In most of the committees we are just finishing up rules reviews. If we would stop passing so much legislation this process would be much shorter and we could get to business sooner. However, with every law passed the affected agency must write or change rules to comply with the new legislation. I guess this is the “business of government.”
We have had an interesting week in JFAC as it was Education Week. We have heard from all the Universities, Colleges and from Superintendent of Public Instruction on the K-12 outlooks. I have been amazed about some of the differences in the presentations as the President’s focus on the strong points of the institution. President Vailas did a remarkable job of projecting ISU into the future with emphasis on Community and the Students. Some of the programs and steps being instituted will insure the success of our University into the future. Contrast this with some of the others who seem to dismiss the concept of helping the struggling student, cooperating with high schools and generally are just focused on this year.
The K-12 issue is not clear as with the defeat of the Propositions a new budget was prepared in just 30 or so days. This budget will require quite a lot of review before it can be approved. It is interesting that a figure of $33M is being set aside for whatever the task force would deem necessary in 2014, even though this budget will be in effect on July 1, 2013. Also, even though the media and others are saying that the Superintendent is increasing the budget by 3% and the Governor’s recommendation is an increase of 2%, in all actuality, when the $33M is pulled out the budgets are even and 1% lower that the monies allocated last year – which were not nearly enough to insure a quality education for our children.
The other K-12 issue is the $30M or so that was designated for laptops which must be reallocated. There are some options such as do nothing and put it in rainy day type accounts for use later, reallocate it to the schools this year and, of course, just give it to the general fund. The mood in the Capitol is to give it to the schools for use this year. There are several ideas being discussed, but many of us are attempting to have as much as possible be given to our K-12 schools as discretionary funds. Many schools made difficult decisions and restructured according to the law prior to the defeat of the Propositions and now must adjust their budgets, so discretionary funds are necessary.
Now the good news --- on Thursday the legislation being proposed by Representative Donna Pence and I regarding a proposal to increase jobs in the agriculture area passed the print hearing unanimously. It will now be printed, given a bill number and we will present it again, hopefully as soon as next week. Last year we proposed a similar bill and while it passed the House was introduced to the Senate late in the session and was never heard. We are taking no chances this year and have presented the bill early. We have great support from both sides of the aisle and the prospects are good for passage. This bill could be impetus for the creation of many jobs.
There are some other ideas floating around but most have not gained too much traction yet for this session, but some of them are as follows:
- Ban cell phone use in vehicles for those under 18 years of age.
- Pay Day Loan restrictions (no more than 36% interest).
- Law to make it more difficult to put referendums on the ballot – this law would have made it almost impossible to have had the Propositions voted on by the people.
I thank each of you for allowing me the opportunity to be part of the Idaho Legislature. I take this responsibility seriously and enjoy hearing from the folks in Bannock County. Please contact me with any suggestions, ideas or even complaints via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (208) 332-1406.
Written by Representative Roy Lacey.