Thursday, February 28, 2013

March 2013 Legislative Forum

carolyn meline

elainesmith

roylacey

District No. 29 Legislators Elaine Smith, Roy Lacey, and Carolyn Meline in conjunction with the Bannock County Democrats will be hosting a Legislative Forum to give Bannock County residents an update on what is happening in the Idaho Legislature.

The public meeting will be held at Pocatello City Hall, located at 911 N. 7th Ave. on March 2nd, at 10am.

They will discuss the ongoing 2013 Legislative Session and answer questions from the public. They look forward to meeting and talking with Bannock County residents.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Week 7 at the Legislature

elainesmithThis week is the start of the second half of the Legislative session because we have new pages in the House and the Senate. We started the week with the annual Memorial Service recognizing former legislators in the House of Representatives who have died this past year. Representative Carolyn Meline did an outstanding job presenting a tribute to Perry Swisher, who served in the 1950s and then again in the 1970s from Bannock County.

Below I have listed a few of the bills that have been debated or introduced in committees this week.

S1042—After 6 hours of debate, the Senate passed S1042 on a vote of 23-12, sending the bill that sets up a state run health care exchange over to the House. Multiple motions to send the bill back to committee or to the amending order failed and many had predicted it would last through the night. The bill faces a few more hurdles before it is debated on the floor and with twice as many members, debate may last a long time. It is expected to be sent to the House Health & Welfare Committee for a hearing. Also the trailer bill, HB 179, about a State Health Insurance Exchange on legislative oversight will be heard in this committee.

S1108—Democratic legislators held a press conference on Tuesday about S1108. This bill, brought by the Farm Bureau, would make it even harder to put an initiative or referendum on the ballot. The Idaho Democrat Legislators Caucus stands in opposition of this bill, especially after the resounding defeat of the “Luna Laws” in November. This awaits a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

S1089—This bill, introduced by the Idaho School Boards Association, would eliminate the early retirement incentive program for educators. The existing law was created as a way to save the state money by retiring more senior educators and replacing them with new educators. It also provides an alternative for female educators who take time away from their profession to raise families and then return to the classroom. It is on its third reading in the Senate.

H88—Known as the HOME Act, the bill passed the House on Monday with a vote of 62-7-1. This bill provides a tax credit to new businesses or businesses that have expanded for new employees, including veterans.

H159—The bill pertains to retail sale of liquor for a specialty non-transferable liquor license for the Nez Perce tribe convention center. It will be on the third reading this coming week when we vote on bills. The bill came from House State Affairs with a 9–7 vote, so it shall be interesting to listen to debate on that issue.

In House State Affairs at the beginning of next week, the committee will have 2 RS (pre-bills) presented for introduction and 2 bills about guns. House bill 192 is about a license to carry concealed weapons. It would require more training to obtain an enhanced concealed weapon permit which could be recognized by more states.

This week I met with five ISU social work students on their issues. Representative Meline and I met with 11 students from the Liberty Montessori High School from Rigby. I enjoyed visiting with them and hearing their comments, after they had spent three days at the Capitol. The Sho-Bans hosted a luncheon for legislators to better acquaint us with what is happening at Fort Hall. This coming week legislators will be meeting with Idaho PTA representatives and I know there will be PTA members from our area in attendance.

Please continue to contact me on issues of concern to you. The way to contact me is by e-mail at esmith@house.idaho.gov, toll free number is 1-800-626-0471, my office number is 208-332-1031 or my home number is 237-1462. Live streaming of meetings on the internet can be found at www.idahoptv.org/insession and current legislative information is located at www.legislature.idaho.gov. Thank you for the privilege of serving as your District 29 State Representative.

Written by Representative Elaine Smith.

February 2013 Central Committee Meeting

democrat-signOn Wednesday, February 27th, the Bannock County Democrats will be holding their scheduled monthly meeting of the Bannock County Democrats' Central Committee, beginning at 7:00 PM and ending shortly after 8:00 PM. Precinct Captains are reminded to attend, and all county Democrats are invited to attend and participate.

We will be electing a new chair at this meeting so please attend. We have two candidates for chair and their biographies can be found here. If you are unable to attend, please give your proxy vote to another Central Committee member. Proxy vote forms can be found here.

