Saturday, February 28, 2015

Week Seven in the Capitol for the 2015 Session

roylacey
Roy Lacey Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Finance Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Health & Welfare (208) 332-1406
Transportation rlacey@senate.idaho.gov

Work in the Capitol keeps chugging along with everyone sitting on pins and needles waiting for the important legislation to come forward. Meantime we must consider so many pieces of legislation that sometimes seem trivial but they are important to some. Still waiting for transportation funding proposals, Healthy Idaho (new name for Medicaid Redesign) and for the education bill that will impact the teachers. I sincerely hope that we get some movement or we will either be here into April or maybe just go home accomplishing very little, which would be a shame.

The stopgap infusion of money to the schools broadband to prevent a complete blackout of the internet has passed and is signed into law. There are a few hiccups but overall the monies will be distributed as fairly as possible to the school districts. Not all of the costs being incurred by the school districts may be covered but the purpose is to make them as whole as possible. The main thing is to keep this service so our students won’t be overly affected by a bad decision made by the State administration. We just learned today that possibly there may have been a double payment because of some prepayment of services which the contract did not allow. More confusion and bad policies. However, in a report this morning we learned the Superintendent of Education is attempting to make districts whole for the instructional portion. This department has really stepped up to fix a mess that was not their making.

The daylight savings time legislation is causing a buzz from all sides. It will be interesting to see where it goes in the House as that is where the legislation started. So far I have had about a 50/50 split on pro and con on this subject. The Representative that is sponsoring this legislation is from the Boise area where it is daylight very late into the evening given the proximity to the time zone line. I do love the long evenings.

The Farm Bureau Eminent Domain bill came up again this year. This is the fourth year in a row that this legislation has been pushed. It is unfortunate that it passed the Senate this year and the only conclusion can be is that if you bring a subject up enough it might someday be successful. I feel badly because this is a special interest bill, not one that is supported on the local levels. Our city, county and our constituents have indicated that this measure should be left as a local decision and the State should not be determining the purpose of eminent domain. It is interesting that you can still use eminent domain for mine tailings, sewer plants and many other very distasteful uses.

A tanning bed restriction bill is currently in the House. I saw a newspaper headline saying “GOP Tanning…”. This subject has been in the mix for 4 or 5 years as a non-partisan piece of legislation with very little success. I am pleased that it is moving forward.

Another subject that has been hanging for several years is the use of medical marijuana. It appears that maybe (possibly) there is adequate support to allow use of the oil extracted from marijuana to be allowed to help stop or slow down epilepsy conditions that some of our citizens are experiencing.

A move is underfoot by the Republicans to set a new presidential primary election. The date would be moved into early March so “Idaho would be more significant in selecting the President”, and this move would only cost the taxpayers a measly $2 million. I will say that the Republicans know how to spend our money on elections as the closed primary is also very expensive. What has happened to the meaning of the word “conservative”? Or, who are the spenders in the State?

There is a constitutional carry piece of legislation on the House side and those supporting the bill are being accused of harassment as the Representative’s homes are being called and their families are being bothered with regards to this bill. This is not right and the mood is quickly turning away from the support of this legislation. Families should not be subject to abuse due to the actions of legislators.

The budget setting has begun and my days start with 7AM meetings and end late as we struggle to work all the budgets in a shortened time period. The state has about 125 budgets for different agencies and each one requires time and effort if a fair distribution of money is to occur. The main budget this year is the K-12 as so much money is being added, unfortunately some are trying to tie strings to the money by legislation. We are doing our best to preserve money for operational funds but that figure seems to be shrinking daily.

We were presented with an exciting new concept this week --- an Idaho Diaper Bank. This would operate very similar to a food bank but would be providing diapers for those who could not afford them. This is private and non-profit with no State Funds being requested. Great concept and I plan to become involved.

Another week gone and I do appreciate the trust you have given me in representing you. Please keep me apprised of your wishes and I will do my best for you. Contact me at rlacey@senate.idaho.gov.

2015: Week Seven in the Legislature

elainesmith
Elaine Smith Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Business Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Environment, Energy, & Technology (208) 332-1039
State Affairs esmith@house.idaho.gov

The seventh week of the Legislature has just concluded and we are on the last half of the legislative session with the second round of new pages this week. House and Senate Republican leadership are still aiming for the March 27th for the end of the session, but we shall see!

If you want the State of Idaho to do something with Medicaid redesign, now is the time for everyone to lobby Republican legislators about Healthy Idaho, which is the new name for Medicaid Redesign.

March 4th is Idaho Day, which will be the first year we are celebrating when Idaho became a territory. This July 3 is the 125th anniversary of Idaho becoming a state. There are going to be special celebrations, so watch for information about events in your area.

