Capitol Letters | The Idaho Legislature Report

Capitol Letters newsletter is a daily look at Idaho Legislature’s 2022 session, from highlights and reported stories from the past day’s events to tomorrow’s important votes & hearings. (McClatchy)
·3 min read

If you’d prefer to unsubscribe, you can do so at any time using the “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of this message.

By Hayat Norimine, Accountability Editor; and Ryan Suppe, State Politics Reporter

Idaho’s legislative session continues, even on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (or “Human Rights Day” in Idaho). You can celebrate with Boise State University’s MLK Living Legacy virtual events; head off to a national park, where entrance is free — or watch what happens at the Idaho Capitol, where you’ll see a lot of activity today.

COVID-19 cases surging in Idaho

More than one out of four people being tested for COVID-19 in Idaho are testing positive, according to the state’s latest data from early January. That’s the highest positivity rate Idaho’s had throughout the pandemic, and more recent figures from health care providers are even higher.

Among those who tested positive have been two Democratic state legislators and Associated Press politics reporter Keith Ridler, who left the Statehouse on Tuesday as soon as symptoms began, he said on Twitter.

Last week House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, a Boise Democrat, called for all House committees to offer remote testimony for public hearings. Republican Senate leadership has provided that option for all Senate committees. But in the House, the person who chairs the committee has the discretion to decide whether to offer a remote option.

Where is Idaho’s $1.9 billion budget surplus coming from?

The short answer? A strong economy and conservative spending, State Politics Reporter Ryan Suppe explains.

Population growth and an increase in personal incomes helped Idaho see more revenue — through sales and income taxes. But Idaho’s not alone. According to a national survey, 47 states saw more revenue than they expected.

Meanwhile, Idaho’s spending stayed “relatively conservative,” said Alex Adams, head of the governor’s budget-writing Division of Financial Management.

“So when people ask, ‘Why do we have a surplus?’ the answer is pretty simple,” Adams said. “Idaho’s economy is red-hot, and revenue is growing faster than the size of government.”

That conservative spending has also been criticized by Democrats — who say the state’s not properly funding important services, like education or infrastructure. Read Suppe’s full story here.

Bill introductions are ramping up

Several committees have draft legislation on their Monday agendas. Here are some notable ones.

Committees to watch:

  • 8 a.m. Joint Finance-Appropriations (an explainer on what this committee is about here). At 8:15 a.m., public school budget talks start with Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra. Here’s the agenda. Here’s where to watch remotely.

In case you missed it, other Statesman stories to read:

  • Questions have mounted nationwide over the practice of using lethal injections to kill inmates on death row. Statesman Investigative Reporter Kevin Fixler spent eight months digging into those practices in Idaho — and found that one inmate, Gerald Pizzuto, repeatedly requested for another way to die. This story was in collaboration with the Idaho Capital Sun.

  • Idaho State Police is investigating Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee after demonstrating hold techniques on a fellow officer, reporters Kyle Land and Alex Brizee confirmed. Read the full story here.

If you like this newsletter, forward to a friend or colleague, and they can sign up here.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting