Firing squad and other new laws and state budget take effect Saturday in Idaho
The 2024 fiscal year begins July 1, and a state surplus could lead to more property tax relief for homeowners
Idaho Gov. Brad Little gives his State of the State speech in the House chambers of the State Capitol building on Jan. 9, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
(Correction: This article was corrected to reflect the Clean Slate Act takes effect Jan. 1)
A new state budget and dozens of new state laws take effect Saturday in Idaho in connection with the beginning of the 2024 fiscal year.
Idaho’s state government runs on a fiscal year calendar that runs from July 1 to June 30 each year.
That means the 2023 fiscal year ends Friday, and the 2024 fiscal year begins Saturday.
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Some major bills, like House Bill 292, the property tax law, and House Bill 242, which makes it a crime to take a minor out of state for abortion care without parental permission, have already taken effect.
Other high profile bills, like House Bill 124, which removes student ID cards as accepted form of identification for voting in Idaho, and House Bill 149, the bipartisan Clean Slate Act, take effect Jan. 1 or on a specific upcoming date.
But most new laws take effect on Saturday, the first day of the state’s new fiscal year.
Here is a closer look at three new Idaho laws taking effect Saturday
House Bill 186 reinstates the firing squad as an alternative form of execution when lethal injection is not available. Prior to this law, lethal injection was the only form of execution allowed in Idaho. But Idaho Department of Correction officials have been unable to obtain the chemicals to carry out the planned execution of Gerald Pizzuto Jr., who was convicted of murdering two people outside of McCall in 1985. The state had scheduled Pizzuto’s execution for Dec. 15 and March 23, but had to cancel the execution when correction officials could not obtain the chemical Pentobarbital, the Idaho Capital Sun and Idaho Reports have previously reported.
Since 1976, there have been three executions in the United States carried out by firing squad, all of which were in Utah, the Sun previously reported.
Although the bill takes effect Saturday, the state still has to build and pay for a facility to carry out execution by firing squad and come up with the procedures for using a firing squad.
House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said she hopes the state succeeds at obtaining lethal injection chemicals and never has to use a firing squad.
“I thought it was an absolutely terrible idea,” Rubel said in a telephone interview. “My hope is that it never actually gets used and is just a kick in the pants to really resolve the lethal injection situation.”
House Bill 138 was intended to consolidate the March primary election into the May election but actually ended up eliminating the state’s presidential primary election altogether. In response, the Idaho Republican Party approved a proposal to hold a presidential caucus on the first Saturday in March if the Idaho Legislature does not reinstate the March primary election. As things stand today, Idaho voters are not sure if they will help select their party’s nominee for president in a caucus or in a primary, or on what date they will do so.
Rubel said she has not heard of any interest among Republicans in calling a special session to address the presidential primary election issue.
House Bill 213 creates the rural nursing loan repayment program. Under the new law, the state will provide up to $2.5 million over the course of five years to help up to 100 nurses working in rural or underserved areas of the state or in critical access hospitals repay their student debt.
Nurses who are accepted into the program would receive repayments from the state over a three-year period. Under the program, those nurses would receive $5,000 to repay nursing education debts after completing one continuous year of employment, $10,000 after the second continuous year and $10,000 more after the third continuous year of employment.
Rep. Dori Healey, a Republican from Boise and an advanced practice nurse, sponsored the bill in the Idaho House of Representatives in her first year as a legislator this year.
2023 budget ending balance will go toward property tax reductions
Although the property tax law has already taken effect, the ending balance of the 2023 budget that closes out today will help determine how much of a property tax reduction Idaho homeowners see this year.
The property tax law is written so it will provide a minimum of $205 million in reductions in its first year and up to $355 million, if there is a budget surplus.
When legislators set the state budget, they planned for a $416 million ending balance to the 2023 fiscal year budget. Through May, the 11th month of the 2023 fiscal year, revenues were running $17.3 million ahead of forecasts.
When the 2023 budget year ends today, the first $50 million in surplus above the planned $416 million ending balance would go to the homeowner property tax account. So if revenues came in exactly on target for June, the entire $17.3 million surplus would go to property taxes.
If revenues increase even more and there is a surplus above $50 million, anything between $50 million and $150 million would be split between school district facilities and property tax reductions.
“We are hoping we could get a really big chunk, so we are all watching these last three days of June to see how that ends and how it comes in,” Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Meridian, said in a telephone interview. Grow is the co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee and one of the sponsors of the property tax bill.
Increases in property taxes and housing affordability were a top issue for Idahoans heading into the 2023 legislative session, according to a public policy survey from Boise State University.
Grow said it was the top issue he heard from his constituents about, with homeowners saying they can’t afford to pay taxes on the home they live in and young Idahoans saying property taxes are contributing to the high cost of housing.
“Homeowners should get a big break on their property tax bill, on their notices they get this fall,” Grow said.
Grow said there should be a line on the fall property tax notice that says “tax relief appropriated by the Legislature” that lists the homeowner’s tax savings.
Grow said local governments will still be able to set their budgets as they normally would, and the Idaho Legislature will make up the savings with state funds for the homeowner.
The property tax reductions are for owner-occupied homes that receive the homestead property tax exemption. Second homes, vacation homes, rental properties and renters do not qualify.
After this first year, the state will use sales tax money to provide ongoing money for property tax reductions. The law also provides funding for school district facilities and eliminates the March election date that school districts used for bond issues and levies.
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