Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Legislature closes for session

Minor bills quietly become laws


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

The 2012 legislative session—lauded by Gov. Butch Otter but called "tumultuous" by Idaho Democrats—came to a close Thursday. Though many contentious bills died in committee at the end of the session, other, less lauded bills became law after being passed by both houses.

Alcohol and minors

One major bill introduced in the House that will now be law is House Bill 450, which amended state code to secure a steady source of funding for the Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau.

The bureau is in charge of enforcing statutes against underage drinking and other provisions of the Idaho liquor act.

However, Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said the Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau is woefully understaffed due to the fact that it does not have a dedicated fund that provides operating and staffing costs.

Previously, the department got its funding from the state's general fund, where it could easily be cut to provide more funding to other departments.

The fund would be created from all state revenue from license and transfer fees—appropriate, Jaquet said, because the understaffed bureau must deal with all of the paperwork and legalities involved in those processes.

"This will definitely give them more staffing," she said.

The fund should also provide more money to the bureau's efforts to control underage drinking and provide more training for local law enforcement.

Daylight saving time

A bill to eliminate daylight saving time that was co-sponsored by Jaquet and five other lawmakers died as the session ended last week. Jaquet said she wasn't surprised.

"I don't think it was the right bill, but I think it was important to have the discussion about having the whole state in the same time zone," she said.

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Currently, the northern part of the state is tied to Pacific Time, to facilitate interaction with Oregon and Washington. The southern part of the state is on Mountain Time, coordinating with neighboring Nevada, Wyoming and Montana.

Eliminating daylight saving time would mean that like Arizona, the state would be on Pacific Time for spring, summer and fall, returning to Mountain Time for the winter.

However, it would also mean that the sun would set a full hour earlier in the summer—a point Jaquet said was at the root of the opposition.

"People golf, people play baseball," she said. "People like that extra hour."

Jaquet will not return for the 2013 session due to her decision not to run for re-election, but she said one of her co-sponsors will likely pick up the bill next year.

Other bills passed of note:

- Senate Bill 1341: Provides a petition process for exemption from registering as a sexual offender if the offense was statutory rape as defined by the act before amended in July 2010.

- House Bill 404 (amended): Prohibits camping on the Capitol Mall, essentially evicting the Occupy Boise movement.

- House Bill 609: Restores last year's cuts to Medicaid, including preventative dental services and other previously removed services.

- House Bill 543: Prohibits children under the age of 10 from carrying a firearm in campgrounds and vehicles—the only exception being for hunting if he or she has a valid license or is participating in a mentored hunting program.

- House Bill 563: Lowered the Idaho individual income tax rate to 7.4 percent for those with incomes over $20,000. Lowered corporate income tax rate to the same level.

- Through appropriations bills, the Legislature increased funding for public schools by 4.6 percent, passed tax relief totaling $35.7 million and restored the state's cash reserves by roughly $49.5 million. State employees received raises of 2 percent.

Need to catch up?

For more info on this year's legislative session, search "Wutz legislature 2012" on our homepage, www.mtexpress.com




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