Friday, January 31, 2014

2014: Week 4 at the Capitol

roylacey
We are already four weeks into the session which means we may only have 12-14 weeks left and the Capitol has started to hum as legislation, appropriations and supplements are moving through committees at a record speed.

This was a special week as several people from Pocatello came to Boise. I had visits from a few members of the Pocatello-Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce, City of Pocatello and City of Chubbuck.   What made the week the most special was a visit from Shiloh Blackburn from Pocatello who shared her thoughts on help for those with Developmental Disabilities.   She is confined to a wheel chair.  Her comments and requests were from the heart.

A spectacular announcement that affects most of Idaho came from the Superintendent of Education’s announcement that he would not be running for a third term.   While this was not totally unexpected, the timing was such that it caught many by surprise.   When you couple this with the resignation of the Deputy Director of Education (who was brought in to fix Schoolnet), the exodus seems to be deep and severe.  Due to these departures in leadership, several people have announced that they wish to run for these offices and others on the sidelines are giving the impression that they will jump into the race.

Some good news I read this week is that Democrat House Minority Leader John Rusche has a commitment from the Chairman of the Health and Welfare Committee that he will have a hearing on the redesign of Medicaid in Idaho.   This legislation would cover those caught in the gap between the Insurance Exchange and Medicaid coverage.   Due to opposition, however, this legislation may not make it out of committee, but it is exciting to even think about the possibility of helping so many Idahoans.

The proposal to do a tax shift of $80 million by adjusting the Grocery Tax Credit has been put aside after the ramifications of an increased tax on middle income people was considered.   We can give much of the credit to Mike Ferguson, a former economist to several governors who did an analysis of this proposal. 
The “guns on campus” issue is again rearing its head with a piece of legislation on the Senate side.   I have a copy of the draft legislation and it has several inconsistencies; furthermore our State College and University Presidents are not in favor of this measure.  

There is legislation floating around regarding a State Legislator concurrently holding another elected position such as a City Councilman or a Commissioner.   Right now there is no law prohibiting this, although holding two positions at the same time may result in a conflict of interest.   Let me know your thoughts.

The funds to prepare for the takeover of the private prison in Boise have been approved on the Senate side and the decision now moves to the House for consideration.   This is a great deal of money, but the time is short and the Department of Corrections must be ready to assume duties on July 1st.

Our friend and Pocatello resident, Stephen Weeg, was confirmed in the Senate as a member of the Insurance Exchange Commission.   Stephen has been working this position as Chairman of the Commission since last spring and has done a wonderful job navigating through the process in a short period of time.   He is a shining star from our hometown and we can be proud of him and the work he does.
                                                                                                                                                                                                
It is expected to be a dry year and accordingly we are hearing about water issues on a daily basis.   There have already been some proposed shut downs of water in the Magic Valley which will affect the crop production in that area.    There has been a request to advance the studies of increased water storage to purchasing of water rights using monies from the 2014 budget rather than the 2015 appropriations.     

I will end with a quote from Aesop --- “No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted.”

With that, thank you for your support and trust.   Contact me at rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or 208.332.1406 with any questions, suggestions or thoughts.


     



2014: Legislative Week 4

elainesmith
Today I want to share information on some bills currently in the Legislature.  Guns on Campus bill has been printed and referred to the Senate State Affairs for a hearing.   I would appreciate hearing from Bannock County  citizens their opinion on Senate bill 1254.  This bill would allow people over the age of 21 who have an enhanced concealed weapon permit to carry a gun on any Idaho university or college campus.  Currently Idaho does not allow weapons on any campus. 

House bill 368 was passed in House State Affairs with a very close vote.  This bans legislators from holding a local elected position in the city, county, district or commissions that has taxing or public spending authority.  The bill went to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote, but with no objections the House State Affairs Committee Chairman sent the bill to General Orders.  Now any legislator has the opportunity to amend the bill.  I believe the bill is too restrictive and takes away voter rights.  If a local community wants to elect a person to a commission, city council, school board, etc. and to the state legislature, it should be their right.    

Also in House State Affairs a bill was send to print which would shield licensed professionals with sincerely held religious beliefs from having their license revoked.  Everyone, including the House Bill 426 sponsor, has stated there is no example in Idaho of an actual challenge to a licensed professional on these grounds.  I also question if this isn’t against the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The citizens who want “Add the Words”  legislation are looking at testifying against this bill because it does the opposite of their viewpoint. 