This event will be held at our headquarters, which are located at 355 Yellowstone Ave., across the street from Mama Inez restaurant. Entrances are at the front and back of the building, with parking in back.

Attend Central Committee to get updated with what is happening with the party and our plans for the future. We look forward to seeing you there! For more information about this event, please contact our organization via email at chairman@bannockdemocrats.org, find us on Facebook or call us at (208) 234-8908.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Week 7 at the Capitol

roylaceyIt seems like the weeks keep disappearing even though the days feel long. We have been in session for seven weeks, so hopefully we are on the downside which gets me closer to moving back to Pocatello.

This week the fun began with budget setting in JFAC. I mean this literally, as for the first six weeks we listened to presentations from many state agencies. They specified their wants and needs, along with answered questions on what they do and even sometimes why they exist. There were many in- depth questions asked, as these presentations and testimony many times influences budget decisions. Setting budget motions is an important exercise, and luckily the state has some wonderful analysts that know the history and provide great guidance. Three more weeks of budgets and then maybe things will start to slow down a bit.

As we review these budgets, some of which have very large amounts of money, it is disheartening to see that the Governor has zeroed most pay increases and with the only 3% increase in funding that we have to work with, it seems that the budgets will not have pay increases. However, we are exploring other avenues as our state employees are good people and unfortunately we have been losing some of the best to industry or other entities where the pay scales are better.

HEALTH CARE EXCHANGE

Thursday we endured a 6 ½ hour session – yes, 9:30am to 4:00pm, with the only bill discussed being the health care exchange. There was a lot of passion and the debate would have been very interesting if it had been a few hours shorter. The Pro-Tem was very patient in letting each of the senators speak their piece. I think 19 debated, even though much of the debate had very little to do with what the bill is about. The bill simply asks us to decide if we want a state-designed health insurance exchange (vote yes), or a federally controlled exchange (vote no). We heard testimony ranging from riding pigs with spurs, to kids in pools, to abortion. The Senate passed the bill with a 23-12 vote. This action was in line with my prediction after talking to fellow senators the last few weeks – so after 6 ½ hours of debate, no one really changed their mind. The exchange will benefit the poor and middle class most as it will help them navigate purchasing insurance.

PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX

This subject keeps raising its head on a weekly basis.  The Governor floated a draft this last week but has been getting a lot of push back by the cities, counties and others. His plan leaves some $50M for the local communities to add to their already high tax bills. Also, about $90M will be dedicated from the state general fund. This might work in good times, but when times get hard, like now, local community funding will be decreased, resulting in more money pushed back to the homeowner. I assume the sponsors of this idea will keep pushing until something gets introduced. This may be the session ending bill, which is scary as the legislators will be wanting to go home.

GIRL SCOUT COOKIES

While we are trying to give back $140M on the Personal Property Tax, the Girl Scouts have asked not to pay sales tax on their cookie sales – about $140,000.00 per year. This is on the back burner because "we can't afford it." Go figure!! By the way, the Girls Scouts did a good job lobbying here in the Capitol.

LISTENING SESSIONS

Two of our great House Democrats held a listening session for state employees this week. I was able to attend and was dismayed to hear the word "despair" so often as they talked about their job situation. Other words such as "lack of appreciation, tired, and looking for other work" were also heard often. We need to appreciate those who keep our state running, but as I mentioned earlier, our budgets do not include any incentive for pay – some even say with the wages being received that they are eligible for food stamps. This is sad.

Next Monday I understand that we may be hearing the anti-marijuana legislation, so I assume that we may have some more lively debate – but maybe not with the make-up of the Senate. I know that both measures will pass, even though one of them just tells the federal government to "do its job" in some other states. Neither has the force of law. It is interesting how sometimes the legislature rejects intrusion from the federal government and then in the next breath asks them to do something?????

With that, thank you for allowing me to be in Boise to represent you. Do not forget to SAVE THE DATE OF MARCH 2 AT 10AM AT CITY HALL FOR THE SECOND TOWN HALL MEETING OF THIS SESSION. COME TALK WITH US.

