Friday, March 29, 2013

Week 12 at the Capitol

roylaceyYes, it has been 12 weeks and while all the estimates were that this week would be sine die (the end), a last minute disagreement over the K-12 budget and the inability of some to come to a consensus will result in this session lasting at least into next week. As you have been reading my perspective for the last 11 weeks I have a treat for you. My wife Renee has spent the entire week at the Capitol and has followed me around, sat through the sessions and I have asked her to relay her impression of what is occurring in the Senate chambers. I hope this gives you a new perspective.

AN ORDINARY DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN EXTRA-ORDINARY SENATOR
By Renee Lacey

After following my senator-husband Roy around the Idaho State Capitol Building for a week, I find that I've developed a whole new level of respect and admiration for our Idaho Lawmakers. Speaking from the perspective of an ordinary citizen, I wish to share some of my impressions of our 2013 Legislative Session:
    1. The days are excruciatingly long! In addition to morning and afternoon sessions on the "floor" debating numerous bills, our legislators' schedules are filled with committee meetings, work sessions, phone calls, reading e-mails, and addressing concerns of constituents, not to mention the various lunches and dinners throughout the week. My fitness-conscious husband also tries to squeeze in two trips to the gym every day. He drives home to Pocatello every Friday evening, and then returns to Boise on Sunday afternoons. (Now I finally "get it" when he sometimes falls asleep in Church!) His day begins with a 5 AM trip to the gym, 7 AM arrival at the Capitol Building, where he often doesn't leave until after 6:00 PM. A typical legislative session lasts anywhere from 12 to 14 weeks.
    2. The process of making new laws is very thorough. Each bill that finally makes the "cut" and goes to the "floor", must have three readings and must pass in both the House and the Senate before being signed into law by the governor. The meeting "rules of order" on the floor are strict and formal, allowing each bill to be discussed and vetted in a (mostly) civilized and fair manner. I really enjoyed sitting in on the sessions in the Senate. The testimonies on the different bills were generally sincere and well-presented.
    3. Our legislators, in spite of having to study and consider hundreds of bills during a typical session, display a remarkable clarity of mind in vetting each bill. I especially commend them for staying awake during the appropriations bills!
    4. The Capitol building is absolutely beautiful! What a great showcase for the state of Idaho! I continue to marvel at the elegant design and perfect architecture of every detail. Both the Senate and the House chambers have comfortable seats in the gallery above, where visitors can sit in on a session. (Roy tells me that the seats where the legislators sit are not quite as comfortable). Our Capitol building offers tours which provide a unique experience for a school field trip, an educational family outing or an out of state tourist.
    5. Testimonies in the Senate Chambers can be long. They can also be very passionate, especially when contentious issues are being debated. However, I noticed that most of the lawmakers get along with each other in other settings even though they may differ greatly in their opinions on the "floor".
    6. Every vote makes a difference! A disappointing example of this happened last Wednesday when the carefully crafted education budget appropriations bill was defeated in the Senate by one vote! Because it had already passed the House, the bill will need to be rewritten and go through the entire process again. As a result, our legislative session which should have ended March 29th will be prolonged for at least a week.
    7. Senator Roy feels like he has truly made a difference during this session. He tells me he has made friends on both sides of the "aisle", and has been quite successful at building a coalition of lawmakers who are willing to work together.
    8. This has been an overall positive experience for both Roy and me. I truly admire him for his efforts and sacrifice, and know that he always has the best interests of his constituents at heart. I have also benefited greatly as I have become better informed and more involved in the political process. One thing I have learned, however, that I now know for sure: I would never want to trade places with my husband! And --- I will be so happy to get him back home again!
Written by Representative Roy Lacey.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Week 11 at the Capitol

roylaceyBEING AN EFFECTIVE CITIZEN REQUIRES KNOWLEDGE

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel with the latest sine die estimate of March 29th, which is also Good Friday. I sincerely hope that these newsletters have enabled each of you to keep some sort of a sense of what is occurring at the Capitol by providing you "knowledge."

