BOISE — Friday was the last day for House members to file personal bills and several came in, including a resolution inspired by last year’s controversy over the Teton High School mascot.
Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, who has been a vocal supporter of keeping the Redskins name, introduced a resolution supporting the use of Native American symbols by schools and other groups and discouraging their removal absent “a careful and effective public process.” It wouldn't bind school districts, but it would state the Legislature's support for the “appropriate use” of Native American symbols by schools or others and that they shouldn’t be changed without a process that ensures “there is a consensus amongst the affected individual Native American or other indigenous people that a name, image, or symbol should be removed.”
Christensen's district includes Teton County, where school trustees voted last year to get rid of the Redskins mascot. Christensen said he viewed this as an attack on local heritage and, earlier this year, floated the idea of passing a bill requiring a school district to hold a popular vote on changing a mascot before dropping this in favor of a nonbinding resolution. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, whose reservation is in southeastern Idaho, spoke out last year against the Redskins and other similar mascots and put out a statement Thursday saying they were "deeply disturbed" by the resolution.
“Rep. Christensen leaves out the Tribes’ position on the misappropriation of unacceptable terms referring to our Native American peoples, including racial names as 'Redskins' and 'Savages,'" said Chairman Ladd Edmo. "We ask the 65th Idaho Legislature to not approve this resolution."
Personal bills are bills that lawmakers file in the full House or Senate themselves rather than going through the usual committee introduction process. The House usually refers them to the Ways and Means Committee, where they see no further action for the rest of the session, but they are a way for lawmakers to make statements about issues they care about. The Senate deadline was last week.
Three other personal bills were introduced on Friday:
— Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, introduced one to repeal the sales tax on groceries. Groceries in Idaho are currently taxed at the same 6 percent rate as most other goods, which makes Idaho a bit unusual as most states either don’t tax them or tax them at a lower rate. Whether to get rid of the tax has been a hot topic for the past several years; a repeal bill passed in 2017 but was vetoed by then-Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. Gov. Brad Little included funding for a partial grocery tax repeal in his budget proposal and House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, introduced a bill Wednesday to raise the grocery tax credit to $135 per person. Giddings tried to introduce her bill at the same committee hearing but wasn’t permitted to.
— Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, introduced her Idaho Abortion Human Rights Act, which would ban abortion under all circumstances and repeal a section of state code that prevents it from being treated as murder. Scott proposed a similar bill last year. While it didn’t get a hearing, a political action committee has been formed to advocate for the proposal, and a handful of the Legislature's most conservative Republican lawmakers have come out in support.
— Rep. Jason Monks, R-Nampa, introduced a bill to abolish property taxes and replace them by raising the sales tax from 6 to 11 percent. "Arguably, property taxes are a leftover vestige of a feudal system of governing from the Middle Ages wherein lords of manors were required to pay tribute to a king or queen or they risked losing their lands," Monks wrote in the bill's statement of purpose. "It is not unreasonable to suggest that we still live under that same system in that if you refuse to pay property taxes, you risk losing your property."
Democratic lawmakers also introduced several personal bills earlier in the week:
— Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, introduced a proposal to add an Equal Rights Amendment to the Idaho Constitution banning discrimination based on sex. It is similar to the never-passed, proposed federal constitutional amendment that Idaho lawmakers approved in 1972 but rescinded their support of in 1979. "Idaho should protect the rights of all people and adding sex equality is an important step in that process," Wintrow said in a statement. "I keep bringing the Equal Rights Amendment as a personal bill in hopes of getting a full hearing in committee. I am working closely with my legislative colleagues to convince them that it is important to have a conversation about the Equal Rights Amendment where the public can be involved."
— Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise, proposed creating a committee to study property, sales and income tax exemptions during the interim between the 2020 and 2021 sessions and make recommendations as to whether any should be eliminated.
— House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, put forth two bills to get rid of the bans on local governments raising the minimum wage or banning plastic bags that the Legislature passed a few years ago.
— Rubel also introduced a “motor voter” act, to let people register to vote when they apply for or renew their drivers’ licenses. And,
— Rubel introduced a bill to remove the prohibition on the use of eminent domain for developing greenbelts and bike paths.