House bill 113 on Parenting Rights passed in the House by a vote of 37 to 31 and has been sent to the Senate. Currently the US Supreme Court and the Idaho Supreme Court recognize the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children. This parenting rights bill would codify education and legal guardian in Idaho law. In House State Affairs committee, the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association representative and the legal counsel for the Idaho Supreme Court spoke in opposition to this bill because of conflicts with statutes and current case laws. On the House floor the House Education Chair spoke against this bill. I did vote no.

There was an RS which has now become a bill to create a position of Inspector General in the Governor’s office. Nineteen states have this position which are used by various levels of government to provide opportunity to investigate concerns about fraud, waste, abuse or malfeasance prior to public court action. Maybe if there had been an Inspector General in Idaho, maybe the state of Idaho might not be in the Idaho Education Network current fiasco.

Brief update on bills: House bill 154, an abortion bill, will be debated on the House floor Monday, March 2nd. There is also an abortion bill on the Senate side. I understand there may be a bill on career ladder for teachers to be discussed soon on the Senate side. Currently, more and more discussion is being held about how to raise money for transportation maintenance backlog on roads and bridges. The Legislature has to do something this year on this important issue. It may be this coming week the House State Affairs will hear the Senate bill 1011 to repeal the historical horse racing. Also, the eminent domain Senate bill 1044 in House Local Government committee if passed would impact the City of Pocatello and the Portneuf Greenway.

Thank you to all who have been contacting me on a variety of issues. I greatly appreciate hearing from Idaho citizens. You can contact me at esmith@house.idaho.gov or 1-800-626-0471 or my Boise office number of 208-332-1031.
Elaine Smith
District 29 Representative

Friday, February 20, 2015

Week Six in the Capitol for the 2015 Session

roylacey
Roy Lacey Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Finance Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Health & Welfare (208) 332-1406
Transportation rlacey@senate.idaho.gov

With this being Week 6 it appears that this session of the legislature is about ½ over and while being away from home seems long, the session is disappearing quickly. There were so many major decisions that were on the table to be considered this year it seems that the important (or what I perceive to be important) issues are lagging behind. We need to discuss Healthy Idaho, Transportation Funding, and a fair distribution of moneys to the K-12 and also the Higher Education and mental health issues. I have said in earlier weekly reports that I feel hurried, but the items with substance are just not moving forward. The goal is to end the session by March 27, but I feel that we will still be here through the first week of April.

As a side note, I am sorry that no weekly update was sent last Friday. We had a death in the family and I was involved in those matters and actually missed a few days of the session. It is interesting how far behind I felt when I returned this Monday. I hope I can catch up on all that has happened.

Over the last couple of years I have been involved with the ENA/IEN contracts and the court’s ruling that the assignment of this contract was not according to policy. This has come to a head this year with the final ruling of the court and the need for the legislature to step up and help our children. While the move to change the money from the Administration Department to the Education Department was not what is usually done, the feeling that a complete departure from the Administration Department may assist with securing E-Rate funding in the future. Additionally, we were able to use money set aside last year to move the connectivity forward for this school year. We still don’t have direction for the fiscal year 2016 yet, but we are working on it.

We had the pleasure of listening to Stephen Weeg in Health and Welfare this week as he was being vetted for a re-appointment to the Health and Welfare Board. He is a jewel and brings so much to the table. Pocatello can be proud of the representation for our community that he provides. He will be confirmed in the Senate next week.

Much of my time has been spent getting ready to set budgets and again this year I have committed to doing many of them. It is important to have a Pocatello voice in the budget setting process. The K-12 budget seems to have the most interest at this point but we are stymied while we wait for legislation on some of the items proposed. It should be noted that if legislation becomes law, then we must fund that portion. Sometimes this takes money away from what the school districts require the most, i.e., operational money. We are doing our best to keep that figure as robust as possible. Without this funding the levies being requested become more important if we wish our schools to operate.

Knowing what I know at this point, Pocatello School District is in dire need of the levy being proposed and I urge your support.

We hear so much about “Go On” when it comes to our children going to college after completion of high school. Sometimes I feel this is just a catchy saying as little is being done to make it affordable for our students to acquire higher education. As an example, with the guns on campus laws the colleges and universities have expanded security measures. However, even with their pleas, the administration is refusing to pay for any of the enhancements or ongoing expenses. The only choice is for the students to pay for security through increased tuition. I assume pride is preventing the Executive Department from admitting this may have been a mistake --- so sorry for the students.