Last week I shared information about the bill which would start the seven year process for Idaho DEQ to have primacy over wastewater permits instead of the Environmental Protection Agency Regional office based in Seattle.  House bill 406 passed the House with a 62 yes votes, 0 no votes and 8 absent.  The bill will now go to a Senate Committee for a hearing.  The first year of the process it is estimated to cost $300,000 with 3 FTEs and the last year there would be 25 employees at a cost of $2.5 to $4 million a year.  The four states without this type of primacy are Idaho, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.      

For your information, House Minority Leader John Rusche will be introducing a bill on expanding Medicaid eligibility in Idaho in the House Health and Welfare Committee.  Expanding Medicaid in Idaho could be a way for Idaho to eliminate the expensive state and county funded indigent health care system.  I am not optimistic about the bill being passed, but it is good to have a hearing on this important topic.  Please contact House Health & Welfare Committee members to give your opinion.  I did have a member of the Council on Developmental Disability, who is from Pocatello and has cerebral palsy, visit with me on the need of Medicaid expansion and other issues.   

The week brought many people from Pocatello such as  the Community Bankers, 27 Pocatello-Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce representatives with 11 being part of Leadership Pocatello, the Idaho Health Care Association, which included Pocatello people from Developmental Options, the Pocatello Veterans Home, and Quinn Meadows, Mayor Blad, Mayor England and several other representatives from the City of Pocatello and the City of Chubbuck.  Thank you to all the Bannock County citizens who take time to drive to Boise to share their viewpoints on issues.

Please keep communicating with me about legislative issues.  I appreciate hearing from you.
Elaine Smith – State Representative District 29
208/332-1031 or esmith@house.idaho.gov

  





Monday, January 27, 2014

January 2014 Central Committee Meeting

democrat-signOn Tuesday, January 28th, 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.

This month's agenda is available online here. The treasurer report for the month of January can be found here.

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, January 24, 2014

2014: Week 3 at the Capitol

roylacey
This was Education Week at the Capitol and it has been interesting and informative to walk through the various displays placed in the Rotunda and visit with the excited students who are responsible for the site.   The Capitol is never as noisy as it is during Education Week.

ISU President Art Vailas gave an outstanding presentation to the JFAC committee on Wednesday.  It was a pleasure to have such a well prepared and informative presentation, because not all are well done.   ISU also hosted a reception (meet and greet) on Thursday night for all the legislators and alumni which was well attended.  The reception generated a lot of good will.  One of the ISU troop made an outstanding comment with regard to athletics:   ISU where the men are men and the women are CHAMPIONS.   Congratulations to the Lady Bengals.

It is always interesting about what figures can tell you.   We all hear (and hear often) the statistic that one in four go on to college or university.   These figures are used by the State Board of Education and many of the Universities.   One of the figures being tossed about liberally is that only 35% of those 25-34 living in Idaho have a degree or certificate (emphasis on living).   The target is 60% by 2020.   How can this be?   Well, living in Idaho is the key.   Most of Idaho's best and most educated are leaving the State to find a job with a living wage (brain drain), so this figure means very little, except to show that Idaho has low non-competitive wages.   The other figures include number (or percentage) of students moving on to a College or University, but those who leave the State for education are not counted, those going on missions or taking a year off  and there are no records of those that come back to school after a few years in the workforce.  The conclusion is that more of our good high school graduates are going on to further their education and we may be nearing the 45-50% (my guess).

The budget for the schools and the State are the hot topic.   A former economist for the State of Idaho has an alternate plan from Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy which looks very good and sure makes a difference.   It varies quite a bit from the Governor's budget, but it has gained some interest and certain aspects are being examined very closely.  While we need to be thinking what is good for the State, it would be a rare occurrence that the final budget will vary too much from the Governor's recommendation.

A few other things rummaging about are:

Department of Administration was attempting to keep the rules regarding rallies even though the rules had been ruled as unconstitutional.  This was rejected by a Senate Committee.

Floating around somewhere is a provision to allow 10 year olds to hunt big game.   This is an attempt to bet the youth interested in hunting while we still have their attention.   I think most 10 year olds would have difficulty holding the rifle.

Idaho ranks 49th in the United States regarding number of doctors per capita of population.

