The first three weeks of the 2016 legislative session are in the books. As usual, it is a very busy time. Week one began with the Legislative Session being officially opened and the Governor delivering his State of the State address to a joint session of the Idaho Legislature. The Governor was bold in his spending plans for 2016 and 2017. His main focus was on further increasing education (up 7.4% in 2016) with another 7.9% increase for 2017. Make no mistake; education will be well-funded this year.
While revenues are $125 million above projections in 2016 and $156 million higher in 2017, the Governor sees no need to reduce or rebate any of the excess tax revenues received. That was disappointing, but the legislature will work on making Idaho’s tax burden more competitive with surrounding states nonetheless. (Idaho ranks #19 in ease of tax burden, while all six surrounding states are in the top 10 – The Tax Foundation).
The first two weeks of Committee work (and still ongoing in some committees) involves reviewing the government agency rules that were developed over the last year. Environment (Department of Environmental Quality, DEQ) delivered hundreds of pages to the committee to review. It is sometimes overwhelming and frustrating to see how much control that Idaho has ceded to the federal government through EPA regulations that get incorporated into Idaho rules.
So far, over 100 bills have been introduced into committees, but less than 20 have been voted on by the full House; action is picking up though. Most new rules and regulations have been approved or rejected in committees already, and await a final House and Senate floor vote.
Nearly all legislative activities that occur in the State Capitol can be viewed live or listened to later. Here is the link to connect with what is going on: http://legislature.idaho.gov/index.htm
Please familiarize yourself with this site. It is full of information and contains archived meetings and sessions. Monitoring the site and the meetings is a very effective way of holding your elected legislators accountable for each of their votes.
A few highlights of the last three weeks include the following:
The Governor spoke on the first day of Session addressing his legislative plan for the session. You can view the Governor’s State of the State and Budget message at: http://dfm.idaho.gov/fy2017/gov2017speech.pdf
Here are descriptions of some bills I have introduced this session:
- HJR 1 – A resolution to amend the Idaho Constitution to protect education assistance to Idaho students. Specifically it makes it so scholarship and grants to students who may wish to use them at any school, including church-affiliated schools, are permissible and constitutional.
- H422 and H423 – Along with Rep. Scott (District 1), these two bills to address a confusion in Idaho law concerning the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit. The bills would make it so Idahoans could carry concealed weapons without a permit anywhere in Idaho that is not prohibited by state or federal law (like schools, etc.).
- H420 – A bill to repeal the state’s requirement that all Idaho school districts must administer the SBAC (Common Core) test to their students. It leaves the option open, however, if districts choose the SBAC themselves. Also, students would not be required to take the SBAC for graduation.
- H421 – A bill to repeal the State Health Insurance Exchange. The state health insurance exchange has been an expensive and frustrating endeavor. It has cost over $70 million to set up, it binds Idaho to all the federal rules, leaving no room for Idaho solutions. And, it has lead to a virtual monopoly in health insurance “choices” for Idaho citizens—only a few insurance companies have been permitted space on the exchange. All the while, Idahoans’ health insurance premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed.
Here are some other bills I am working on:
- A bill requiring abortion providers to give information to women about where and how they can get a free ultrasound prior to an abortion.
- A bill to ban “dismemberment abortions.” These abortions are horrific, late-term abortions that Planned Parenthood and other providers conduct—sometimes for the purpose of harvesting the unborn baby’s organs.
- A bill to restrict and limit the dollar value of gifts given to legislators by lobbyists and other special interest groups.
Protecting Idahoan’s freedoms and liberties are my core responsibilities and I am not afraid to be a lone voice for these important values whenever necessary. Fortunately, there are many others in the Idaho legislature who share my views. As you probably know, citizen input is very important and influential. When you and others contact legislators, they have the power to get things done in Boise. I am honored to work with you and to represent you and your interests as we work through the 2016 legislative session.