Written by Representative Roy Lacey.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

2013 Frank and Bethine Church Gala

Inaugural BallBoise, Idaho — The Frank and Bethine Church Gala on Saturday, February 23rd, honors the accomplishments of one of Idaho's greatest political families--the Family of U.S. Senator Frank Church. Matching the spirit of much of Church's political achievements, the Gala focuses on Idaho values of people, progress and prosperity.

The IDP is honored to welcome Denise Juneau, Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, as the Keynote Speaker of the 2013 Frank & Bethine Church Gala!

The Social Hour and Silent Auction starts at 5:30 pm at the Boise Centre in Boise, Idaho, Dinner and formal program at 7:00 pm.

The District 29 legislators have reserved two tables (20 seats) for this event. The cost for a seat will be $65.00. To reserve a seat or for detailed information, please e-mail Elaine Smith at the following e-mail address: erbsmith@aol.com or call her at 251-4313.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Week 6 at the Capitol

roylaceyThis has been a busy week with legislation coming like a snow storm on a windy day. One thing you can say about legislators is that they are tenacious. If a piece of legislation doesn’t work and they are passionate about it, you will see it again in another form.

SCHOOL BILLS

Last week on Thursday, all the bills regarding school legislation were pulled from committee as I can presume that the votes were not adequate for passage. Low and Behold, on Monday, the Senate Education Committee reintroduced the bills and sent them to printing without discussion and they are moving forward. The new bills are listed with a very brief description below:

  • SB1094 – one and two year contracts for teachers (ISBA)
  • SB1095 – IEA would need 50% + 1 members to negotiate for teachers (ISBA)
  • SB1096 – limits employee leave of absence and allows school boards to reduce teacher salaries (ISBA)
  • HB0164 – requires negotiations to be public and if an agreement is not ratified by a certain date the school district can impose contract terms(ISBA
  • HB165 – allows school districts flexibility to lay off teachers – hearing requirements would be waived (ISBA)
  • HB0163 – allows electronic delivery of teacher contracts. (ISBA)
  • SB1098 – calls for open teacher negotiations (by Idaho Education Assn)
  • SB1090 – lowers standards for declaring financial emergency and for reduction in force decisions (by Idaho Education Assn)

All of these bills are a part of Proposition One with the same or slightly altered language. I have not had the time to review each of these bills yet, but will be doing so early next week.

Good news is that the money set aside for the Student’s Come First is being given favorable consideration to be given to the individual school districts to help with their current budgets.

PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX:

The concept of the removal of the personal property tax has gone from loud to soft and then to loud as the prospect of damage to our local communities is so great. The news from the committees is mixed with one indicating that we might hear something this year and another saying the news is not good as far as seeing this legislation. Just yesterday, I understand that the Governor has “floated” a draft for the removal of Personal Property Tax and is getting comments from the counties and cities. I have heard that those who have received this draft are not happy with it as it does reduce the amount significantly that will be available for distribution and the only alternative would be to raise property taxes.Also, that the amount of money available through the State would come from general funds, which, in good times, might work, but if we have an economic downturn again, the taxing districts would be left without the necessary funding.

JOINT FINANCE AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

I have been fortunate to serve on this committee and today, after weeks of testimony from agencies and committees, the spending goal has been reached which is a 3% increase from last year. The revenue forecast from the Governor is 5.2%, but the 3% increase seems to be adequate for a maintenance budget. Starting next week this committee will begin setting budgets for each agency. I am working on Fish and Game, Parks and Recreation, Agriculture, Investment Board Endowment Fund, Hispanic Affairs, Attorney General, Commission on Aging, Higher Education and Corrections. I should be a busy boy for the next few weeks.

HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE

Senate Bill 1042 will be debated on the floor this next week. This will create the Idaho designed Health Insurance Exchange. There should be enough support to approve this piece of legislation in the Senate and presumably in the House.

Other legislation that is moving through is a plan to stagger the distribution of SNAP benefits (food stamps), gun control, appropriations, drivers license restrictions, mental health, etc. So far as we arrive at the half way mark the House has introduced 183 pieces of legislation and the Senate has introduced 113, plus memorials and resolutions.

