2020 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

Caldwell Chamber of Commerce, Inc.
Legislative Agenda
2020 Legislative Session

The Caldwell Chamber of Commerce and its members have identified the following issues as those of concern for the businesses that it represents. We urge the Idaho State Legislature to act with regards to these issues in a fashion that promotes and sustains Idaho’s business community.

TRANSPORTATION-INTERSTATE-84

The expansion of I-84 between Nampa and Caldwell remains a top priority for Caldwell and the entire Treasure Valley. As a matter of public safety for the families of our community, we thank the Idaho State Legislature and Idaho Transportation Board (IT Board) and strongly encourage both to continue to prioritize funding for improvements to I-84 in Canyon County. Between 2014 and 2018, there were a total of 503 crashes on I-84 between Franklin Blvd. in Nampa and Centennial Way in Caldwell. This is an annual average of 119 crashes per year. Likewise, we note that the average annual daily traffic has increased 34% in Nampa and 32% in Caldwell from 2008 through 2018, based upon ITD AADT information. We applaud the Idaho Legislature and the IT Board for providing and programming funding to widen 1-84 from the Karcher Road interchange to the City of Caldwell in preparation for future widening. However, these projects are only a start. The Idaho Legislature must continue to meet expected growth, provide economic development opportunities, and expand transportation options through improvements to I-84. 

HIGHWAY-55

Widening State Highway 55, between the Snake River and the City of Nampa, is the fourth priority in the Communities in Motion 2040 transportation plan but remains unfunded. Two sections, the Snake River Bridge to True Lane and Pear Lane to Middleton Road, should be widened from two to at least four lanes. Between 2014 and 2018, there were a total of 420 crashes on Highway 55 between the Snake River Bridge and just west of Middleton Road in Nampa. This is an average of 84 crashes per year. We note that the average annual daily traffic has increased 10% east of the Snake River Bridge and 30% west of Nampa from 2008 through 2018, based upon ITD AADT information. We appreciate the IT Board funding the SH-55 Pride Lane to Middleton Road environmental study, which must be completed before widening that section. 

EDUCATION

Publicly funded education in Idaho should anticipate workforce needs and prepare students for employment with marketable skills. To that end, the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce believes that the maintenance of  a comprehensive system of education is essential in enhancing economic development efforts throughout the State. The Caldwell Chamber of Commerce supports the promotion of access to student development opportunities, private/public partnerships, consolidation of services, and equitable funding alternatives that promote local control and frugality but not increase the financial burden on local communities that have already had to bear the burden of the cost reduction of the past several years. 

SCHOOL DISTRICT IMPACT FEES

The Caldwell Chamber of Commerce is excited about the economic growth in Caldwell, Canyon County, and across Idaho. We recognize, however, that this growth results in significant burdens upon school districts to provide facilities for an increasing enrollment, which has and is funded with bond issues. Accordingly, the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce supports legislation that allows school districts to establish and collect development impact fees for increased facilities needs to serve new growth. Development Impact Fees allow growth to pay for itself and lessen the burden on existing property tax-payers. 

LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX / INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM ELECTIONS

The Caldwell Chamber believes in local control with political power centralized in the cities and counties. As a result, the Chamber supports the availability of local option sales tax to voters in cities and counties. If local voters want to impose a sales tax on themselves then they should have that right. 

MORE DOCTORS FOR OUR COMMUNITY

Idaho ranks 49th in the United States for the number of physicians per 100,000 people, 46th in the U.S. for primary care physicians per 100,000 people, and 49th in the U.S. for the number of resident physicians per 100,000 with only 6.7 resident physicians per 100,000 people. This physician shortage is particularly problematic in rural areas. In fact, in the Southwest Region of Idaho, there were only 35.6 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents. This is compared to an average of 61.8 per 100,000 across the state and 74.5 per 100,000 across the country. The chamber supports legislative initiatives that provide for incentives designed to attract residency training opportunities and additional physicians to practice in Idaho. 

