- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho House has approved a revised tax conformity bill after spiking a prior version because it would have removed an unenforceable rule banning joint returns from same-sex couples.

Lawmakers voted 54-16 on Friday on a new bill that doesn’t remove any existing law, but adds a new section that state same-sex marriage must be recognized under Idaho’s Income Tax Act.

Idaho lawmakers approve legislation at the beginning of each session that aligns the state’s tax code with changes to federal tax code. This year’s original version sought to remove a requirement for same-sex couples to file separate state tax returns - a provision added in 2014. That requirement is now void because the U.S. Supreme Court rules last year that states can’t enforce gay marriage bans.

“The Idaho Constitution itself recognizes the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land,” said Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, who sponsored the bill on the House floor.

Lawmakers usually prefer to sync the state’s tax code with the federal version to make it easier for residents and businesses to do their taxes or avoid having to keep separate accounting books to track the different rules.

However, the typically quiet bill received outcries from gay marriage opponents when it was first passed in committee. Idaho lawmakers are currently working in an election year, where many of the most contentious races are faced in the May primary. This means lawmakers tend to be sensitive on voting on issues that could result in lost votes.

“I’m a pro-business, pro-people leader in Idaho,” said House Minority Assistant Leader Mat Erpelding of Boise. “What has happened here is we have pitted the desperate needs of businesses and Idahoans against discriminatory, hateful language in our statutes. Our caucus will not stand in the way of ensuring that Idahoans have the opportunity to receive their tax refunds in a timely manner.”

The House Democrats ended up splitting their vote in half as a way to show they supported conforming to new federal tax changes, but opposed the same-sex marriage revision, Erpelding said.

The bill must still pass the Senate and receive the governor’s approval before it can become law.

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