Bill Description: Senate Bill 1031 updates the state's policy for expenses incurred related to emergencies.
Analyst Note: Senate Bill 1031 is one of several pieces of legislation introduced during the 2021 session to change how emergency situations are handled and to shift power from the executive branch to the legislative branch during such times.
Does it increase government spending (for objectionable purposes) or debt? Conversely, does it decrease government spending or debt?
Senate Bill 1031 amends Section 46-1005A, Idaho Code, to modify the conditions under which the state will "pay obligations and expenses incurred by the state of Idaho" as a result of an emergency.
Existing code says the state will pay expenses incurred "during a declared state of disaster emergency," but Senate Bill 1031 changes the language to apply to expenses "arising out of a declared state of disaster emergency."
This change attempts to tie the obligations and expenses incurred by the state of Idaho more directly to a declared emergency. Rather than broadly defining these expenses as those that occur during the period of emergency, the new language requires that they arise specifically out of that emergency.
There are both positive and negative elements to this change. It is good to move away from a broad definition that allows expenses unrelated to a declared emergency to be included in the list of what can be paid merely because they were incurred during the emergency.
It is potentially problematic, however, that government expenses arising long after an emergency ends could still be construed to have arisen out of that emergency. Such a classification allows those expenses to be paid from certain dedicated funds.
A better definition would incorporate both the requirement that the expenses arise out of the emergency and that they do so only during a declared state of disaster emergency. Such a definition would do more to restrict the expanded spending authority of the state.
Senate Bill 1031 amends Section 46-1005A, Idaho Code, to provide an exception to the existing requirement that "In no event may the revenues made available ... for any and all emergency purposes exceed, during any fiscal year, one percent (1%) of the annual appropriation of general account fund moneys for that fiscal year." The newly added exception allows that "the legislature, by concurrent resolution, approves an exceedance, and the governor must abide by the terms of such concurrent resolution." Allowing government to exceed this cap allows for unconstrained expansions in spending.