Idaho House GOP leaders town hall

Sitting before a nearly capacity crowd, House GOP leaders join local GOP legislators for a “town hall” meeting at Nampa City Hall, Tuesday.

NAMPA — More than 80 people turned out for a town hall at Nampa City Hall Tuesday to hear Nampa legislators and House GOP leaders talk taxes, transportation, ballot initiatives, impact fees and more.

“We can just tighten the purse strings a little bit and not spend so much money,” Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, said to applause and calls of “yeah.” That was her answer to addressing rising property taxes, crowded roads, and more.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, said, “The problem in my humble opinion is with the budgets. And I think there’s room to work there.” He said the state needs to make big changes to relieve property taxes, declaring, “There has to be something done. Or else I’ll bring the initiative.”

Asked about local-option taxes, Moyle called that “nothing more than a sales tax increase” and said, “I thin that local option oughta stay right where it is right now and that’s dead.”

“I guarantee you that no one will ever fault you for lack of passion over taxes,” said House GOP Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett. Moyle responded amid laughter, “I hate ‘em.”

Several of the lawmakers said they supported impact fees as a tool to make growth pay for itself. Said Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, “It’s kinda universal that everyone agrees that impact fees should help pay for the growth.”

Asked about passing a primary-offense seatbelt law, Syme and Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, both were unaware that the state didn’t have one.

“OK, let’s go there,” Youngblood said. “I’m in favor.”

Although Idahoans can be ticketed for not wearing seatbelts, law enforcement officers can only issue those tickets if they pull the motorist over for another offense.

Asked about limiting ballot initiatives, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said, “Well, I thought we had a pretty good plan last year. What it did was make sure that all areas of the state were represented in the signature collection process. Now for whatever reasons and there are a list of them, that bill ended up getting vetoed by the governor. But I don’t think we’re finished with that issue.”

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, agreed. “We left this issue undone,” he said. “Possibly we did not do a good job making our case to the governor why this was an important issue. ... Here’s the dirty little secret: The minority party in the state is using this to drive voter turnout. … We (Republicans) suffered some casualties ... because they were able to get the Democratic base out to vote.”

Crane also warned against legalizing CBD that might contain small amount of THC, saying it’ll lead to legalization of medical marijuana and then recreational marijuana.

Nichols said her proudest accomplishment in her first legislative session was co-sponsoring legislation to legalize industrial hemp, and then withdrawing her sponsorship after the bill was amended so Idaho didn’t “pass a bad bill.”

“We’ll start over with that process I’m sure in the next session,” she said.

Tuesday’s meeting was the fifth in a series held around the state.

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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