I have made some very difficult decisions this last two weeks where my vote was the deciding vote to pass or reject some legislation. Just remember my pledge that I support Pocatello, Bannock County and the State of Idaho in that order. Thank you for letting me be your Senator, I take this matter seriously and encourage you to contact me through e-mail rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or call me at 208 332 1046. Thank you.

Written by Representative Roy Lacey.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fat Tuesday Political Soup

fattuesdayPocatello — On Tuesday, February 12th, the Bannock County Democrats will be holding a Political Soup luncheon. We'll be serving up some yummy soup and bread between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. We will be celebrating Fat Tuesday at our event.

This event will be held at our headquarters, located at 355 Yellowstone Ave., across the street from Mama Inez restaurant.

Political Soup is a great way to stay in touch with fellow Democrats in our area, as well as to pass around ideas and suggestions. Entrances are at the front and back of the building, with parking in back (please do not take parking spaces belonging to businesses along adjacent buildings). We look forward to seeing you there! For more information about this event, please contact our organization at chairman@bannockdemocrats.org or call (208) 234-8908.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Week 5 at the Legislature

elainesmithThe Education bills brought forth by the Idaho School Board Association have been withdrawn to be reworked. We will have to wait to see what the new version of their bills will be.

This week I attended the Higher Education presentation on research luncheon with presenters from Lewis Clark State College, University of Idaho, Idaho State University, and Boise State University. Naturally I was very proud of the ISU presentation by Dr. Eric Burgett, Associate Professor in the School of Nuclear Engineering.

For your information I voted no last week in House State Affairs on the rule to allow lottery kiosks being placed in bars. I thought this was an expansion of the lottery and targeted the people who have drinks at a bar. The rule was rejected due to my vote.

The Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer presented an overview to the House Business Committee on what the department does. Their goals are to protect and retain businesses, grow existing business, and attract new business. The emerging clusters of business in Idaho are in the following business areas: software, recreational tech, aerospace, bio tech, wine, and light manufacturing. Idaho exports nearly $6 billion annually with 56% of that amount in electronics and manufacturing, 33% in mining, 32% in food and agriculture, 10% wood and paper, 9% from transportation, etc. Half of the exports are going to Asian markets.

The LINE (Leadership in Nuclear Energy) Commission appointed by Governor Otter presented their report in a joint meeting of the House Environment, Energy & Technology Committee and Senate Resources and Environment Committee. The number one finding was that safety and environmental protection are non-negotiable. The federal government needs to decide where nuclear storage will be in the United States with a federal policy to be created. Idaho needs to be at the table for discussion because INL is the leading nuclear research facility. For the full report go to the Idaho Dept. of Commerce website.

I was the floor sponsor of House bill 8 brought forth by the Department of Finance. This bill amends the Idaho Credit Code to clarify that a a license is required to advertise or solicit to make consumer loans in Idaho. There has been a proliferation of unlicensed online payday lenders targeting Idahoans. The bill did pass the House chamber.

This week and last week we have seen people from Pocatello and Bannock County representing Greater Pocatello Chamber of Commerce members on their annual legislative tour, Family Residency, AFL-CIO, Community Bankers, Association of Cities, Idaho Health Care Association, County officials for their Association of Counties meetings, ISU staff, Farm Bureau, and Credit Unions. Congratulations to Roger Chase for his re-appointment to the Idaho Water Resource Board.

The way to contact me is by e-mail at esmith@house.idaho.gov, toll free number is 1-800-626-0471, my office number is 208-332-1031 or my home number is 237-1462. Live streaming of meetings on the internet can be found at www.idahoptv.org/insession and current legislative information is located at www.legislature.idaho.gov.

Written by Representative Elaine Smith.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

January 2013 Central Committee Meeting

democrat-signOn Wednesday, January 30th, the Bannock County Democrats will be holding their scheduled monthly meeting of the Bannock County Democrats' Central Committee, beginning at 7:00 PM and ending shortly after 8:00 PM. Precinct Captains are reminded to attend, and all county Democrats are invited to attend and participate.

This event will be held at our headquarters, which are located at 355 Yellowstone Ave., across the street from Mama Inez restaurant. Entrances are at the front and back of the building, with parking in back.

