Friends, this is the stage of the legislature when crazy things happen (yes, more than normal)! Legislators are worn down, cranky, and legislation is coming in waves. The big decisions have been put off until now, namely Prop 2 final funding decisions, and the education funding formula. Plus, folks are gumming up the works with bills that make them feel good or are good grandstanding material for the folks at home.
Stay tuned, this will be a super busy week in Boise!
Old news, updated
Ed Schriever, the new Director of Fish and Game, ran me down in the hallway on Wednesday to tell me he thought the fishing decision by NOAA was going to be finished by the March 15 deadline after all.
You may remember the crisis that occurred as a result of the federal government not getting their analysis done so Salmon River and Clearwater River fishermen could fish for steelhead. We had public meetings and a lot of work with partners to change the decision for the short term. I saw it as one of the best collaborative efforts I have been a part of.
All this was in jeopardy when the federal government shut down over the wall funding debacle. Some of us thought this would be a good reason for NOAA not to complete the paperwork on time.
Regardless, the paperwork was completed and Idaho Fish and Game has reacted. With the agreement in hand, Idaho’s ongoing steelhead season will remain open and fishing is now allowed in previously closed river sections.
Proving people can work together to achieve important goals!
New offices, anyone?
Last week a proposal was made to move the Treasurer out of the Capitol and replace that office space with new offices for the House of Representatives. This doesn’t sound like too bad an idea, face value, until you consider the price tag…$10.5 million dollars!
Now, everyone likes new offices, but this is taxpayer money and that is hard to earn. Everyone calls themselves conservative, but for me conservative starts with the money. We have to distinguish between a want and a need. The fact is, the House has offices that they have used for years. Everyone elected to those seats knew the office situation and still ran.
Long story short, I voted NO in JFAC and was the only one to do so. I threw myself on the tracks for nothing, and got run over by the train! I predict the legislature will vote to spend the money.
Big wrestling match
The biggest hearings I have seen since being in the Legislature were held last week regarding SB 1159. At issue is how voter initiatives will be held. Voter initiatives are a way for Idahoans to pass laws when the Legisltaure fails to act on policy issues. This right is guaranteed in the Constitution.
There is a reaction to the fact that Prop 2 passed, in spite of the Legislature saying no for almost 6 years. And there is a concern Idaho will be like California that had 15 initiatives on their ballot last year.
- So, the proposal calls for changing the number of districts required from 18 to 32. This could be good for allowing more of Idaho’s rural voters have a voice in whether or not to have an initiative on the ballot.
- The proposal calls for a fiscal statement to be on the initiative. Certainly a good idea to know the cost of what we vote on, right?
- But then the proposal calls for, in addition to the above, raising the percentage of voters signatures needed from 6% to 10%, a 40% increase.
- And, it calls for this to be done in 180 days instead of 18 months.
So, the issue for us is to decide if we want the Legislature to become more powerful by making the people have a harder time to make laws on their own. This is a very interesting philosophical discussion, and an important decision.
Funding formula and Medicaid sideboards
I thought the funding formula would take final shape this week, but Friday night on the way home, I got a text. Now, I’m not so sure. This will be a big week for the formula, I have a personal visit with the Governor on Monday morning.
Medicaid sideboards discussions are on-going. There is not enough agreement in the House Committee to move the legislation. Who knows.
I always enjoy hearing from you. If you have specific interest on bills, please let me know and I will run them down for you. Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best,