In committee, when the vote is going to be close, we pass notes, make eye contact and try in any way we can to nail down any votes we may not have assured before committee started. Besides, after the testimony before a committee, you HOPE that legislators are listening and may be swayed one way or another by what the public has to say, if not by your brilliant debate or that of your even more brilliant colleagues.
On votes past I've flashed a thumbs up and a shrug to Lenore Barrett; passed notes to Leon Smith or Mike Moyle; whispered to my democratic neighbors and counted debate, body language and anything I've got to work with to figure out if we have the votes for a motion or who should make the motion or even in which order the motions should be made.
In Rev & Tax Committee this morning we had a royal break down of communication over strategies to kill what I think is a really bad bill. This bill touted itself as a growth pays for itself bill but really allowed real estate developers to place a hidden tax on homes in order to pay for roads, highway improvements, overpasses, sewer line extensions, fire houses and other city or county infrastructure that the subdivision developer might normally pay for through an impact fee. If local governments charge developers an impact fee to try to keep the cost of this new growth from shifting to existing homeowner's property taxes, that impact fee would be included in the price of the home, easy for a home buyer to see. The bill we passed out of Rev & Tax today allowed the developer instead to hide the cost of all that city and county infrastructure in a special tax that would let the developer place a lien on the house and add more payments onto the other property taxes a homebuyer would have to pay each year.
It is a really complex bill, full of technical issues which I'm sure we will be litigating for a decade if it passes this year. Rp Moyle and I have successfully seen it killed three years in a row now and I hope this year to be another year we protect Idaho homebuyers from this sort of developer slight of hand. Honestly anything that requires a consumer disclosure notice right in the bill is probably less than wholesome for homebuyers. Most people are not going to dream they need to look for these hidden taxes when they buy a home in a subdivision outside town.
So what happened today? Well, we had a substitute motion (a second motion made by a committee member) to send the bill to the amending order and an "original motion" (the first motion) to "send the bill to the floor with a do pass recommendation." The motion to send the bill to the floor is the most common motion made in any committee in the statehouse. Very normal. Sending the bill to "general orders" or the amending order is less common. It usually means the bill needs a change of some kind and the whole 70 of us Representatives on the floor of the house will debate that change and vote on it.
This bll sure needed changes. Unfortunately the amendment Rep. Jaquet proposed was pretty minor. It did partially address the sprawling leap frog development the bill would encourage but didn't fix issues with 1) out of state developers voting to form or amend the district and raise the taxes, 2) issues with the bonding and debt or 3) issues with the disclosure notice not stating in big letters the words "special tax" or "lien" to warn homeowners in plain language about the house they were about to buy.
So I messed up. I passed a note to Phil Hart whom I'd spoken with that morning about killing the bill. He tells me right as we enter committee that he's voting for the amendment but doesn't say why. I pass a note saying I think we can kill the amendment and the bill -- hoping he won't abandon me. He shrugs and smiles at me across the room. I take that to mean, OK try your strategy. Now mind you neither Wendy nor Mike Moyle has said anything to me about any stratgy around amendments. Wendy makes her substitute motion to amend the bill and debate flies. I debate against both the motion to send the bill to the floor and the one to amend it. We vote and by two votes the motion to amend fails. Next the motion to send the bill to the floor is voted on as Rep. JoAn Wood, who I was counting on to be a no, comes into committee late and pauses before she votes, visibly undecided before finally voting...... yes. The bill passes, headed to the floor where in afew days the House will decide whether to pass it on to the Senate.
Because I had encouraged Rep. Bill Killen who sits next to me (and is great on local government issues because he is a former Mayor and City Council member as well as an attorney) because I convinced him to vote no with me against both motions, the bill passed. No one had bothered to tell us about any strategy around amending the bill.
Looking around the room I figured it was one of those days when word had come down from somewhere high in the Republican hierarchy saying this bill must pass and if ammended, we've gotten you to agree to vote yes... and so Rep. Moyle and Rep. Hart had caved in and voted to amend the bill. I should have more faith but I don't. That stuff happens all the time. Rep. Jaquet had been seeming like she was with Rep. Ructi who was supporting the bill and she never leaned a few inches my way to explain the plan....
All along, while I battled to get votes NOT to send the bill to the amending order I guess that Rep. Moyle was hoping to send the bill to the amending order to kill it by attaching many, many amendments until it went down under its own weight in a sea of hot, confused debate. I believe Rep. Jaquet was part of the plan. Maybe not. I know Phil Hart was but he never sent back a note say "NO! Vote yes on the amendment! We will kill the bill on the amending order!"
Note to my colleagues in diverse bipartisan coalitions designed to kill bills we agree are bad: If there is a plan, share it!