April 4, 2013

As the 2013 Legislative Session comes to a close, I want to thank all my friends and neighbors in District 20 who contacted me throughout the Session to share how Idaho’s laws and proposed legislation affect you, your families and our community. I believe that input from stakeholders and constituents is a vital part of the legislative process. I am humbled to serve constituents who care for their families and communities so deeply as to stay informed and communicate with their legislators. This is civic duty at its finest.
At the beginning of the Session, I was reelected to serve my colleagues as Assistant Majority Leader. I was also assigned to the Senate Transportation and Senate State Affairs Committees. Committees take the time to ask the hard questions of the parties involved, give the public and stakeholders an opportunity to testify, and vote on whether a bill should be sent to the Senate Floor for consideration of the Senate. Before the 2013 Session began, Legislators were aware that they would likely face three crucial issues – the budget, the health insurance exchange, and personal property tax – all greatly affecting the future of Idaho.
Idaho’s Constitution stipulates that the Legislature must balance the budget before adjournment Sine Die. The education budget was the so-called going home bill this year. As a result of the successful referenda on all three Students Come First laws, the Legislature knew that the education budget was going to be an important step in moving forward. We desired to move forward with an acknowledged need for improved opportunity for input from all stakeholders. Many of my colleagues needed more time to come to an agreement on the best way to move forward concerning the budget for the 2014 fiscal year. For that reason, the education budget did not pass the Senate the first time, extending the Session past the desired March 29th Sine Die date, and brought the Senate Education Committee and the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee back to the drawing board. We now have a bill that puts more money into teacher salaries and will reward the best teachers for their service to our children and grandchildren.
Idaho’s personal property tax has been a pebble in the shoe of Idaho business owners for many years. As a small business owner, I have experienced taking an inventory of personal property and repeatedly paying taxes on this property. My opposition to the personal property tax is due to its unfairness. It seems unfair to pay sales tax on property at the time of purchase and then be required to continue to pay additional taxes on that same item until it is depreciated. As Idaho was able to budget replacement funding to the counties to make up for lost revenue to education and other expenses that benefit from the personal property tax, the Legislature was able to pass a repeal of the personal property tax with relative ease. I am grateful that Idaho’s small businesses will no longer have this tax as an impediment to business growth and Idaho will continue to be an attractive place to own and operate a business.
Perhaps the most contentious issue at the Idaho Legislature in recent history was the State Health Insurance Exchange. Its proponents argued that a State Exchange would be less costly, Idahoans could deal locally when purchasing health insurance through the exchange and that Idaho could repeal the exchange if it doesn’t end up working out. Its opponents stated that estimated costs have risen significantly and are unpredictable, that to vote for the state exchange is to fall in line with President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, giving away state sovereignty. Both sides of the state exchange argued that they were protecting Idaho’s sovereignty. I voted in opposition, offering a short debate to explain that I am uncomfortable with the long-term costs that will be incurred by the State to set up an exchange. I am uncomfortable with the lack of protection for issues of conscience, the unborn and for religious freedom. Having said that, I am proud of my colleagues for the respect and civility Senators have shown to each other, despite passionately held opinions on both sides of this issue.
This year the Idaho State Legislature passed many solid pieces of legislation for Idaho. I was honored to sponsor several pieces of legislation including:

* Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 103 brings parties together to prepare a proposal for Idaho to be selected as one of the Federal Aviation Administration’s unmanned aircraft system test site.
* Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 112 states the Idaho Legislature’s opposition to the legalization of marijuana in the State of Idaho for any purpose.
* Senate Joint Memorial (SJM) 101 requested the federal government uphold all federal drug-free policy in all states.
* S 1050 revises education requirements of a motor vehicle wholesale dealer’s license.
* S 1079 creates an Internet Crimes Against Children Unit in the Office of the Attorney General.
* S 1107 provides that counties may issue assessment notices electronically upon request by the taxpayer.
* S 1134 creates restrictions for the use of unmanned aircraft.
* S 1158 ratifies federal authority to establish State authority to manage a retirement system for police and firefighters.
* H 55 allows primary carriers Centurylink and Frontier Communications to call only their current customers.
* H 107 allows for early voting to be an alternative to absentee voting in Idaho counties.
* H 118 revises registration fees for aircraft registered with the Idaho Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics and creates a minimum and maximum fee.
* H 161 clarifies dates required by the election consolidation legislation passed in 2012.
* H 181 creates a Capitol Maintenance Reserve Fund to maintain and repair the Capitol as needed.
* H 192 revises renewal and fee provisions for licenses to carry concealed weapons and provides for issuance of enhanced licenses to carry concealed weapons.

You can find more information about these and all bills printed during the 2013 Legislative Session online at www. Legislature.Idaho.Gov.

I cannot begin to fully express my love for our great State and my gratitude to the people of District 20 for the opportunity to serve and the strong sense of community they bring to West Boise and Meridian. Because of support from the people of Idaho, legislators, state leaders and stakeholders are able to work together to govern responsibly: balance the budget, maintain low taxes and protect Idaho’s state sovereignty. In that vein, I look forward to seeing my friends and neighbors in District 20 throughout the remainder of 2013 and look forward to the 2014 Legislative Session when my colleagues and I will meet again and continue to forge a strong, unified path forward for Idaho.
Senator Chuck Winder
Assistant Majority Leader,
Idaho State Senate

P.s. Thanks again to all who took time to contact me with your comments and concerns this Session. It is always helpful to know how Idaho’s laws affect you. If you would like to receive my weekly electronic updates during the legislative session, please send me an e-mail at CWinder@Senate.Idaho.Gov.