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A roundup of business-related legislation updates

Idaho House approves bill to prevent vaccine discrimination

Legislation preventing most private and public entities in Idaho from discriminating against people who haven’t received the coronavirus vaccine headed to the governor’s desk on Friday.

The House voted 45-23 to approve the measure preventing employers from requiring employees to get the vaccine or entities requiring visitors or attendees to be vaccinated. Violations would be a misdemeanor punishable with a $1,000 penalty.

The measure has exemptions involving federal law, existing employee-employer contracts, and businesses that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Backers said the bill finds the right balance between protecting employees’ rights and businesses’ ability to stay open.

No one debated against the bill on the House floor, but opponents have previously said it creates special protections for one group of people and imposes additional regulations on businesses.

The measure, if it becomes law, will expire one year after the termination of all state emergency declarations related to coronavirus.

Republican Gov. Brad Little announced earlier this month that he will lift the state’s public health emergency disaster declaration on April 15, just over two years since it was put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That means if the bill becomes law, it will expire on April 15, 2023.

Bill to boost Idaho grocery sales tax credit heads to Senate

A proposal to increase by $20 the amount Idaho residents can recover on taxes paid on food through the grocery sales tax credit headed to the full Senate on Thursday.

The Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee voted to approve the bill that boosts the annual maximum credit from $100 to $120 for people under 65 and from $120 to $140 for people 65 and over.

The change would take effect starting with food purchased in 2023.

Idaho residents get the credit to recover the state’s 6% sales tax on groceries. The current $100 tax credit covers sales taxes on about $139 spent monthly per person on groceries.

Backers said the increase is meant to more accurately reflect the amount the tax costs a typical person. If passed, the bill would cut about $32 million from state revenues. That would be replaced by using a fund that collects online purchase sales taxes.

Opponents said the increase is not enough to cover the increasing cost of food, and would rather the grocery tax be eliminated entirely.

The measure has already passed the House.

Idaho Senate OKs bill to boost secrecy about execution drugs

The Idaho Senate on Friday has passed a bill that would dramatically increase the secrecy surrounding Idaho’s execution drugs.

The bill passed on a 21-14 vote and now goes to the governor’s desk.

The legislation would prohibit Idaho officials from revealing where they obtain the drugs used in lethal injections, even if they are ordered to do so by the courts.

The legislation drew passionate debate from Republican and Democratic opponents who said it would certainly be challenged in court, that executions require more transparency rather than less, and that it would reduce the public trust in the state’s execution process.

But supporters said the bill was the only way that the state would be able to continue to carry out lawful executions, because no suppliers of lethal injection chemicals will sell the drugs to the state without guaranteed confidentiality.

Sen. Todd Lakey, a Republican from Nampa and the bill’s sponsor, said anti-death penalty advocates have “organized aggressive social justice campaigns” that “dox” lethal injection chemical suppliers as a way to stop executions.

“We need this bill to maintain the death penalty in Idaho,” Lakey said. “Frankly, their social justice war has been effective.”

Sen. Christy Zito, a Republican from Hammett, said that lawmakers shouldn’t approve a bill that would make it harder to determine the quality and effectiveness of the lethal injection drugs used in execution. She said based on historical data, there is a 7% chance that a lethal injection execution may be botched.

“Each and every one of us here today will have responsibility for that result,” if the bill is approved and an execution goes awry, Zito said.

“Would you sit by the condemned and inject a substance into their bodies, not knowing what it was? … Today, we decide what level of transparency and accountability that we want to live with.”

But Lakey said the drugs are tested for efficacy before they are used and that the Idaho Department of Correction takes executions seriously.

Nineteen other states have similar confidentiality provisions, he said.

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