The Legislature okayed $1.9 million for the start up costs for taking over the private prison.   As the date of takeover is July 1st, the Department of Corrections must move quickly to make this happen.   We will have a better system when the transfer is complete.

The Martin Luther King celebration on the Capitol steps had several hundred attendees and went smoothly even with the unusual cold weather we have been experiencing in Boise.

Hearings were held regarding Common Core in the Capital this week.  Next Monday there will be hearings regarding the Education Task Force's recommendations.

A special press conference was held on Friday regarding the "Add the Words" legislation that was to be presented in this session.  The Committee Chairmen in both the House and the Senate have refused to allow the measure to be heard, even after the Speaker of the House suggested that the Legislature is an "arena of ideas" and indicated all deserve a hearing.   All I can say is, it must be an election year!

I will end with a brief report of the testimony from the Superintendent of Schools who presented to the  JFAC committee on Thursday.   His presentation was polished and rapid but really didn't provide the minute details of the budget.  He was before the committee for more than three hours answering questions regarding budget items, the School Net program which seems to be not working and other various inquiries about Reading and Math Initiatives, etc.   There is more interest in this budget than any other at this time and our last work group had most of the 20 JFAC members present.   We will remember that we are watching out for the students as we drill through the details of what this budget will be in the end.

Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Boise.   I do my best for the citizens of Pocatello, Bannock County and Idaho.  If you are in Boise, please stop by to say hello and you can always contact me at rlacey@senate.idaho.gov .   See all of you in Pocatello this Saturday at 9:30AM in City Hall for an update on Boise.


     



Thursday, January 23, 2014

2014: Legislative Week 3

elainesmith
Week 3 in the Legislature is ending.  Committees are now seeing RS's, which a sponsor will bring to a print hearing and hopes that the committee will introduce it to print to become a bill.  This week in Business Committee we even voted on some bills, which were sent to the entire House for a vote.

Bannock legislators started our weekly Thursday morning Chamber conference call.   We are looking forward to seeing 27 Pocatello – Chubbuck Chamber representatives next week at the annual Chamber Alliance luncheon.  This week is Higher Education week in JFAC where the University and College Presidents did presentations to the joint budget setting committee.  Also, this week the ISU Alumni  annual legislative reception was held.  

In the House Environment, Energy, & Technology Committee legislation was introduced to have the State of Idaho take over primacy for permitting under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).  Idaho is only one of 4 states that does not have primacy for the wastewater permit  program.  There are about 1,000 permits in Idaho with about half held by municipalities.  The bill if passed would start a seven year process for the State of Idaho to take over the primacy.

On Wednesday there was a public hearing by the House and Senate Education Committees on Common Core standards.  The public submitted questions in advance of the hearing and these questions were then answered by a panel of 6 members.  There were 3 for and 3 against the Common Core standards.  It was a packed room in the Lincoln Auditorium.  Friday morning was another public hearing with the House and Senate Health & Welfare Committees on Medicaid redesign expansion. 

If any of you want to follow what is happening hour to hour in the Capitol, I suggest you read Betsy Russell's blog.  She is a reporter based in Boise for the Spokesman Review newspaper.  You can find her Eye on Boise at www.spokesman.com/blogs/boise.    Even legislators read her blog to stay informed due to several meetings held at the same time frame.

This week there was a big event in Boise to start the 125th year celebration of the University of Idaho.  However, eleven Eastern Idaho and Treasure Valley legislators went to dinner with President Vailas,  Dr. Tingey and Dr. Woodward-Nye that evening to receive an update on ISU. 

The Legislators Sportsmen Caucus held its first meeting this week.  There are around 50 of the 105 legislators who are members of this Caucus. We meet to hear about legislation that will be coming to Idaho on issues of interest to sportsmen.  When a legislator becomes involved in the Caucus, then he/she receives communication on what is happening in each state and at the national level on sportsmen issues.    

The third legislative week brought citizens from our area who came to the Capitol representing ISU Pharmacy students, ISU administrators, CPAs, National Federation of the Blind, Idaho Community Action Network, Idaho Water Users Association, and I visited with some educators on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  The Idaho State Pharmacy Association had health screenings and displays, so I finally received my annual flu shot.  

