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Senators approve ‘big’ hikes in birth and death certificate costs

Senators approve ‘big’ hikes in birth and death certificate costs

Dustin Hurst
January 27, 2015
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January 27, 2015

Idaho families bringing a life into this world or mourning the loss of a loved one will soon have to pay more for vital state records that accompany those events.

Last week, members of the Idaho Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved significant increases to the cost of birth and death certificates, along with higher prices for other services the state offers.

In all, the state will ask Idahoans collectively to pay $345,000 more each year for services rendered by the Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics.

State Sen. Sheryll Nuxoll, R-Grangeville, and Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, opposed the fee hikes.

Nuxoll opposed the rate hikes because of the size of increases. “I didn’t like the big jumps they were making,” the second-term senator said. “I was not really crazy about that.”

The rates of increase are considerable, even if the dollar amounts are not. The cost of a birth or death certificate under the plan jumps from $13 to $16, a 23 percent hike. The agency also doubled the cost of expedited records processing and added fees for electronic record certification.

Hagedorn opposed the increases because he felt bureau officials didn’t sufficiently justify their need for the money during the committee hearing, held on Jan. 21.

“They had no justification for needing $100,000 more than their budget,” the Meridian senator said.

The bureau will use $235,000 of the new funds to cover an operating deficit, Tom Shanahan, the Department of Health and Welfare’s spokesman confirmed. The other $110,000, he and bureau officials explained, will cover unspecified projects.

“Future needs are required for regular database system updates/upgrades to maintain compliance with security and other technical requirements to interface with national systems, as well [as] comply with state law,” Shanahan said, passing along the explanation from the bureau.

The bureau, officials pointed out, takes no state general dollars. Instead, it operates solely using federal funds and the dollars generated by its services.

Hagedorn also blasted the rule because he felt agency officials didn’t comply with state requirements for designing the rule.

“There was no public input,” Hagedorn said.

Idaho code mandates state agencies open most rule changes to public comment and inspection, referred to as negotiated rulemaking. State law provides exemptions from that for rulemaking agencies deem too complex.

The bureau, though, argued just the opposite in its justification for not holding public hearings.

“Negotiated rulemaking was not conducted,” the bureau wrote in its proposal. “Negotiated rulemaking was deemed not feasible as this rule change is simple in nature.”

The House will take up the changes in coming days.

Note: The original story said the bureau hiked certificate fees from $13 to $20. The change was actually from $13 to $16. That is reflected in the story. IdahoReporter.com regrets the error. 

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