Idaho Legislative Update: Emergency powers, income and sales tax cuts, and health-care sharing ministries

BOISE, Idaho (AP) —

HOUSE VOTES TO TRIM GOVERNOR’S EMERGENCY POWERS

Lawmakers in the Idaho House have passed legislation to trim a governor’s powers and increase their own during declared emergencies such as the pandemic.

The House voted 49-20 on Tuesday to send to the Senate the legislation spurred by anger with Republican Gov. Brad Little’s response to the pandemic and lawmakers’ frustration with their inability to do anything about restrictions he imposed.

The vote total is notable because it’s enough to overcome a potential veto by Little. Lawmakers also say they should have had a role in allocating the $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus rescue money the state received early last year.

INCOME AND SALES TAX CUTS

Sweeping tax cuts proposed by Idaho lawmakers would slash assessments on all income brackets and lower the sales tax from 6% to 5.3% beginning next year.

The complex, 17-page proposal was introduced Tuesday in a House committee after Republican Gov. Brad Little called for $450 million in tax relief, including $295 million in one-time cuts and $160 million in permanent tax cuts. The proposed bill estimates it would result in $284 million in tax relief a year.

Despite the pandemic, Idaho has a budget surplus of about $600 million. Officials attribute much of that to federal virus relief funds and an influx of new residents.

ATTEMPT TO LIMIT HEALTH-CARE SHARING MINISTRIES DIES

Lawmakers have killed a proposed law intended to prevent healthcare sharing ministries from taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers. The House State Affairs Committee killed the bill Tuesday that would have tightened laws around the practice that draws people unable to afford private insurance and attracted to the low prices offered by healthcare sharing ministries.

A healthcare sharing ministry is a group of people with common ethical or religious beliefs who share health care costs. Many of the plans offer none of the protections of the Affordable Care Act.

Republican Rep. Rod Furniss told lawmakers that most of the groups operate ethically, but Idaho has about a dozen “bad actors.”

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