sessions, there are several items that were introduced that we believe will be brought back next session. One that would likely be welcomed by cities is alcohol license reform and one that is likely to be opposed vigorously again is the perpetual battle over business personal property tax exemption.

Two issues we know for certain will come up next year are campaign finance reform and changes to the local revenue sharing distribution. There were several campaign finance related bills proposed this session resulting from a legislative interim committee that studied the issue over the summer. None of the legislation was enacted, but the interim committee was re-authorized and the Secretary of State’s office received an appropriation to upgrade technology that would support consolidation of all reporting online.

AIC was key in preventing changes to the revenue sharing formula this year. However, that was based upon an agreement by the Association and the legislative sponsor that AIC would form a workgroup to study the issue in the interim.  AIC committed to form a workgroup to study the issue and determine if changes should be made to the revenue sharing formula.  We welcome any feedback you have on the current distribution formula and proposed alternatives.

Thanks again for your support this legislative session!

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