Excitement in the Air

This was a week of excitement and anticipation of better days ahead for Idaho politics. An inauguration of the first governor in twelve years was held in our Capitol. Thousands of people descended on Boise to be part of the festivities.
Of course, it was the first time Carolyn and I had seen an inauguration, let alone be a part of one! It struck me as a much bigger deal than I thought it would be.

As for the new governor, everybody has their own take. I have a couple of observations. First, Governor Little has a much smaller ego than his four predecessors.  I see that as a good thing. Second, nobody gets in the sheep business to impress others socially!
I believe Governor Little is well prepared for this job and has his feet on the ground. A Scotchman who is a sheep herder should be expected to be a pretty steady hand for a land-based state like Idaho.

We’ll see.

Fish On!

One of the significant things I’ve been involved with recently is the steelhead fishing controversy in the Clearwater and Salmon Rivers. A group of environmental organizations threated to sue the state if fishing continued on these rivers. At the heart of this issue was the fact that the federal government had not issued a permit to fish, even though they had the application in their hands for over a decade.

Meetings were held, and the usual grandstanding was done, but at the end of the day we were able to broker a deal that rescinded the threat of suits for fishing, allowed fishing for the business people in the Riggins and Orofino areas.
I think this was an excellent example how people’s voices can be heard when there is a reasonable, steady handed effort.
Congratulations, Riggins!!

P.S.  Current news on this topic is that the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government has idled permit writers who are expected to complete Idaho’s steelhead fishery permit. So now the agreement that sunsets on March 15 is in jeopardy.
More to come.

Yes, he is. No, he isn’t. Yes, he is.

The story of my committee assignments this year has been a little hard to keep up with.

First, I will serve you again on the Finance Committee or JFAC, as many of you know it. This is the chance for us to have an important voice in how the money is spent. This committee does not spend the money as some have alleged, but this committee does recommend spending to the House, Senate, and Governor for their approval.

We have already reduced the amount of money Governor Little’s people recommended for income by $93,000,000. So we will be spending much less than they recommended.

Second, I will be Vice Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.  This is my first opportunity at Senate leadership, and I don’t take it lightly. This assignment will give our voice in transportation issues a lot more punch. One of my first efforts will be to reduce $12,500,000 from the transportation budget that is scheduled for a land development effort.

Third, and here’s where it got strange! I asked to serve on the Senate Education Committee. I was bounced off that due to seniority (or lack thereof). Instead I was assigned to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee by leadership. That is something I really do not feel qualified to legislate, but I was going to be a good soldier. Then, Cliff Bayer resigned to be Congressman Fulcher’s Chief of Staff. So, I was allowed to bounce a Senator with less seniority off Education. Long story short…I am on still on the Senate Education Committee!

*Pictured with Maury Lee, President of the Idaho Cable Broadband Assocication.

Broadband for Rural Idaho

Many of you know I have been working on improving broadband internet coverage to rural Idaho, particularly north central Idaho.  It is my belief that without coverage similar to urban Idaho, businesses will continue to migrate away from our rural areas, leaving them without the good-paying jobs that bring young families.

I was asked to speak to the Idaho Cable Broadband Association at their annual meeting last week. I expressed the need to develop a business plan to include rural Idaho. I suggested the approach UPS used as well as the Rural Electrification Associations. Both now serve areas that were not necessarily big money markets but are part of their successful business plans.

It was a great opportunity to identify our problems to business people who can really do something about it.

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 ccrabtree@senate.idaho.gov.

All the best,