Idaho Capitol

Idaho Capitol

Here are links to the top legislative stories of the day today from my colleagues at the Idaho Press and the Post Register. The House is still on the floor, and the Senate was due back at 4 p.m., but has just now convened; both appear to be considering mostly non-controversial bills in their late-afternoon sessions.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said, "This is that time of the year when things start getting a little crazy on the floor," noting that the Senate will suspend rules to take up several Senate bills that were near the bottom of its 2nd reading calendar.

A few minutes ago, Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, commented that House members are “getting tired,” and 10 or more are now absent. Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise, framed his request for unanimous consent to waive full reading of a bill he was presenting in the form of a limerick. If there are more fireworks yet today, I’ll update this post (turns out, none ensued.)

TWO GUN BILLS PASS HOUSE: The Idaho House voted along party lines, 53-14, in favor of HB 206, the bill to let 18- to 20-year-olds carry concealed firearms inside city limits without a permit; it also voted 37-31 in favor of HB 276, a modified version of a bill to take gun rights away from people convicted of sexual battery of a 16-or-17-year-old. Both drew extended, passionate and notable debate; you can read a full report here from Post Register reporter Nathan Brown.

HEMP BILL CLEARS COMMITTEE: With overwhelming support, the House Agricultural Affairs Committee today approved legislation to legalize the growth, transportation and sale of hemp in Idaho, writes Idaho Press reporter Savannah Cardon. With just two dissenting votes from Reps. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, and Jerald Raymond, R-Menan, the bill was sent to the House floor with a "do-pass" recommendation.

HB 122, co-sponsored by Reps. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, and Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, would change Idaho law so that it conforms with the 2018 federal Farm Bill signed by President Trump in December. It's also known as the Hemp Research and Development Act. The Farm Bill removes hemp from the Schedule 1 substance list at the federal level, and also “eliminates other barriers at the federal level to hemp research, cultivation and development,” the hemp bill’s statement of purpose reads.

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“I think it’s important to remember what hemp is and what hemp isn’t,” Nilsson Troy said. “It is now not an illegal substance in the United States … this is going to be a highly regulated crop.”

Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, speaking in support of the bill, said, “Hemp is not a psychotropic drug, it is an industrial use. Leave our farmers alone and let them do what they do best.” You can read Cardon’s full report here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Friday’s Idaho Press.

EXTENDING SURPLUS ELIMINATOR 5 YEARS: The Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously this afternoon, with no debate, to extend the current “surplus eliminator” that divides state surpluses between road work and a state savings account for another five years, Brown reports; it otherwise expires this year. SB 1126 was sponsored by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson. It also places a $100 million cap on the amount of surplus funds that could be distributed each year. The same committee also voted unanimously to approve a new "Too Great for Hate" specialty license plate; you can read Brown’s full report here.

DOCS BACK MEDICAID EXPANSION, OPPOSE RESTRICTIONS: Dozens of Idaho physicians gathered Thursday at the state Capitol to call on lawmakers to implement Medicaid expansion as passed by voters, without any modifications or restrictions, Cardon writes. “We’re here today as physicians because we care for patients and Idahoans who are in the coverage gap,” said Dr. Andrea Christopher. Many of those attending the press conference, hosted by the statewide coalition Close the Gap Idaho, held signs that read, “No red tape” “No secondary gap” and “expand coverage not government." You can read Cardon's full report here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or you can pick up Friday’s Idaho Press.

AND SOME NOTES: Here's a tweet just sent out from Brown: "Some notes from the House’s afternoon session: -a bill creating a new certification for charter school admins passed. -they moved the Medicaid, CAT fund and AG’s budgets to the bottom of the calendar. -two limericks so far, from Bedke and McCrostie."

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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