Lemonade stand debate screenshot

Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, questions Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, about Nate's "lemonade stand freedom bill," HB 21, during House debate on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021.

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Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, charmed the House into endorsing his "lemonade stand freedom bill" today on a 68-2 vote, saying he's sponsoring the measure with three 4th-grade classes at Iona Elementary School and regaling the House with stories of his adventures as a child running a 5-cent-a-glass punch stand when his friend next door opened a competing one at 4 cents a glass.

The bill, HB 21, would exempt businesses operated by children under age 18 from licenses, permits or sales tax requirements, as long as they didn't exceed $10,000 a year in sales. "It's a freedom bill, it's a good bill for kids, it's a good bill for experience and it gives small business a chance," Nate told the House. "If kids are bumping up against the $10,000, I say good on them, let's let them go for it. At that time they might learn about the wonderful world of accounting and ... making sure that they follow the law."

Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, questioned whether the bill might have unintended consequences, as cities would have to see the books to know if the businesses exceeds that sales mark. "I love the idea," he said. But he said he was concerned both about city overreach, and about "unscrupulous" parents using their kids as cover to run unlicensed, untaxed businesses.

Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, noted that he's worked for years on fireworks stands run by his local Kiwanis Club. "Some of our biggest competitors were some small family fireworks stands," he said. "If this bill is passed, it'd be so easy to set up a way that they would not have to collect any of the sales tax and would have a competitive advantage." Nate said fireworks stands fall under existing laws regulating "occasional" sales.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, applauded the idea of kids "having these entrepreneurial skills and looking at the free market and capitalism to get ahead," and said, "I think this is a fantastic bill and I'd encourage your support."

The only two "no" votes came from Syme and Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer. The bill now moves to the Senate side. To become law, it'd need to clear a Senate committee, pass the Senate, and receive the governor's signature.

Nate said, "This is a freedom bill, it's also an education bill. It gives the kids a chance to learn about business in a safe environment ... learning about how costs and revenues work and the eventuality of competition. They will have the rest of their lives to learn about taxes and regulation."

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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