Issue Updates from the 2016 Session
The legislature began on January 11, 2016. The strengthening economy allowed the Legislature to address areas of vital interest to Idahoans such as the state’s public education system. Public schools received its second consecutive 7.4% increase in funding. The K-12 budget was increased by 7.4% and higher education received an increase of 8.0%. Increases were also made at 8.7% to Community Colleges and 10.4% for Career Technical Education. The FY 2017 budget also gives $2,000,000 for grants, scholarships, and programs, and $2,000,000 for startup initiatives that promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Even though I support improving our education system in Idaho, including increased funding, it is my opinion we must make sure all increases in funding are well-spent.
S 1389 in the 2016 Legislative session allows persons, who are not otherwise disqualified, to carry concealed weapons with a license. You can see the details of what this legislation provides by going to the legislative website. As a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment, I supported this bill.
Daylight Savings Time
This has been an issue presented to me by residents of District 21 for a number of years. Over the past few years, there have been bills introduced to adjust daylight savings time in Idaho. None of these bills have passed the House of Representatives. Because there are two time zones in Idaho it presents a unique problem for Idaho to address properly. I support continuing the work to find a way to address this issue.
Again this year the legislature made an attempt to address the health-care in Idaho. Two bills passed the House. HCR 63 would have approved a process for potentially developing a waiver with the federal government to address the needs of between 30,000 and 78,000 Idahoans. H644a would have started to provide access to health care for these individuals through community health clinics throughout the state. H 650 would have provided the initial two years of funding for the program.
HCR 63 was not approved by the Senate. H 644a was amended in the Senate in such a way to make it unacceptable to the House and thus H644a failed to pass the House on the last day of the session. H 650 passed the House and Senate but was vetoed by the Governor because the bill providing the authority to spend the money for H644a that failed to pass the House. I supported these three proposals. I also support the Speaker of the House in his commitment to organize a working group to bring a proposal to the legislature in 2017 that will address this issue.
Currently the Idaho Legislature is one of only a few states with statutory authority to review, approve and reject proposed rules of state agencies. Thus, at the beginning of each legislative session, the Legislature takes up the review of all pending, pending fee and temporary rules that have been promulgated by state agencies. The Legislature can prevent pending rules from going into effect, as well as prevent final rules from remaining in effect, by rejecting them. Pending fee rules go into effect only if the Legislature approves them. Temporary rules expire at the end of the Legislature.
- During the 2016 legislative session, the Senate and the House of Representative were each asked to review 174 individual rules. This figure is down from 194 reviewed during 2015 and up slightly from 173 reviewed during 2014.
- Nine of the 153 pending rules reviewed this year were rejected entirely or in part such as rules governing Alcohol Beverage Control, Idaho Public Utilities Commission, Department of Fish and Game and State Board of Education.
- All three temporary rules were approved and extended.
- Two of seventeen pending fee rules were rejected.
- Parts of a final Idaho Public Utilities Commission rule were rejected.
- The Legislature approved a proposal (HJR 5) for an amendment to the Idaho Constitution that would elevate this statutory rule review authority to a constitutional standing.
Agency rules have the full force and effect of law. The legislature takes the responsibility of reviewing rules very seriously because agency rules must directly reflect the legislative intent of Idaho law. I believe this authority is important to be maintained. I voted for this proposed amendment to the Idaho State Constitution and believe it is important that the citizens of Idaho ratify this amendment in the November 2016 election.
The issue of how the public lands will be owned and maintained continues to be an issue for discussion in the legislature. HCR 8 in 2015 authorized a Natural Resources Interim Committee. I support the continual review to find a better way to manage the public lands in Idaho.
There has been an ongoing review of the Idaho Criminal Justice system for a number of years. The legislature has addressed some of the issues each year for the past few years. This year one bill, H 504, authorizes the Public Defense Commission to promulgate rules for indigent defense standards; requires compliance with indigent defense standards; provides grant money to counties to assist in providing public defense; provides procedures for noncompliance with indigent defense standards; and revises reporting requirements for defending attorneys. I supported this bill and, as the vice chair of the Judiciary and Rules Committee, support continuing the search for ways to improve the criminal justice system in Idaho.
H 556aaA Enhances the role of the courts in the decision-making process regarding adoption choices and placement of foster children, and outlines circumstances by which foster children can be moved from one foster home to another. HCR 48 authorizes the creation of an interim committee to undertake a complete study of the foster care system in Idaho. I supported both of these bills and also support improvement of the foster care system in Idaho.