Who controls the conversation in the Idaho Legislature?

The current debate over the personal property tax issue has quietly drifted off to sleep. The most recent draft proposal offered by Gov. Butch Otter was so far from passable the whole topic has been sidelined in favor of creating a state run health insurance exchange.

After six and a half hours of debate the Idaho Senate finally passed the bill authorizing the creation of the exchange.

So where are our legislators on the personal property tax issue? They are sitting back waiting to see what happens next; or at least that is what I have heard.

It is dangerous to put too much stock in second hand information. We know how the game of telephone is played. One person says something to another person, that person repeats it as best as they can remember but it changes slightly until after several people the message is a garbled mess that doesn’t even resemble the original message.

What happens when that message doesn’t change? How credible is it when several people hear from several sources the same message? Is that credible? Can you take that information as fact? How many different people citing how many different sources do you need before you can believe what you are hearing?

The reason I bring this up is I am about to dive into the untested waters of innuendo and rumor. At some point you can match action (or inaction) to words to determine if the swirling tirade of rumor is true. The specific wording of a quote may be inaccurate but the point is still valid.

If you have watched the ongoing saga of personal property tax you will notice that every so often the powers that be swing into action presenting the figures and stories of why repealing personal property tax is a good or a bad idea.

What causes this flurry of action? It is because another attempt is being made. That is a wide statement because by attempt I mean anything from a rumor to an actual bill is going around Boise. Most recently it was a draft proposal by the Governor.

No matter if it is a rumor or a bill the word always comes down from the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI) that another swing is being taken at this pitch.

The rumor that I am taking exception to comes in one of two varieties; our District 28 legislators are waiting to see what happens next, or there is nothing to respond to unless an actual bill is introduced.

I don’t have to hear a direct quote to see there is no action being taken by our representatives in Boise, nor are the legislators representing Nez Perce or Caribou counties taking action. It is like those clips on ESPN when baseball players can’t decide who is supposed to catch the pop fly so they all stare at each other as the ball falls between them.

The legislature is like any other group. There are leaders and followers, but the opportunity to be a leader is always up for grabs. If there is an issue that needs to be addressed any legislator can write a bill and create the conversation. There is leadership in both houses but the members are allowed to introduce legislation as well.

For the taxing districts that are affected, which is all of them, the best solution would be to remove the trigger from the 2008 House Bill 599aa (H.B. 599aa) and enacting the $100,000 exemption for all businesses immediately.

Groups from Power County, such as the highway district, chamber of commerce, county commissioners and many others have said the amending of H.B. 599aa would be the best compromise for businesses and county taxing districts.

Amending H.B. 599aa would give an immediate benefit to every business in the state without damaging local services.

Sure it isn’t going to give one side or the other everything they want but it is a middle ground.

I also acknowledge there is a possibility that a bill amending H.B. 599aa could fail, but at least this time the conversation will be the one that we want to have, not one forced upon us by IACI.

It seems that IACI is the only one allowed to start the conversation in Boise. IACI does not vote. Shouldn’t the conversation the voters want be the first item on the agenda?

The only way to get on that agenda is to have a representative lead the charge.

Idealism may be foolhardy when thinking being a pottery major will change the world, but we hold fast that our elected leaders are put in their positions by us to be our voice. Waiting in silence is not being a voice, it is being silent.

If you are like me and feel the silence is deafening contact your legislators and ask them to start leading.

Go to www.legislature.idaho.gov and click on the link on the left side “Contacting Legislators”. If you are having difficulty or don’t own a computer the staff at the American Falls Library can help you contact our delegation.

Kurtis Workman can be reached at press4@press-times.com

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