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Eastern Idaho lawmakers reflect on 2013 legislative session

The 2013 Idaho legislative session wrapped on Thursday.

Eastern Idaho lawmakers on Monday called the session everything from an “overwhelming success” to “frustrating.”

But by popular opinion, the word of the session seems to be “progress.”

Throughout the session, lawmakers tackled a range of hot topics — from passing a state-based health care exchange, to changing Idaho’s personal property tax law.

“We had a lot to deal with,” said Representative Janet Trujillo (R-Idaho Falls)

Trujillo is a freshman in the Idaho House of Representatives. She said lawmakers were slammed this year.

“We had education we had to take care of, we had the state exchange we had to deal with, on top of taxation questions,” said Trujillo.

Veteran house representative Jeff Thompson (R-Idaho Falls) said those taxation questions were huge — Idaho’s statehouse voted to exempt businesses from personal property tax up to $100,000. In all, $20 million in tax exemptions were approved by the legislature.

“To me, those things drive business, they drive the economy and they drive jobs,” said Thompson.

While Idaho businesses won a tax exemption battle, the Girl Scout’s fight to make their signature cookies exempt from about $140,000 in annual sales tax was lost.

An effort to remove the tax passed the house, but stalled in the senate.

“I was kind of sad to see that hung up in the senate, the amount of money compared to other tax exemptions that have gone through, we could have made that happen,” said Thompson.

Trujillo and fellow freshman Wendy Horman (R-Ammon) echoed Thompson’s disappointment over the stalled exemption. But Horman said she saw a lot of progress this session — particularly in education.

“We had a lot of good things happen, that I think help students and teachers,” she said. “(The) budget — best one we’ve seen in many years, and filled a lot of those holes that came up during the recession.”

Senate President Pro-Temp Brent Hill of (R-Rexburg) called the session “frustrating” given the large scope of issues at stake — including the health insurance exchange and personal property tax questions.

But he praised the legislature for attacking 2013’s difficult issues with bipartisanship.

Senator Roy Lacey (D-Pocatello), echoed that praise by phone this afternoon.

Our station also asked Senator Hill about the senate’s rejection of hearing argument on the Girl Scout cookie tax exemption. Hill said the house typically passes sales tax exemptions more frequently than the senate.

All 6 proposed sales tax exemptions were either stalled or rejected by the senate this year.

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