With sine die so close at hand, the business of the Senate has been brisk, with floor sessions in the morning and the afternoon (sometimes until after 7PM). Our days are long, but with a little sacrifice here, going home will seem even sweeter.

HEALTH CARE EXCHANGE

A new bill, HB248, was introduced this week and reached the Senate floor on Thursday. Thank goodness it was not quite the marathon we had on the last exchange vote, but still, we met for about 4 hours with very passionate debate, both for and against.  It is interesting to note that after hours of deliberation, the vote was identical to that given to SB1042, the original health care exchange proposal. This issue can now be put to rest as its last hurdle is the Governor's signature. He is in full support of this legislation.

PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX RELIEF

Since early last summer, business personal property tax repeal was often discussed, but we've seen a whirlwind of activity in these last two weeks.  First, the Idaho Association of Counties (IAC) brought a bill exempting the first $100,000 of property from taxation, and the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI) also brought a competing bill asking for total repeal. Soon after, IACI pulled their bill for re-write – this is what you do when the votes are not there – and the IAC introduced HB315, which further expanded their proposed exemptions a bit. Rules were suspended and as a result HB315 flew through the House and was approved quickly by the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee on Thursday. The bill will be heard next week by the Senate as a whole. There should be no trouble passing this legislation.

HOME ACT

This bill would provide tax credits and additional incentives for employers who hire veterans. The HOME Act is supported by the Governor, but will be held in the committee until personal property tax and other measures are voted on. Hopefully this bill will get out of committee this week and pushed to the top of the list for consideration on the Senate floor.

The above three bills are what I consider the "going home legislation" that we always hear about, however, there is a slew of other legislation to hear before the end of the session.  Here are a few of the topics we have left to consider:

  • Current requirements for initiatives and referendums
  • Concealed weapons and other gun legislation
  • Amended public school bills
  • The request for tax credits for private schools
  • Amended charter school bills
  • Budget appropriations (many of these)
  • Child protection
  • Emergency communications
  • And, many more…

MEDICAID EXPANSION

As part of the Affordable Care Act, states have the option to expand Medicaid. For Idaho, expansion was slow coming forward and will probably not progress further this year. It is my opinion that this legislation was waiting on the passage of the health insurance exchange. It is unfortunate that we will not address this critical decision, as it could mean as much as $365 million dollars to Idaho in the next 5 years. Couple this with the elimination of the CAT fund for indigent care, which would no longer be necessary, and you can add another $250 million or so. This money could be the impetus to lower local property taxes due to less pressure on counties, who currently struggle to pay for indigent medical care. In addition, the savings from the general fund could be used to assist our schools, both K-12, along with our colleges and universities. Maybe we can take this up again next year.

FEDERAL LANDS

A very controversial resolution to gain control of the federally managed public lands in Idaho is moving quickly through the House – greased on all sides. This legislation has passed the House just today, labeled as a sovereignty issue, and will now come to the Senate for consideration.  It might come through the Resource Committee, of which I am a member for review.

So, lots to be accomplished in a week, but with organization and skill, we can finish rather quickly with everyone wanting to end the session.

Thank each of you that have contacted me during the session to tell me your thoughts and ideas. And, thank you for allowing me to represent you in the Senate. Please contact me at: rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or 208-332-1406.

Written by Representative Roy Lacey.

Friday, March 15, 2013

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 16th, 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.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 2013 Political Soup

steveherzogPocatello — On Wednesday, March 13th, 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.

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

Our speaker will be Bannock County Prosecutor Steven Herzog. He will be speaking about the challenges he has faced since taking office. He will also give us an overview of his duties as a county prosecutor.

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.

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 2012 Political Soup

natemurphyOn Tuesday, March 13th, the Bannock County Democrats will be holding our March 2012 Political Soup lunch. We'll be serving up some yummy soup and bread between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm.

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

Our speaker is Pocatello/Chubbuck School District No. 25 school board member and House candidate Nate Murphy. He will speak about the impact that Students Come First is having on the school district and other school board issues.