Please come to the District 29 Legislators town hall meeting Saturday, Jan. 25th, at 9:30 a.m. at Pocatello City Hall.  Thank you for the opportunity to represent Pocatello in the State Legislature.

Elaine Smith



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 2014 Town Hall Meeting

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 January 25th, at 9:30am.

They will discuss the ongoing 2014 Legislative Session and answer questions from the public. They look forward to meeting and talking with Bannock County residents.

Friday, January 17, 2014

2014: Week Two at the Capitol

roylacey
As we bring to close the second official week of the session, I have decided that I must be having fun as time just flies.   Another week has passed with hardly time to take a deep breath and just have a few moments to relax.

The mundane chore of reviewing the new rules has been a bit controversial as our committee has been trying to work through the new rules from the Tax Commission.  In all reality, I do not think they even know what they have written or the effects of these new rules.   We are holding a whole series at "the call of the Chair" while we try to figure out the consequences.   Needless to say, these meeting run very long and the questions are complicated and numerous.

I also serve on the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee and we have been meeting daily as the agencies continue to present activities and budget requests.   There are some very interesting things coming out as we delve into how the money is being spent.   Probably the most glaring is the Catastrophic funds that the Counties and State share.   This fund pays the hospitals for treatment of the people who are indigent – people who may not be able to pay due to lack of insurance.  The total bill for this service was $52,670,052 with the first $11,000 of each case being paid by the County and the balance paid by the State.   The State portion for Bannock County was $1,332,485.   A review of the claims paid showed that 40% of the claimants would have been covered under the State Insurance Exchange.  So, thank you to the folks that pay State Income Tax and the Bannock County homeowners.  The part that is terrifying about this large amount is that it was held to this level because of the PPIC provision of the Affordable Care Act that temporarily covered some of those without insurance.  Some methods of correction were discussed, but the only one with merit or even a possibility was the full redesign of Medicaid which would eliminate the fund and the burden on the taxpayers.

This was Health and Welfare week and one statistic absolutely blew me away --- The H&W Department reported that one in three people in Idaho received some assistance from their department.  I have seen the figure one in six for hunger which was too high and embarrassing, but one in three Idahoans need help – YOW!  I guess we deserve to be 50th in most categories regarding wages and schools.  These figures are not acceptable and changes need to be made to combat this trend and find some good jobs with decent wages to come to Idaho.

The other presentation that stood out was the proposal by the Department of Corrections for a supplemental appropriation of $1.9 million to get ready for the change from the private run prison to a State operation.   While this seems quite high, it is necessary to get personnel ready for the assumption of the responsibility, be ready to address the violence that has been the mainstay of the private operation, and to bring on prison management personnel to oversee the transition to make it as seamless as possible.  All in all, the State Department of Corrections has the transition well under control and is moving forward as quickly as possible. 

We had the privilege of having Cpl. Mark Donahue, Idaho State Police, from Pocatello being assigned at the Capitol this week to provide security.  We appreciate his service and the service of all the troopers of the ISP for their selfless work to keep Idaho safe.

Time and space does not allow for a complete report each week.   I thank you for the opportunity to represent District 29, for your trust and for you help and information.   Please contact me with ideas, solutions or whatever at 208 332 1406 or rlacey@senate.idaho.gov

Senator Roy Lacey
     



Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014: Week 2

elainesmith
The second week of the Legislature is almost finished.  Our session has been very busy and legislators have had many events already.  I am wondering if some groups are thinking it might be a shorter session.  We shall see! 

As your State Representative from Legislative District 29, I served on the Economic Revenue and Outlook Committee before the Legislature convened.  After the Governor's State of the State address, this committee met and recommended to JFAC that the Governor's revenue outlook projections were reasonable, even though all of us on the committee had projected lower estimation on incoming revenues. 

This year my committees are State Affairs; Business; Environment, Energy & Technology; and the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee. All House and Senate Committees are presently reviewing Rules of various agencies. Idaho is one of a few states that has this oversight of state agencies. In State Affairs Committee a bill was printed this week stating if a person is elected and currently serving in a city, county, district, or commission that has taxing or public spending authority, then that person cannot run for State Senator or State Representative. This shall be a lively discussion when this bill comes back to the committee for discussion.