CRISIS CENTER FUNDING

Access to timely and appropriate levels of care is critical for managing behavioral health concerns including substance use, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and other conditions. Region 3, via Southwest District Health as the lead agency and fiduciary agent, recently secured funding to support the development of a Crisis Center to help support residents in a mental health or substance use crisis. This resource will allow community members to access the right level of care for crises that may not need hospital care or incarceration to be managed. With these types of services, our neighbors and constituents will receive adequate treatment and management services in a more cost effective and quality manner. In fact, crisis services as an alternative to emergency treatment and mental holds are effective and quality manner. In fact, crisis services as an alternative to emergency treatment and mental holds are projected to save Canyon County alone $750,000 per year. As a result, it is of the utmost importance that Region 3 continues to receive funding from local (county and city) as well as state contributions. In addition, for long-term sustainability of services and a reduced dependence on fixed local and state contributions, it is crucial that a mechanism for billing Medicaid for services be developed. This will allow the Crisis Center to bill for more cost-effective services for community members as opposed to expensive and inappropriate longer-term care. The Crisis Center is an asset for Caldwell and the surrounding areas and should be supported for the ongoing health and fiscal wellbeing of the community. 

To improve access and delivery of healthcare, we support continued investment in the work of the Western Idaho Community Health Collaborative and the Community Health EMS Program (CHEMS). The Canyon County and Payette County paramedics have launched innovative pilot programs to expand community health services for residents with chronic conditions. Community paramedics aim to help those with complex chronic conditions improve their health and wellness at home thereby improving care coordination and the relationship between patient and primary care doctor. We can better leverage limited resources and improve health outcomes by increasing services through lower cost, accessible delivery models. However, these services are not currently paid for and are not sustainable without changes to state law and health insurance reimbursement. The Caldwell Chamber of Commerce calls on the state legislature to modify state law and ensure reimbursements are available to community providers. 

MEDICAID EXPANSION

As local business owners, the Caldwell Chamber members are acutely aware of the cost of health insurance and health care. As we struggle to keep up with the cost of care for many of our employees, it is clear that our neighbors and some staff are unable to pay for care for themselves and their families. The result is that community members without access to care suffer due to the lack of access to preventative services, and hospitals and the counties must bear the cost that our financially vulnerable neighbors cannot cover for their emergency care. These costs get passed on to us in the form of increased healthcare costs and taxes. In addition, those community members who have unmanaged health conditions are less productive at work or potentially unable to seek employment. The coverage gap is primarily occupied by those who are crucial to a functioning economy including low-wage workers, college students, and working parents ages 18-64. As a result, the lack of access to healthcare is also an economic and workforce issue for Caldwell and the state; therefore, the Caldwell Chamber supports funding and implementation of Medicaid Expansion without frivolous legislative sidebars that restrict community members from gaining access to healthcare. 

YOUTH BEHAVIORAL HEALTH

As suicide rates and behavioral health issues in the state of Idaho remain alarmingly high, it is clear that adequate mental, emotional, and social support for children and youth is critical to supporting a healthier community. Local partners are working to increase access to services for youth (such as in school and behavioral health provider collaborations) and to enhance prevention services related to behavioral health crises for children (such as suicide prevention curriculum deployment). Ongoing local and state support for programs that enable families and youth to have the best chance at positive behavioral health outcomes are crucial for making communities across Idaho places where young people can thrive and ultimately become successful adults and employees. 