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. We look forward to seeing you there! For more information about this event, please contact our organization at chairman@bannockdemocrats.org.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bannock Democrats Welcome Dave Finkelnburg

daveDave Finkelnburg was picked Wednesday to be the new chairman of the Bannock County Democratic Party. He takes over the post from Catalina Steckbauer. She resigned because, she said, "I want to devote more time and energy to the Idaho Democratic Hispanic Caucus."

Louis Archuleta was also a candidate for the county party chair. Both candidates told the county Democratic Central Committee they would continue to support and work with the other regardless of which one was elected.

“I want to continue the great work Catalina Steckbauer has been doing to help the Bannock County Democratic Party realize its potential,” said Finkelnburg after being elected chairman. “There is a wonderful core group of party volunteers who helped me last year and continue to work hard for all of Bannock County. The Party chair is not a one-person job. I’ll be asking even more Democrats to pitch in, to help spread our message, turn out voters and win elections.”

Finkelnburg is a professional engineer who grew up in Pocatello and Chubbuck. He served on the Portneuf District Library and Portneuf Valley Farmers' Market boards of directors and also on the ISU Engineering Advisory Council. He is a past president of the Portneuf Valley Audubon Society. He is currently on the Idaho Museum of Natural Historey advisory board and is a member of the Pocatello Rotary club, where he is chairman of the "Rotary Helps" project to assist needy individuals in the area.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Week 8 at the Capitol

roylaceyMaybe this is a lucky No. 8 as it has been a good week. Last Friday my son, Eric, and his daughter Genevieve came to visit from Washington, D. C., my wife, Renee (in case you didn't know), drove up on Saturday in the snow storm and we had a wonderful weekend. They all left on Monday and this left quite a void here in Boise. However, a friend, Marc Nye, came in for a couple of days and sort of followed me around to get a feel of the legislature. Suzie Matsuura also stopped in last Friday for a nice chat. It is always so nice to have Pocatello folks come in a visit.

As we approach March and have some deadlines in getting legislation introduced, some of the committee work begins to become less hectic and every now and again we can come up for air. However, I believe this session will be going past the end of March as we look at some big issues that are on the horizon.

HEALTH CARE EXCHANGE

After a debate lasting over 6 hours, the Health Care Exchange Bill (SB 1042) passed quite handily and was transmitted to the House for their review and vote. Generally the legislation that passes the Senate is sent to the House and is viewed in the original form. However, in this instance, it is my understanding that a new bill is being written which incorporates the House Freshmen trailer bill. This will delay the passage up to a month as it now must pass through the House and come back to the Senate to start the process over.

JOINT FINANCE AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

Even though this committee consumes more than half of my life, I have not written much about it. This is a very busy committee that meets every morning for about three hours – sometimes more. Right now we are starting at 7AM and will do so for about one more week. It is budget setting time and as we look at each agency request some very difficult decisions need to be made. The budget that is being allowed (3% increase) does not leave much room for any creativity. We are working very hard to finance our educational institutions – both K-12 and Higher Education. This week is the first time I have heard tempers flare but as we approve more budgets and the pot becomes smaller, I am sure we shall hear more. I do like my service on this committee as we, as members, do make a tremendous difference.

MARIJUANA BILLS

Every now and again – maybe more than that – legislation that makes no sense comes forward for us to consider. The recent "anti" marijuana bills were just that. A resolution or a memorial does not really become law, just makes a statement. One that was brought forward stated that marijuana would not be legal in Idaho – it is Federal Law that says marijuana is illegal, so all that was being said is that we would follow Federal Law. The other was more fun as it directed the Federal Government to enforce Federal Law in Washington and Colorado – this one failed which is fortunate as Idaho is also in violation of Federal Law in some instances. I titled this last one a "tat a tale" memorial. We need to be careful about what we ask.

EDUCATION

Not too much to say in this regard, except that these bills continue to be pulled from the vote for tweaking or changes. These bills were written in haste and with all the changes and adjustments cannot be good legislation. There is one bill that is moving and that provides for funding for charter school buildings. Unfortunately this comes in a tight budget time and the money would need to come out of the K-12 budget which is absolutely tight with no room to move. Those who run legislation sometimes don't think about where the money will be coming.

Written by Representative Roy Lacey.