This week legislators from other Western states and Canadian Representatives came to our Capitol on behalf of the PNWER (Pacific Northwest Economic Region) to meet with the Governor, Idaho legislators, and attend some committee meetings to give presentations. I am the House Democrat Representative to PNWER meetings. This Council is comprised of legislators and businesses from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory, and Northwest Territories as members. Issues discussed pertain to energy, agriculture, invasive species, cross border work, transportation, food security and safety, and cyber security.

Representative Carolyn Meline, Senator Roy Lacey, and I will be hosting a Town Hall meeting on Saturday, Jan. 25, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Pocatello City Hall. We will give updates about our committees and legislative bills. Please come and give us your opinion on issues of concern to you.

Last week the Joint Change in Employee Compensation Committee met with the recommendation of 1% salary increase and a 1% onetime bonus funding for state employees in FY 2015. This committee had not met for five years, so the hearing had many people testifying from across the state to update legislators on employee compensation.

There are various hearings scheduled where public input is desired. To see when these hearings will occur or what the agendas of committees are, go to www.legislature.idaho.gov. To contact a legislator there is a toll-free number which is 1-800-626-0471. My e-mail address is esmith@house.idaho.gov or my office number is 208-332-1031. If you are here at the Capitol, please stop and say hello.  My office is located in the garden level of the East Wing (EG07).  There have already been many individuals and groups visiting, such as Idaho Heritage Trust, Head Start, American Legion/Auxiliary, Idaho Central Credit Union and Cable One employees from Pocatello.

Thank you for the privilege of being your State Representative from District 29, which is the majority of the City of Pocatello.

Written by Representative Elaine Smith.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January 2014 Political Soup

Pocatello, ID - On Wednesday, January 15th,  the Bannock County Democrats will be holding a Political Soup luncheon. We'll be serving up a yummy meal between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

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.

Pocatello/Chubbuck School District No. 25 Superintendent Mary Vagner is scheduled to speak to us about public school funding in Idaho. She has began her education career as an elementary school teacher in Kansas and has been with the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District since 2006. She was named Idaho Superintendent of the Year in 2012.

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 bannockdemocrats@gmail.com or call (208) 234-8908.

Friday, January 10, 2014

2014: Hello after Week One at the Capitol

roylacey
There is no easing into the first week of the session. It feels like a horse race and the gates are open and things are happening quickly, calendars are filling up, people are stopping by to see us and we are scrambling to get everything done prior to calling it a day. Several folks from Pocatello have already made the trip to Boise and I have been able to meet with most.  If anyone makes the trip to Boise, please stop by my office for a visit.  It makes my day to have visitors from home.

The week started off with a bang as the Governor gave his State of the State address outlining what he wished to see happen during this session.   I  grade him highly for a political speech as he mentioned all the right points and he is a good speaker.   However, the speech lacked substance and what he said does not add up in his budget.    Much has been said about Education being the main focal point in this session of the legislature and it should be after so many years of dismantling of the system.   The proposed Governor's budget does not match the rhetoric of his speech but what can we expect in an election year, especially a year where our incumbent Governor is being challenged by his own party?

Other disconnects would be the lack of any compensation increases for our teachers or our state employees, both of which have been "doing without" for many years.   If we are to attain excellence in our State and especially in our Schools, we must take care of our workers – the ones that make the cogs go round and round.    We must show people that they are appreciated rather than continue to disenfranchise them.  We can't do this with the anticipated nearly $21m reduction that is currently being proposed.

While the Governor has stated there will be no salary increases for state workers, after three years of pestering by the Democrats, the Employee Compensation Committee was finally convened.   The  annual review is mandated by statute, but has been conveniently ignored.    The sentiment seems to be that the State workers need wage adjustments as they are about 19% below what is being paid in other states.

Putting money in savings accounts is wonderful and is highly recommended.   However, at some point the equipment needs to be fixed or replaced as money in savings won't get the job done.   Idaho is now at this point.   Idaho came through the recession a bit better than some states as there were savings to cover reduced expenses.   The savings had been built up during our periods of great growth, (between 7 and 15 percent) and proved to be a lifesaver to the State operations from 2008 on.   Some of our savings accounts are now at statute limits (capped at 5%) so new accounts are being created.   However, at the same time our schools are being shorted, our highways are in disrepair in many areas in the state and our health care system is in serious trouble.   We need to fix a few things starting this year and we have the funding to make a difference.

