Idaho Legislature issues affect local governments, including Moscow
Mayors from various cities in Idaho gathered in Moscow Friday to hear an Association of Idaho Cities (AIC) report about various issues discussed during the 2015 state legislative session.
The bills and laws discussed ranged from how cities annexed land for expansion, regulations on Internet sales and the number of liquor licenses the state can issue per city.
One issue that caused significant deliberation was the City of Boise’s ability to regulate Uber, an app-based transportation network service.
When Uber came to Boise, the city wanted Uber drivers to be fingerprinted and have their cars inspected, the same way the taxis are, said Seth Grigg, executive director of AIC. Uber hired a lobbyist to prevent the city from having the authority to regulate fingerprints and other licensing.
According to Grigg, the lobbyist succeeded and the legislature passed a law denying municipalities from taxing or requiring a license for operation to any individual that is an Uber driver.
“This is not just an Idaho issue,” Grigg said. “There are about 16 other states where this law has been passed as well.”
There is a good possibility that Uber could come to Moscow, Griggs said. Under the law, Moscow would not have the authority to mandate its own background checks on the drivers or ensure the vehicles are safe the same way taxis are screened and licensed.
Another issue talked about at the Friday meeting was the number of liquor licenses an Idaho city is legally allowed to issue. Currently, every city is guaranteed two liquor licenses and the number increases based on city populations of more than 1,500.
A new law introduced during the legislative session would allow for an additional liquor license to be issued to an establishment with at least 4,000 square feet of meeting space in designated resort cities.
Although Moscow is not a resort city, Mayor Bill Lambert said he feels the state liquor laws should be updated in the future, since the bill was not passed before the session ended earlier this month.
“I think the liquor laws in the state are outdated,” Lambert said. “Perhaps it will be something that will be brought up again.”
Another issue brought up during the meeting was the way municipalities are allowed to generate revenue for local projects. One of the most common ways to do this is through a local option tax, which is when a city or county imposes a sales tax for a short time to pay for a particular project. The tax then disipates when the project is completed.
There were several bills that circulated in the legislature that would change how municipalities can tax for such projects.
“I think the local municipalities can make better decisions on local things,” Lambert said. “It seems like our legislature wants to control all of it, even at the local level.”
Graham Perednia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org