TOBACCO PRODUCTS AND E-CIGARETTES / VAPING

New and emerging tobacco and nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, threaten the progress that has been made in preventing nicotine use and addiction. E-cigarettes and other developing products target youth and adolescents and are addicting a new generation of users that would otherwise avoid traditional tobacco products. According to the 2017 Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Idaho Department of Education, 41 percent of high school students claim to have used an electronic vapor product in their lifetime, and slightly more than 14 percent said they’d vaped within the 30 days. Because e-cigarettes (also known as vapes and including JUULs and other brand name products) are not included in Idaho’s legal definition of tobacco products, e-cigarette retailers are not currently required to be licensed like traditional tobacco retailers, and e-cigarettes are not currently subject to the same tax as other tobacco and nicotine products. To reduce the known health impacts of nicotine addiction, we support all tobacco and nicotine products and devices being classified and defined consistently in Idaho code and being subject to the same legal standards including mandatory retail licensure with adequate fees to support enforcement of current laws to prevent sales to youth. At the very least, there needs to be state funding for educating teens and adults of the health risks and dangers of vaping. 

A serious current situation is the easy access to tobacco products by underage young adults. Often, 16-year-old young people have 18-year-old friends who will buy them tobacco products. Few young teenagers have friends who are 21-years-old. The Caldwell Chamber of Commerce supports increasing the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 years old. 

CALDWELL & NAMPA CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE 2020 POSITION STATEMENT ON AGRIBUSINESS ISSUES

GENERAL STATEMENT 

The Caldwell & Nampa Chambers of Commerce recognize that diversified agriculture is one of the principal components of the economy of Canyon County, the State of Idaho, and the U.S. and therefore should be assisted to function in an atmosphere that enables it to compete profitably in worldwide markets. Agriculture is a base industry for Canyon County and Idaho’s economy. 

WATER RIGHTS

Water is a critical resource and is of primary economic importance and value to agriculture. We support due process in any allocation, control, or transfer of any water used for agricultural purposes under current water rights. Preservation of water and its associated infrastructure is essential. The “Waters of the U.S.”  rules proposed by E.P.A. are complex and as written could impact agriculture dramatically. We support congressional legislation to remove the rules, but close monitoring is important to Canyon County, the State of Idaho, and the western U.S. that rely on irrigated agriculture. We support that any water that enters a reservoir and is released or allowed to flow through for flood control purposes shall not be counted against the storage rights of our water rights holders. We support the position that flood control releases in the Boise River Basin is stored in priority to fill senior water rights first as to follow Idaho’s Prior Appropriation Doctrine that was adopted into Idaho’s Constitution in 1890. We support the SRBA Court’s September 1, 2016 decision that states water stored in the Boise River Basin’s reservoirs following flood control releases is stored pursuant to a senior water right. Understanding that the irrigators, state of Idaho, and Suez Company have reached an agreement to settle the Basin 63 “refill” issue, we support any future legislative effort that would codify any of the terms of the agreement into Idaho Statute, including but not limited to language that states, “Any new structure that stores more than 1,000 acre-feet of surface water on or after April 1, 2019 shall be junior to all existing Basin 63 storage water rights.”

AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION

The average age of farmers and others in the agribusiness sector that service agricultural needs is steadily increasing and many of them are going to retire in the near future. Currently we do not have enough of the younger generation choosing the agricultural industry as a career to fill these positions. Agricultural education in our high schools and middle schools is critical to meet these demands in the future. 

CROP PRODUCTION

Canyon County is a highly specialized diversified agricultural production area with numerous seed crops being produced for national and worldwide markets. We support the continued research efforts to enhance the economic base and provide for the future needs of the United States and the world. We particularly support continued funding of the Parma Research Station as it provides both useful data for existing crops and is researching economically viable alternative crops that fit our soils and climate. 

LAND USE PLANNING

Land use planning should be used as a vehicle to ensure that agricultural practices will remain viable in the area. Land use decisions should consider multiple use and long-term infrastructure requirements, including transportation both to and from all new development. Residential growth should develop from the city limits outward for efficient use of city and county services with the costs associated with that development being born by the developer. We support legislation that would provide for a Right-To-Farm disclosure on land sales in agricultural production areas. Agriculture is under intense scrutiny due to environmental concerns. Planning needs to account for environmental concerns, based on sound scientific data, and streamlining environmental impact studies to eliminate excessive costs and time delays.