Senator Mark Harris

The Idaho Senate reconvened Tuesday, April 6 at noon, after the abrupt recess that was caused by a COVID-19 outbreak in the House. We started our work by debating several appropriation bills and passing them. As it is our intent to get our work done and adjourn as soon as we can, we have been holding both morning and afternoon sessions with a few committee meetings in-between.

House Bill 186 (H186), a stock water bill I co-sponsored with Representative Laurie Lickley, (LD 25) passed the Senate unanimously and was sent to the Governor. This bill amends Idaho Code to help federal grazing permit holders and the Department of Water Resources set the priority date for a stock water claim; that priority date is the date of the original federal grazing authorization of the permit holder. The bill also clarifies the legal description of stock water rights on federal grazing allotments. H186 is a good bill and gives a needed tool to permit holders to be able to file on this water for beneficial use. It was a pleasure working with Representative Lickley on this bill.

This week, Representative Gibbs and I were able to send House Bill 171 as amended in the Senate (H171aaS) to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee for concurrence on the Senate’s changes. The Committee agreed with the changes the Senate made to the bill and sent it back to the House Floor for a vote. This bill deals with ST-101 Forms for those who qualify for tax exempt items when they make purchases at a store. The Senate changes to the bill were wording and additions the State Tax Commission asked for in order to be consistent with the ST-101 Form. This issue was one that came to our attention during the last couple of years year as we heard from some of our constituents that were affected.

I also had the privilege of working with Representative Marco Erickson (LD 33) on House Bill 233 (H233) this session. This week, I carried that bill on the Senate Floor, where it passed unanimously. The bill allows parents to get help for their children suffering with Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) without the fear of having Child Protective Services remove their other children from their home. Representative Erickson did a lot of work with this bill and it was a privilege to work with him.

The Idaho Legislature also passed a bill to legalize industrial hemp in Idaho. House Bill 126 (H126) passed the Senate and was sent to the Governor. This bill allows transportation of hemp and also allows Idaho farmers to grow industrial hemp if they so choose. The issue has been discussed for several years and a lot of work went into this year’s version.

It has been a very busy week. However, we still have work to do such as transportation funding, the House’s tax bill, a few appropriations bills, and a couple of balance-of-power bills that we have been working on throughout the session.

As always, it is my honor to represent you in the Idaho State Senate, and I always appreciate your letters and input.