Assuming the operation of the "private" prison is a good move that should have happened many years ago.  This is an expensive proposition, but Idaho can do it right.  Idaho has too many prisoners that are held far too long.   In fact, our prison population is much higher than many states even though Idaho has a declining crime rate.   There are some provisions to adjust within our justice system and it looks promising that something will actually be done this year.   The cost to house a prisoner is just too high and too often the "revolving door" in the prison system is used too often.   Good things can come from these changes to our prison system.

At a recent lunch meeting our legislative session was predicted to be "legislature light" and extensive comments were made regarding the belief that legislation would be tainted by the election year.   I surely hope not, but after the Governor's speech, this may be the direction the session goes.   As Legislators, we are here to serve the people of Idaho regardless of whether it is an election year.  I am here to serve you and am committed to doing despite the upcoming election.

With so many "things" in Idaho needing attention the increase in savings and the quiet mention of $30M in a possible tax cut don't make sense.   Let's begin fixing Idaho so we can harvest our crop, educate our children, develop good jobs and get Idaho about being 50th in the nation in wages and investment in our schools.   Dividends will be great if we just fix it now.

Some of us are working on fixes in education, state employee compensation and fair and equitable treatment of Idahoans.   Please contact me with ideas or comments as my ears are open and I am looking for ways to help Idaho.   My contact information is rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or 208 332 1406.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014: Hi all, we are back

roylacey
We can call this Week 0 as the regular Legislative Session does not officially start until January 6, but many of the legislators are at work in Boise this week for various meetings.   I am here serving on the Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee which met on Thursday and Friday.  There is a lot of good information that has been portrayed in these meetings.

The good news is that virtually every presenter – mostly economists – predicts that Idaho's economy is rebounding nicely.   This prediction is not too much of a surprise as Idaho has had excesses during the last two years based on predicted and actual revenue.

However, with the good news always comes the bad.   Idaho ranks 50th in the States in categories of average wage, per capita income and wage increases since 2007.  However, Idaho ranks 1st in the states in the category of percentage of wage earners at minimum wage.  The results of these rankings indicate why Idaho is recovering slower than most states.  

An interesting comment was made by a member of leadership regarding Idaho's standing in that this is not a good thing and we need to keep it on our radar to fix.   It has taken a very long time for Idaho to get into this predicament and it will take a long time (and much money and effort) to fix.  For many years in the past Idaho was always at the mid range in all these categories.

The other very interesting fact that came out with many of the presenters, and I believe this was discussed in one of my weekly newsletters last year, is the influx of retirees into Idaho and the exodus of our young people.   We are in a situation of a "graying" immigration due to the low cost of living in Idaho, especially for those coming from California and other high cost of living states.   However, we are losing our future as our young people flea from the State to find greener pastures.

Schools are at the tip of everyone's tongue.   The Governor's Task Force came back with 20 recommendations and while the initial indications were that all were going to be implemented, there is some back-stepping right now as we hear talk of prioritizing, implementation over 5 years, etc.   If we wait 5 years, we will still be behind.   The other hot topic in education is the Common Core which is being supported by the Governor and from my discussions with teachers and administrators, it appears that Common Core is not bad.    Some good topics for discussion this session.

Just today, the Governor has "ordered" the Board of Corrections to stop taking bids on the operation of the private prison and the State Department of Corrections will assume control and operate the prison.   This is a real change in policy and a welcome one.

The other "elephant in the room" is the redesign of Medicaid.   By not taking advantage of these provisions the State of Idaho is passing up on about $90 million per year.   Who pays this?  The taxpayers – you and I.   Why is it an elephant?   Of course, it is an election year and some are worried about any vote would affect their electability.  It is a shame that a legislator would put his/her election ahead of the good of Idaho.

Back to the good – Idaho's State Reserve Funds (savings accounts) are very full, with one actually completely filled according to statute. The Department of Commerce is working diligently to find new, or expanding, companies to increase our labor markets. The new push is to find specific areas to recruit new business. Also, as a final note, the Department of Labor is even optimistic about the next year or two as far as jobs and Idaho growth.

This will be an interesting session and some members of the legislature jockey for position in the upcoming elections and there is a plethora of legislation that will come forward.

Thank you for your trust and confidence in sending me to Boise to represent you.  Please contact me with any concerns or questions rlacey@senate.idaho.gov , or call 208 332 1406.