Legislative Update: Session Continues With Rangeland, Gift, Budget Issues

Monday, March 26 2012

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

BOISE, Idaho — Lawmakers had hoped to end the sessions and head home by last weekend, but the past week kept them very busy and the session will continue into this week for at least another few days.

The University of Idaho had interest in several bills before legislators this past week.

The bill called the Rangeland Center Bill that codifies the University of Idaho Rangeland Center at the College of Natural Resources, passed by a vote of 56-12 out of the House of Representatives on Monday, March 19. The Senate passed the bill earlier in the legislative session.

Another important bill of interest to U-Idaho is Senate Bill 1314, which deals with charitable gifts and endowments. The legislation clarifies requirements for handling trusts and endowments held in foundations like the University of Idaho Foundation and updates terminologies and practices regulating the operations of those entities. The bill had previously passed the Senate, and it had moved to the House of Representatives where it passed last week by a vote of 66 to 1.

A relatively new bill from the House has caused quite a stir. House Bill 559 was on a fast track out of the House of Representatives and was voted off that floor on Monday, March 19, by a vote of 48-21. The legislation modifies a current statutory state expenditure limit or cap that was originally enacted in 1980 and then adjusts the formula by modifications to the statute. In general terms, the bill would limit, in future years, the state general fund appropriations to five and one-third percent of Idaho personal income, less net government transfer payments with excess revenues being dedicated to reducing various state taxes. The bill has the support of various agricultural and business interests in the state.

An analysis of the fiscal impact of the bill suggests that if the bill had been in effect for the past several years, the state would have had less money available for the state’s general fund by hundreds of millions of dollars, in addition to the severe economic cut-backs the state had already endured. On Friday, the State Board of Education held a special meeting by conference call, and after a presentation and discussion, passed a motion opposing the bill. President Nellis has also written a letter to the Senate asking that the bill be held in the Senate. The bill currently sits in the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee and, at the moment, is likely going to remain there for the balance of the legislative session.
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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. Learn more: www.uidaho.edu.