While we are not addressing students and their abilities to better themselves, there is legislation looking for more tax exemptions. The idea that removing the sales tax on road building materials at a cost of $20,000,000 (yes $20 million) is moving forward. This reduction in sales tax comes right off the bottom line and will affect the funding for our schools and our state agencies. How many more cuts in revenue can our state stand?

I understand the minimum wage bill will be given a print hearing again this year, but just as has been done in the past will not be taken beyond printing. Maybe if we keep bringing it often enough the majority will begin to think it was their idea and it might move forward.

The removal of the sales tax on groceries is also being considered. I have always been a proponent of the removal of this tax, but it must be made revenue neutral as it has a price tag of about $190,000,000, so we will see where this goes.

We had some significant changes in our Senate this week. Senator Elliott Werk from Boise was offered and accepted a position with the Tax Commission. So our number of 7 is now at 6 until a new Senator can be appointed. This could take up to 30 days. Congratulations to Senator Werk and we will miss him in our caucus.

At times we as legislators must make some very difficult decisions some that may even cause pain as we struggle with what is correct and maybe what we would like to see. We did have one this week with the historic horse racing bill and with my longtime ties with the horse industry this was difficult. However, I feel I made the right choice (the only choice), but that does not make me feel any better and it surely did not sit well with my friends and acquaintances of many years. I will always do my best to do what is correct.

There are a few more things happening this week, but this newsletter is getting long. Thank you for the trust you have given me to represent you. I have had several visitors from Pocatello this week and surely enjoy taking the time to visit with them – and I will take time.

Please continue giving me your ideas rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or 208 332 1406.

February 2015 Central Committee Meeting

democrat-signOn Tuesday, February 24th, 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.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Town Hall Meeting

carolyn meline elainesmith roylacey District No. 29 Legislators Elaine Smith, Roy Lacey, and Mark Nye 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 February 14th, from 10am to 12pm.

They will discuss the ongoing 2015 Legislative Session and answer questions from the public. They look forward to meeting and talking with Bannock County residents.

Dems to discuss Civil Rights

voting
Pocatello, ID - The Bannock County Democrats welcome Dr. Bobbie Branch, the President of the Pocatello Branch of the NAACP, to speak to Bannock County residents about civil rights in America at their monthly Political Soup luncheon on Wednesday, February 11th.

This event will be held at our headquarters, located at 355 Yellowstone Ave., across the street from Mama Inez restaurant. Yummy food will be served between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

Dr. Branch will focus primarily on the new film Selma, leading a discussion of the film and the important, as well as timely, issues it addresses. Dr. Branch is a wonderful advocate for fairness and equality for everyone in Southeast Idaho.

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. 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, February 6, 2015

2015: Fourth Week in the Legislature

elainesmith
Elaine Smith Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Business Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Environment, Energy, & Technology (208) 332-1039
State Affairs esmith@house.idaho.gov

The fourth week of the Legislature has concluded. I must state that each week has been very busy with some long committee meetings.
The Bannock legislators were able to have dinner with all but one of the Bannock County elected officials to learn about their issues this week.

I was appointed to the Help America Vote Act State Planning Committee representing the House Democrats, so I attended that meeting in the Secretary of State’s office Wednesday. There are only two legislators on that committee representing both political parties and both are from the House of Representatives. I am getting acquainted with all the various election equipment used by all the Idaho counties.

In the House Environment, Energy & Technology Committee there have been several presentations updating us on transmission line projects, EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposed guidelines, renewable energy updates on solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, wood waste, landfill gas, biogas, and cogeneration. For instance did you know in 2005 we had 102.4 MW of wind projects in Idaho, while now in 2015 Idaho has 904.86 MW of wind projects. The operating commercial wind farms in Idaho are in Bonneville, Power, Cassia, Twin Falls, Gooding, and Elmore Counties. For more information go to www.energy.idaho.gov/energyalliance/taskforce.htm.

I am starting to receive e-mails from citizens about the bill in Senate State Affairs on the repeal of the historical horse racing machines. I understand that Senate committee will probably be voting next week on S1011. I suggest you contact the Senators now on this issue about your opinion, since they will be making a decision first. However I do appreciate learning what citizens are thinking about on this issue, even though it has not come to the House yet.

On Thursday there was an RS which was introduced and is now a bill to allow a law abiding citizen to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. My concern is the group sponsoring it says people who carry guns are responsible. The bill does not have anything in it about formal training like people who have an enhanced concealed weapons permit take to get their permit.

I would like to call your attention to My Idaho Ride, which is a free online resource that provides Idaho veterans and military families with public transportation information. Either visit www.findmyidahoride.org or dial 211 to see all public transportation options in one place, including buses, taxi services, and medical transport services. This is a free statewide directory.

