I have just completed the 2019 session representing you, my neighbors in District 7, in the Idaho State Senate. I have served you on the Education Committee, the Transportation Committee (vice chairman), and the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (JFAC) – the committee that recommends Idaho’s state budget. I have also been elected to the Legislative Council by my Republican colleagues in the Senate. I have been asked to serve on the new Federalism Committee dealing with federal/state land issues, and I have been asked to serve on the Governor’s Broadband Committee. These assignments give the voices of you, my constituents, an expanded power to have your voice heard. Here is a partial recap of the legislature from my perspective. My past weekly newsletters are available at www.crabtree4senate.com, if you would like more detail. If you have additional questions, it would be my privilege to respond to you. Send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year, I served as vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. One of the first things we did that matters to you, is the condensing of 22 trucking permits, required by the Idaho Transportation Department, into just eight. This helped comply with Governor Little’s mandate that for every rule we make, we get rid of two! I think that is a great idea for government.
Other work done in this committee was to move funding of the Idaho State Police to the General Fund, leaving $17 million for road repair and maintenance in the transportation budget.
The money local cities, counties, and road districts have been receiving through LTAC grants was moved to the first bill for next year’s session. You will not be forgotten, but this legislation became a political football at the end of session this year.
Education is a constitutionally-mandated legislative responsibility; education costs are a big deal. Over 60 percent of the state’s budget is spent on education; more than $2 billion.
The big issue in education this year was an attempt to change the school funding formula for how districts receive state money. For the last 25 years it has been based on ADA or average daily attendance. The new idea is to fund based on student enrollment that should help better depict actual expenses. You’d think that wasn’t a big deal, but it is hard to change education systems. They are entrenched. In the end, several of us generated a bill that would define student categories – gifted, special needs, etc. – and report the number of students in each category. This way, next year, we will have solid numbers to work with when devising a new approach to funding Idaho’s schools.
In other education news, the problem with new teacher retention was addressed by adding a bit more to starting pay to teacher salaries.
Medicaid expansion for the so-called “gap population” was passed into law by Idaho voters last year. The 2019 Idaho Legislature was tasked with what to do about that. Past legislatures were not supportive of this idea, and in my opinion, this one was not any more enthusiastic. Nevertheless, they went to work to come up with solutions to funding and implementing this new law.
It was funded with an additional “sideboards” bill that included a work requirement of 20 hours a week for those in the gap to become eligible to receive Medicaid. Everybody agreed people ought to be working, but when legislators found it cost more than it paid, some legislators got nervous. In the end, it was agreed to spend almost $3 million to implement the work requirement for Medicaid recipients.
The final part of this Medicaid sideboard discussion is that it requires the federal government to allow waivers from existing federal requirements to implement. There is a better than even chance that will not happen.
It has been a real privilege to represent you in the Senate of the Idaho Legislature for the last three sessions. I have tried to represent your views, and I look forward to providing you an effective voice of common-sense decision making for you in the future.
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 email@example.com.
All the best,