This may be the last week of the Legislature for 2019…Yeah! Who knows for sure, but with any luck, the major things keeping the Legislature in Boise will be voted on – win, lose or draw! Those issues include the “federalism” bill, HB169, Medicaid sideboards, and a repatriation tax relief bill.
I am strictly speculating but hopeful that the session can conclude without much more damage being done!
Transportation funding competition
This week, the Senate voted on two bills changing the source of transportation funding in Idaho. Traditionally, almost all funding for roads and bridges in Idaho comes from fuel taxes and registration fees. These are called dedicated funds. As these funds have come shorter and shorter at funding the failing transportation system in our state, legislators have tried to find solutions. As I have covered in other newsletters, trucks are more efficient at hauling more pounds with less fuel, and cars become more and more efficient for each mile driven. But we continue to depend on fuel to be the primary source of funding for roads. So, we have less money per mile or per ton to spend on road repair and maintenance.
That said, we have moved some general fund money into transportation funding. The thinking is that everyone benefits from transportation, not just those driving. One bill to do this passed, and one failed. The one that passed will fund about one interchange on a freeway, or about $15 million.
Legislators like power
Legislators gave themselves more power this week and took some from the voters. The Senate passed a bill adding four restrictions to the passage of citizen initiatives. The Idaho Constitution provides for citizen initiatives as part of the checks and balances of government. The founding fathers thought that if the legislature doesn’t listen to the electorate, then there should be a way to go around the legislature and the governor. So, they described the initiative process.
However, the legislature gets to decide how the process works. Out of fear of what is happening around us, not necessarily what has happened in Idaho, the Senate voted by one vote to add the new restrictions to the process to further encumber the initiative process.
Personally, I don’t like initiatives. They are always complicated and hard to understand. But, they are part of our Constitutional Republic, as a check and balance on government. I liked some of the ideas if passed, but added together, they seemed punitive. We will see what the House and the Governor do on this.
Last-ditch effort on school funding formula
I think I announced the end of the funding formula for education last week. However, a small group of us will attempt to salvage something besides a blank sheet of paper out of this year’s work. The idea is to simply agree on some definitions that can help with student counts for next year. This should generate better numbers from which to build next year’s model.
We will see if even that is possible!
We will decide this week what to do about the Medicaid expansion debacle. There will be two bills competing for a solution as to whether to add requirements of work as a qualifier for benefits. Sounds like a good idea but, like a lot of these things, the devil is in the details.
To make this work idea happen, it will take more money…up to $3 million. Then, if the people still won’t work to qualify, they get the last laugh. They can simply go to the emergency room, like they do now, and get services. And all of that after we’ve spent the money on putting together work requirements.
It’s what they call a lose-lose proposition!
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,