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Idaho legislators accused of preventing testimony on controversial bill

IDAHO FALLS (KIFI) - An Idaho political group is accusing legislators of shutting down public comment on a controversial bill.

House Bill 447 would use up to $50 million each year to provide a $5,000 tax credit for parents whose children attend private school. The bill is currently making its way through the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Unlike some other committees, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee does not allow remote video testimony. As a result, some Idahoans fear their voices won’t be heard.

“Remote testimony gives every Idaho citizen a chance to call in via Zoom and comment on proposed legislation,” the group Reclaim Idaho said in a press release. “It’s one of the only chances Idahoans outside Boise have to participate in the lawmaking process.”

Over 1,500 people have signed Reclaim Idaho’s petition to reverse the committee’s policy. The committee’s chair, Rep. David Cannon (R-Blackfoot), said he’s received “dozens, if not hundreds” of phone calls and “a few hundred” emails about the issue.

Rep. Cannon told Local News 8 the committee already allows two forms of remote testimony, and he’s open to allowing video testimony. However, he said it’s not a decision he can make.

Cannon is in an unusual situation. The previous Revenue and Taxation Committee chair, Rep. Jason Monks (R-Meridian), became the new House Majority Leader earlier this month. Cannon has only been committee chair for just over a week.

Cannon said the decision to disallow remote testimony was made by his predecessor. Committee rules are rarely revised mid-session, he explained, so he feels changing the previous chair’s decision would disrupt the committee’s work.

"I'm not taking a stand for, y'know, 'remote testimony is good' or 'remote testimony is bad,’” he said. “I'm just saying, hey, we had unusual circumstances here.”

“Rather than rock the boat and change things up,” he continued, “let's see the session through, and then we can take a look at things."

“We do not accept this rationale,” Reclaim Idaho’s petition reads. “The fact that your predecessor silenced Idaho voices does not justify your decision to continue this policy.”

“I don’t have any problems with the concept of remote testimony,” Cannon countered. “A lot of committees use that, and they use it to good effect and so forth.”

“But to me, the idea that if you don’t have remote testimony available you’re shutting down the voice of the people,” he added, “is kind of a misleading suggestion.”

Cannon stressed he very much wants public comment on H.B. 447 and other bills. He said the committee is still able to accept testimony over email and phone, which are both remote methods, as well as in-person testimony.

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Sam Gelfand


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