My second week here in the Capitol was spent working on rules, connecting with the movers and shakers here and beginning the budgeting process. Here are some of the highlights.

Transportation rules 

As Vice Chair of Senate Transportation part of my duties are to streamline the process for existing rules, eliminate outdated ones, combine others and reorganize some to make them easier for all of us to understand.

I am proud to announce that this week we have completed the process and are waiting for one final rule to be reviewed.

So what did we eliminate?
16 chapters of rules
More than 6,000 words

Idaho’s prisons

The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) heard from the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) this week and their news was very disturbing.

Get this, roughly 75% of the people entering our prison system right now are repeat offenders. This is what is known as our recidivism rate and it saddens me to say that we are among the highest in the country. What does this say to me? Clearly we are doing something wrong.  What makes me the most upset is that we are spending the funds and seeing no return. Idaho has the 6th highest spending rate increase for prisons in the entire nation. In fact, since 1992 Idaho has increased its spending on prisons 50% faster than education, what a shame.

Personally, I think the breakdown of families and the drug problems in Idaho are serious contributors. But, the prison system has to be improved and now!

With Governor Little relatively new to his position and a new IDOC Director, Josh Tewalt, hopefully, they, with insistence from the legislature will get a handle on this major problem.

Payment in lieu of taxes

Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) money is a big deal to District 7 because of the huge acreage of Federal Land we have.

This money comes from the federal government to the counties to make up for the fact that this land is not taxed by the counties. Problem is, it is very undependable. County Commissioners don’t know if they will get the money at all, you know how it goes…they have to depend on federal whims. Plus, the money amounts to an average of $0.95 per acre!

I listened to a speaker at the Federalism Committee meeting last week, who could demonstrate through software he was peddling that the number should be closer to $118 per acre. Sounds great…right? But my questions is, how are we going to be able to get $118 per acre, when we can’t always get $0.95

Regardless, the conversation is moving and there are a few of us with some ideas. I will keep you posted on this for sure!

Idaho’s brightest stars

For the first time I attended Idaho’s Brightest Stars awards celebration and I am sure glad I did. I was there to celebrate the good work of four superb people from District 7, being recognized for their volunteerism.

In this position I get plenty of calls from folks wanting the government to do more. I resist the idea, suggesting we can do it ourselves better. The four people recognized are idea examples of what I am talking about.

Bob Stiffler, Orofino

  • Bob has a passion to end hunger in his community and in Idaho. He is the director of the Lifeline Food Bank in Orofino and has been involved with Lifeline for more than 11 years. He as also served as a representative on the Idaho Food Bank’s Partner Advisory Council for four years. Bob told me he feeds about 1/6 of the population there!

Jim Rehder, Cottonwood

  • John’s willingness to serve, donate time and share ideas provides both the encouragement to act and the physical assistance to do projects and complete activities that make his communities better. He has served on the St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation Board, Region II Mental Health Board and served as a basketball referee for almost 50 years. Jim was the State Winner for the 55+ Division!

Dawn-Marie Johnson, Kamiah

  • Dawn-Marie has been an active volunteer in the Kamiah and Kooskia areas for at least 20 years. She contributes her time to the Kamiah Chamber of Commerce, Upper Clearwater Community Foundation, Kooskia Vest Foundation and many more. Dawn-Marie won the Individual Division for the entire state!

Danielle Cochran, Cottonwood

  • Danielle began her active volunteer work with Girl scouts and 4-H. She became an EMT at age 16 and started the Drug and Alcohol Trends Education Program in Cottonwood in 2011!

Congratulations to these heroes in our communities! It was great to see them recognized and I am glad to have had the opportunity to visit with each honoree and their families!

In the news

I have a very open and good working relationship with the news media and I want to continue to grow my openness with reporters to ensure that the facts are being written and shared.

We have seen a great response from media outlets in our area and surrounding areas who want to talk to their state representative. The weekly tele-news conference, held each Friday, is the ideal opportunity for me to connect with all of you. Please email your questions to me and I will work to address them as they come in. If you aren’t seeing coverage in your local newspaper, on the radio, or television…encourage your favorite media outlet to join us each week.