Vote Tomorrow!

Please go out and vote tomorrow! Voting is one of the most important civic duties and responsibilities of American citizens! Yes, I know it often feels like it doesn’t make a difference, but if everyone in the 99% voted, it wouldn’t matter what the 1% wanted. Go vote!

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This Week: Add the Words Happenings

We are coming up on the end of the Idaho Legislature’s session, and the Legislature has yet to take action on the Add the Words campaign and print a bill and hold a hearing on Adding the Words to the Idaho Human Rights Act that would make it illegal to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Idahoans in employment and housing.

There have been many protests at the Idaho Capitol, and many protesters have been arrested for blocking rooms and doorways in the Capitol. This week, Idaho Falls people are organizing their own vigils and rallies in support of the Capitol protesters, for those who cannot be in Boise. Details on the Monday Vigil and Wednesday Rally follow:

Monday, March 10:
Add the Words Vigil, 7:30 pm
Idaho Falls Greenbelt by the War Memorial (on Memorial Drive)
Candlelight vigil

Wednesday, March 12:
Add the Words Rally, 12 noon
Broadway Bridge Sidewalk (south side of bridge, east end)
Face west and cover your mouth in silence at 12:04 pm

Protesters Arrested in Idaho Capital Building

Police in Boise today arrested 43 people for blocking the entrance to the Idaho Senate in the Idaho Capital Building. The protesters were asking that words be added to the Idaho Human Rights Act protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination. Among those arrested were former Idaho legislator Nicole LeFavour. Read the full AP article here.

For Profit Prisons in Idaho: A Letter to the Idaho Legislature Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee

Idaho’s for-profit prison, the Idaho Correctional Institute, is a legal and moral disgrace. Earlier this year, the Idaho Board of Correction voted not to renew the contract of the Correctional Corporation of America. However, they also refused to ask the Idaho Department of Correction to submit a bid to run the prison, as did the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC).

The Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Idaho Falls is writing to the members of JFAC who voted against that motion. We believe that the Idaho Department of Correction is the best entity to run Idaho prisons, and should be allowed to submit a bid to run this prison.

A sample letter to JFAC members is below:

I am concerned that, in a March Joint Finance/Appropriations Committee (JFAC) vote, you voted not to ask the Idaho Department of Correction to develop and submit a bid to run the Idaho Correctional Institute.

I understand that there may have been concerns regarding the appropriateness of JFAC as a venue for this vote, but I believe that it is vital that the Department of Correction be given a chance to run this prison. Having it as a for-profit prison run by the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) has been disastrous, and I don’t believe any other private company would be any better.

The Department of Correction should be given a chance to submit a bid for running the Idaho Correctional Institute, and I ask that you give them that chance as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

If you use this letter, please personalize it for yourself and for each legislator you send it to.

Addresses for JFAC members

When you contact these legislators, please do not send the letter to Sen. Nuxoll, Sen. Lacey, Rep. Ringo, or Rep. King. These four legislators voted to allow the Department of Corrections to submit a bid.

 

Idaho Legislature Considering Abolishing Business Personal Property Tax

Tax

The Idaho Legislature is discussing whether or not they should abolish the business personal property tax. This would severely cut the budgets of Idaho counties and cities, and other government entities that rely on the state to transfer this money to them. The Legislature says they will now permit local options sales taxes, and this will make up for the cuts. Many rural counties in Idaho do not have the businesses to provide people places to pay sales taxes, and will be unable to replenish these monies.

How you feel about this is up to you. If you would like to write to your Idaho state legislators about this, you can find their contact info here. Just so you know, the email capabilities of that site seem to be down today, January 22, 2013. I will be sending my local legislators a letter in the mail.

If you agree that the Legislature should not do this, here is a sample letter for you below:

Please do not abolish the personal property tax for Idaho businesses. This is a very bad idea, and breaks the trust between the state of Idaho and the other, smaller governments contained within it, that rely on the state to transfer the money they need to operate.

Historically, the Idaho Legislature has been unsuccessful in replacing lost taxes for the entities who received them. Property taxes were cut in 2007, and the remaining monies placed in the general fund. Schools were told that sales taxes would make up for the lost money, but the recession came, and sales taxes dropped. Now we are told that the personal property tax money can be made up to the cities and counties of Idaho, through local options sales taxes.

For counties without many businesses, such as Clark County whose largest businesses are a gas station and a cafe, this is a farce. Even for larger counties, such as Bonneville County, I do not believe that a sales tax would make up for the millions of dollars lost. Even if it did, it forces the county budget to be reliant on the economy. This is not a safe bet, as we have seen with the schools.

Besides, what the legislature has in mind is not really an abolishing of a tax, but a tax shift. This doesn’t make the taxes go away – counties still need to pay for essential services – but forces a different group of people to pay the taxes.

Until the legislature can come up with a fail-safe plan for replacing the lost tax money, one that does not include relying on a fickle economy and voters being willing and able to tax themselves more, the personal property tax should stay.

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