Capitol Letters: Bill to ban gender-affirming health care heads to governor

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By Ryan Suppe, State Politics Reporter

A bill that would criminalize providing health care to transgender minors is heading to the governor.

The House yesterday passed House Bill 71, after it was slightly amended in the Senate. The bill makes it a felony to provide gender-affirming surgery, puberty blockers and hormone treatment to transgender minors. It cleared the House and Senate nearly along party lines.

When asked about the bill last month, Little didn’t say whether he would sign it into law.

“I’ve just got to see the bill when it gets there, but obviously, I don’t think Idaho is going to be a bastion for people who want to have significant surgery, particularly for our children,” Little said.

During public hearings throughout the session, many opposed to banning health care for transgender kids said that the care often helps kids struggling with depression because of gender dysphoria.

Yesterday’s House debate delved into religious beliefs about gender. Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, who supported the bill, said that God created each person to be either male or female. Allowing a child to reverse the way God created them would be lying to them, Crane said.

“Let’s be honest with our kids,” he said.

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said minors experiencing gender dysphoria often seek gender-affirming care “in desperation” while experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“I do not presume to infer what God’s motives are in creating people with profound gender dysphoria,” Rubel said. “But I know that they’re here.”

Attorney general division chief resigns

A top attorney in the Idaho attorney general’s office has resigned after giving a state agency written legal advice without Attorney General Raúl Labrador’s knowledge, according to the office.

A division chief who oversaw a legal opinion about Health and Welfare’s distribution of federal grants resigned Friday, Associate Attorney General Mitch Toryanski told the Idaho Statesman. The opinion, issued in January, showed Chelsea Kidney was that division’s chief when the opinion was released. Her name and title appear on the opinion.

The opinion had stated that Health and Welfare’s distribution of the COVID-19 relief grants were lawful. Labrador didn’t know the opinion was issued and disagreed with the analysis, Toryanski told the Statesman.

“Attorney General Labrador was never apprised of or consulted in the formulation of this opinion and he wouldn’t have signed it,” Toryanski said in an emailed statement.

Read my full story here.

Property tax relief in limbo

Property tax relief is up in the air after the House and Senate went in different directions yesterday, following Gov. Brad Little’s Monday veto of House Bill 292, a sweeping property tax bill.

Lawmakers said a state official who oversees state debt financing told the governor that House Bill 292 would hinder the state’s credit rating and debt capacity, particularly when it comes to transportation projects. Little in his veto letter also objected to removing March bond and levy elections for school districts.

The Senate passed a new proposal that accounted for Little’s concerns, but the House rejected it yesterday.

Instead, the House voted along party lines to override Little’s veto of House Bill 292 and pass a trailer bill that addresses the transportation funding concerns. The Senate would have to support it. Under those two bills, the March election dates still would be eliminated.

Senators have yet to decide whether they’ll hold an override vote on House Bill 292. Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, told the Idaho Statesman yesterday that Senate leadership plans to meet with House leaders this morning to discuss the trailer bill.

“Once we really figure out what’s in there and what needs to be done, then we’ll come back and have a caucus meeting and check the temperature of everybody,” Winder said.

What else happened?

The Senate approved a bill that would bar public schools from using restraint and seclusion on students as a form of discipline. House Bill 281, which previously cleared the House, was amended in the Senate to remove mention of private schools, so the House will need to concur with the changes.

What to expect today

  • 9 a.m. House convenes. Outstanding bills include budgets for the judicial branch and Medicaid.

  • 9 a.m. Senate convenes. The Senate still has a crowded calendar, including dozens of judicial appointments.

Find the full list of committee meetings and agendas for the House here, and for the Senate here.

Opinion: Meta’s data center and urban renewal

By Scott McIntosh, Opinion Editor

Brian Frost, of Star Acre Property, a developer and investor in the Treasure Valley for 20 years, exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit of recognizing an opportunity in the market and taking a risk.

In August 2022, he completed construction of a 17,000-square-foot light industrial building in eastern Kuna. The building filled up quickly with local businesses, but he kept getting calls from businesses interested in industrial space.

So he bought more land adjacent to an industrial park centered around the new Meta data center.

He’s planning 24 building sites, 2-3 acres each, catering to smaller, secondary businesses that would contract with businesses in the industrial park.

But that’s in jeopardy because Idaho legislators are considering a bill, House Bill 328, that would prevent Meta from being placed into the industrial park’s urban renewal district, meaning Meta’s tax dollars couldn’t be used to fund about $50 million in infrastructure improvements, things like water and sewer lines and roads.

Read my full column here.

Track other bills

Keep track of high-profile bills as they go through the legislative process. You can find yesterday’s updates here.

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