Attend Central Committee to get updated with what is happening with the party and our plans for the future. We look forward to seeing you there! For more information about this event, please contact our organization via email at chairman@bannockdemocrats.org, find us on Facebook or call us at (208) 234-8908.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Week 4 at the Capitol

Prop 1…Back Again

roylaceyThe honeymoon is quickly evaporating in the Senate. After experiencing the initial camaraderie in this body and hearing the Governor’s speech where he indicated he would not seek legislation regarding education, there was a collective sigh of relief – maybe there would be no arguments on education this year while we waited for his Education Task Force to make some recommendations. That was too optimistic, as the Idaho School Boards Association has brought back the provisions of Proposition One in seven – yes seven – pieces of legislation. Why would it take seven bills? Of course, this will discourage anyone getting signatures to secure a referendum.

A recent article summed up the issue nicely by stating, “now is the time for healing wounds and educating minds.” Speaking of wounds, the Office of Performance Evaluation’s recent study indicated that our teachers are exhibiting a “strong undercurrent of despair.” The seven proposed bills would limit teacher contracts, restrict bargaining, allow school boards to reduce teacher pay and inhibit the grievance process. Another article further reflects this by stating, “if we gauge the early actions of Idaho’s Legislature correctly, it seems the path to providing improved education in Idaho begins with a trail of teacher bones.” If we continue to approve top down, mandated changes that lack collaboration from all stakeholders, why is the Governor’s task force even meeting? A very good idea gone awry, I suppose. There is nothing in this legislation that addresses better education; it just further detracts from the value of the voice of voters and our teachers, which I might add are our most important assets as we look to Idaho’s future.

The Unclear Future of Personal Property Tax

Discussions are heating up on the personal property tax repeal. Some are pushing hard for a full repeal, claiming the tax is unfair and burdensome to businesses. Others advocate for the exemption of only the first $100K of business personal property. And others do not want any exemptions. The problem is that this tax, good or bad, affects many groups like cities, counties, schools, and taxing districts, who all depend on these funds for schools and other services. In a presentation yesterday, it was very clear that a full repeal of the personal property tax would not create adequate jobs to keep the tax base level, and may pose other problems, even with possible benefits like job creation.  In fact, it may not create any jobs in the near future, especially if our economy does not take a quick upturn. The very unfortunate fact is that there is no way to track or monitor whether jobs are created if the repeal happens. This issue deserves thoughtful consideration, with the impact on communities in mind. We could see some movement on it soon.

VOTE-ing Matters

On a more positive note, the Democratic Caucus introduced a Voting Opportunity and Trustworthy Elections package (VOTE) to address methods of easier access to voting for Idaho citizens. The following is a very brief explanation of this plan:

  • On Line Voter Registration – to modernize our election system to present day standards
  • Motor Voter Act – registration materials to be provided to all who receive driver’s license (18 and above)
  • Private Election Taxpayer Compensation Act – requires any party requesting a closed primary to pay the additional costs incurred by the State and Counties.
  • Early Voting Opportunity – requirements by county size as to number of early voting stations to be available.

These are new ideas and the implementation details would need to be worked out with the state and county authorities, but as it is everyone’s right to vote, we must make fulfilling this right more accessible.

Report shows State Workers undercompensated

Listening to the presentations of state agency leaders, a common concern is the loss of good employees in the private sector, who can more competitively pay those with advanced training and skills.   A report that was recently published illustrates that the State workers are paid, on average, 18.9% below the market rate.  Despite this, there are no pay raises scheduled for state employees in 2014.   The brain drain will continue.

YAY for Agriculture!

To end on an upbeat note, the legislation presented by Representative Donna Pence and myself is moving through the system quite nicely. Hopefully, it will continue to advance toward the House floor early next week. Assigned the number HB51, our bill is designed to promote job creation in the agriculture industry in Idaho. The most important aspect of this legislation is that it can be tracked by the Department of Commerce to determine if it is accomplishing what is expected. Big smiles for now.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve you and I sincerely hope that I live up to your expectations.  Please contact me at rlacey@senate.idaho.gov if you have any questions or ideas on how our state can be made a better place.