Idaho House passes three bills opposing environmental, social and governance standards

One opponent said passing ESG bills would increase government bureaucracy to comply with all the requirements 

By: - March 2, 2023 5:21 pm
Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls,

Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, speaks from the House floor at the Statehouse in Boise on Nov. 15, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The Idaho House of Representatives passed three consecutive bills Thursday that oppose environmental, social and governance, or ESG, standards used in business investments and credit ratings.

The ESG standards can be used to indicate a commitment to environmental stewardship, sustainability or indicate social consciousness. But many Republican legislators and officials in Idaho have pointed to ESG standards as an example of a woke agenda running rampant following a 2022 visit from conservative pundit Glen Beck, who spoke out against the standards last year at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise. 

The three bills have been linked since their introduction last week and have been presented and discussed together. 

  • House Bill 189 prevents state and local governments from entering into contracts with companies that decline to do business with other companies for the manufacture, sale or distribution of firearms or the production of fossil fuels.
  • House Bill 190 prevents banks and credit unions that are classified as public depositories from boycotting companies for the manufacture of firearms or the production of fossil fuels.
  • House Bill 191 states that state contracts may not be awarded or denied based on environmental, social and governance standards. Instead, contracts must be awarded based on competitive pricing, contractor qualifications and the contract requirements. 

Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt said the anti-ESG bills are necessary to protect industries that are vital to Idaho.

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“We want to save our industries and our businesses from some of this false application of this scoring that we have nothing to do (with),” Ehardt said in her floor debate in support of House Bill 190.

On the other hand, Boise Democratic Rep. Brooke Green said the bill would greatly expand government bureaucracy in order to comply with the bill’s requirements and review reams of contracts and other documents.

“Essentially what we are doing is growing government at all levels of government,” Green said in her debate against the bills. “We are actually putting in place and policing our businesses — regulations on how they are going conduct business with the state and all of our levels of government. It is the heavy hand that we are putting onto businesses, rather than getting out of their way.” 

The Republican supermajority in the Idaho House of Representatives comfortably passed all three bills Thursday. 

All three ESG bills head next to the Idaho Senate for consideration.


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Clark Corbin
Clark Corbin

Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.