Legislative Update: Land Board Bill, IGEM and Going Home Tax Bill in Discussion

Monday, March 19 2012

By Joe Stegner
Special Assistant to the President for State Governmental Relations

House bill 495, also known as the “Land Board Bill,” is legislation designed to restrict the authority and investment options of the Land Board. In general, the bill limits the ability of the Land Board to invest in and operate a commercial business. The University has a concern that this bill violates the constitutional requirement that endowment investments be managed to maximize the return or income.

The bill passed the House of Representatives earlier with little opposition. On Wednesday, March 14, the bill went before the Senate Resources and Environment Committee for a second day of hearings. At that hearing, the committee offered no motion regarding HB 495 and Chairman Monty Pearce, from District 9 in New Plymouth, asked for further discussion. On Friday, March 16, the committee met again and passed a motion to hold the bill in committee, effectively killing the bill for the balance of the legislative session.

Gov. Otter signed the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, also known as IGEM, at a signing ceremony in his office on March 15. The appropriated funding will be used to assist in competitive research at Idaho’s universities and bring top-notch businesses to the state. Five million dollars of general fund money will be given to this program: $2 million will be given to the three state universities for research at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) based in Idaho Falls, $2 million will be given to Idaho’s three universities for the new IGEM research initiative and $1 million will go to the Idaho Department of Commerce to use as competitive grants for businesses.

The “Going Home Tax Bill” still has legislators working hard at the Idaho Statehouse. There is much debate about taxes with no resolution thus far between the House and the Senate. As we discussed last week, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee passed a $35 million tax cut for Idaho residents and businesses. The Senate is still looking at the proposal and deciding what it considers to be the best for the state.

The tax bill competes with using surplus revenues for funding the three state saving accounts. Those accounts are the General Budget Stabilization Fund (also known as the Rainy Day Fund), the Public Education Stabilization Fund and the Higher Education Stabilization Fund.

Finding a solution in not expected to happen quickly and lawmakers knew this would be the piece of legislation that left them working hard until the end of the session. Lawmakers are hoping they can still wrap up this legislative session by this Friday, and go home as planned, but there are still some big issues that might require a little more time to resolve.
About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.