One day this past week 50 Century High School students and adult chaperones visited the Capitol to see Idaho government in operation. They saw the House and the Senate each in action. They divided and went with different constitutional officers for lunch. Then in the afternoon they attended House and Senate committee meetings.

District 29 legislators will be having a Town Hall meeting on Saturday, February 14, at 10 a.m. at the Pocatello City Council Chambers, so save the date on your calendar now.

Please contact me on any issue at esmith@house.idaho.gov or call toll free 800-626-0471. My office number is 208-332-1031. I am your Representative, so I appreciate hearing your opinions.
Elaine Smith – State Representative – District 29

Week Four in the Capitol for the 2015 Session

roylacey
Roy Lacey Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Finance Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Health & Welfare (208) 332-1406
Transportation rlacey@senate.idaho.gov

We have had some wonderfully warm weather in Boise this week, but it seems that I can only experience these temperatures after dark. I am hoping for some sunshine this weekend to get my “fix” and a recharge for another week of legislative work. Maybe I should have chosen a window office.

We had some more Pocatello people in Boise this week and I enjoyed talking with them. We also had students from the Century High School Government classes here on Thursday and I think they had a great tour and hopefully a rewarding experience.

Our Joint Finance Committee has been interesting this week, especially on Thursday when the discussion around the IEN and the tainted contract to provide internet access for all the school districts. It has been ruled by a judge that the contract was awarded incorrectly, hence the providers have not been paid since September, but the service has still be provided for the schools. The State cannot pay unless there is a valid contract. There is a letter floating around somewhere that indicates that service may be terminated on February 22nd. Meantime, we are still not getting any Federal E-rate money (since early 2014) and the State (taxpayers) is paying for this very expensive contract from the general fund which makes less available for the operation of schools, etc. The Governor is asking for over $10 million to pay for the next year plus $1.6 million for February through June this year. Yet, a recent audit shows that only about ½ of the schools are using this service and many of them only sparingly. This may be a tough decision, but the pressure in on to make the decision quickly.

We are working on a K-12 budget with little direction from Superintendent Ybarra and while this seemed to maybe be easier we are finding some statutory requirements that we hadn’t expected that need to be funded. There is a “rule” that the fiscal note of each piece of legislation be accurate, but in the case of the present school budget we are finding that a law passed regarding the dual credit may be several million dollars off. We shall do our best for the children and the teachers.

A few of the interesting proposals are circulating right now, such as a new “gun law” that would allow a concealed carry without any license or certificate, very much like Idaho’s open carry gun law. The legislation passed last year which included “guns on campus” had some enhanced training included and this may be why it passed. Once the foot gets in the door – watch out.

Also, a bill was introduced on the House side to restrict medication induced abortions. The proposed counseling and examination before the medication is prescribed seems to be back. I have not seen this legislation, so cannot really know what else it may contain. We can expect one or more of these types of bills every year (as is the case with gun laws).

After much work, there was general agreement with most parties on the Tiered Licensure/Career Ladder concept and we have been anticipating this passing and felt that most difficulties had been considered. However, this item has been tabled by the Education Committee Chairs as they are bringing legislation to revise what had been agreed to and make a more egregious concept for the Tiered Licensure/Career Ladder which is not supported by the School Boards, Administrators or the Idaho Education Association. Once again, it appears that some legislators know more than those who are actually affected (this is a pun). If legislation passes, the taxpayers will be stuck with paying for a change that Idaho cannot afford at this time.

Director Armstrong of Health and Welfare made a wonderful presentation regarding the redesign of Medicaid that the task force has developed. It makes sense, has some personal responsibility and will save Idaho Taxpayers about $173 million dollars over the next 8 to 10 years. Will the legislature have the courage to make this change? In my committee it will be close but should pass; however, there is much opposition to anything having to do with the Affordable Care Act. Rumor has it that the legislation, if it is written, will start on the House side. It is anyone’s guess how that will turn out. One aspect that might help this along is that it is an “Idaho hybrid” and possibly we can promote that it is ours, much like the insurance exchange.

Did you know that Idaho was the 4th state to grant women the right to vote? Thank goodness we were a leader in 1896.

On a bit of a sad note, The Idaho State Journal is not printing my weekly newsletters as they have done for the last four years. The newspaper prefers single subject articles. Unfortunately more than one thing happens in a week’s time and I would not be providing a service if I just picked one. So, if you would like, please feel free to share these newsletters via e-mail or other social media to your friends.

DON’T FORGET THE TOWN HALL SCHEDULED FOR FEBRUARY 14TH AT CITY HALL AT 10am.

Thanks for your trust, I will always try to do what is best for Pocatello and Idaho. I enjoy hearing from you, so please e-mail rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or call (208) 332-1406.