Friday, March 27, 2015

Week Eleven 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

This was the predicted go home week at the beginning of the session. Such is not the case as a few items such as schools and transportation are still being considered as they have been since January. If all goes well it is possible we may be finished by April 3rd – surely not April 1st as the media would have a heyday with how this legislative session has bungled its way through the last three months. However, there are a few rumors going around that we will be held in session until we get a workable transportation funding bill.

I am extremely thankful and feel blessed that we begin each floor session with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance. This always gives my day a spark and reminds me why we are legislators.

 photo salamander_zpsyrbwncku.jpg

Idaho Giant Salamendar

We have finally successfully selected a State Amphibian, The Idaho Giant Salamander has finally been designated by legislation. Ilah Hickman began the quest to have the Idaho Giant Salamander named the official Idaho Amphibian when she was in the 4th grade. Now, approximately 5 years later, she has accomplished this task. Twice the House of Representatives turned her away, one time after a resounding approval by the Senate, but the young lady could not be discouraged and kept bringing her idea back. Kudos to her and her desire to accomplish a goal. She is a credit to Idaho’s youth.

Last spring I mentioned that I had requested an audit on School Net wondering why we were putting $20 million into a program that did not work. We finally got the results of this study and learned that the State and Albertsons had put in $61 million into this failed attempt. The explanation was poor decisions, poor management and no accountability from the Executive branch of our government. The new Superintendent of Public Instruction has already begun dismantling this system and should be finished with this task by next year. This is just one more top down decision by the administration that was handled inappropriately. The legislature is trying to put some sideboards up to prevent such a waste from happening again. Still, there is no accountability and no one is being charged or even warned regarding this total lack of supervision.

The Senate has overwhelmingly approved the use of cannabidiol oil for the treatment of children suffering from epileptic seizures. While this oil is extracted from marijuana, it contains only trace amounts of TCB and has been shown to either stop or slow down the seizures in children. This legislation has moved to the House for hopefully the same result. We cannot let our children suffer.

We also have a couple Federal Lands bills floating around. One which I can support simply asks that the Federal Government and the State of Idaho work together to maximize the use of the land and maintain access for the public. We are already doing this through our Department of Lands. The other is a mess and wants Idaho to join a coalition of states (not yet really identified) to fight to take over Federal lands. This last measure is unattainable and surely would just cost a lot of money and get no results.

Just today we are hearing rumbles about a fairly decent transportation funding bill. I can support all of the components that are listed as it spreads the “pain” of securing new funds into several areas that make sense. This bill is being held in committee as some“preferred” ideas are being floated around. All of those floating have impact on the General Fund and will compete directly with schools for funding – not a sustainable idea.

We have finalized the schools budget and I believe it is a good one. This has been a process that has taken about 8 weeks and this budget has been adjusted many times as new legislation or anticipated legislation was being discussed. The new career ladder was developed by consensus and adds more than $33 million into teacher salaries and more has been allocated to technology and also to operational funds. The total increase was 7.4% in general funds and more than 8% overall. The total is more than $1.8 billion – and while the amount is about what was funded in 2009, it does not allow for inflation, but we did our best given what we had to work with.

There was a recent headline that said “Secrecy Reigns in Idaho” and went on to discuss the failed and botched contracts, lack of transparency, the Department of Justice investigations into both the IEN and the private prison. Additionally, the new Superintendent of Public Instruction has found more than 1500 contracts that the previous Superintendent had let in the Education Department. Who knew. I sincerely hope that you will feel the transparency that I am attempting with these weekly newsletters. Even at that, I am only scratching the surface as so much goes on, but I feel that the tolerance for reading is only so much. I try to talk about the most important items each week.

I sort of hope that this is my last weekly update for the year as the last week will be consumed preparing an end of session recap letter. In any event, keep up the contact rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or 208-332-1406

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 2015 Town Hall Meeting

mark nye 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 March 28th, 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.

March 2015 Central Committee Meeting

democrat-signOn Tuesday, March 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.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mark Nye's Legislative Update

marknye
Mark Nye Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Judiciary, Rules & Administration Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Local Government (208) 332-1079
Revenue & Taxation mnye@house.idaho.gov

Dear Friend,

The Idaho Legislature has less than a month to go and we have no budget or proposal for our roads and bridges.

I have good relationships from most of the other House members and some interesting observations. Several packing guns, one has never been south of Lewiston before this and the most interesting news so far have been of oddities.

1. First was the choice that Idaho have no state amphibian though over 25 states have adopted the same; a newspaper called one of our legislators the dumbest in the state;

2. Second was another ‘no’ vote on broadening the definition of discrimination; there have been arrests in the Statehouse over this.

3. A third was a walk out when a Hindu prayer was given in the Senate.

4. And more, including one member asking if swallowing a small camera could detect pregnancy and the big network contract for schools.

Did you know there is a spider web of large pedestrian tunnels to the Statehouse? Some stretch for two blocks or more. There are cafeterias, elevators and even a branch of Idaho Central tucked away underground.

On a brighter note, the Idaho State Police are finally getting a long overdue building on South 5th in Pocatello. And, we recently assisted in clarifying measures to help new businesses settle at places like the airport.

Will Rogers said that while a legislature is in session, neither life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness is safe. In Idaho the cows are safe. Now the talk is to pay for road maintenance from the general fund. This will put it at odds with education and will be strongly resisted.

We’ve voted a tax break on gravel and road materials used by contractors hired by the state. This is about $15-20 million, so hopefully the bids will come in that much lower. We just voted Netflix sales are not subject to sales tax on the theory that they are not selling a product, but a service. This is about $25 million a year that won’t come in.

Overall the funds coming to the state are up this year and Idaho is already one of the lowest in combined state and federal tax burden. Yet, the majority party wants to be even lower, putting a further strain on education and services.

The Speaker of the House has put me on subcommittees to work on problems with our justice system. For example Idaho has one of the lowest rates of serious crimes in the West—but the highest rate of incarceration. There is something wrong there, and part of the problem is the lack of local outreach and mental health centers. I’m told that over 20% of those imprisoned have mental health problems and probation and parole personnel are overwhelmed. This effects rehab, recidivism and cost. The average cost per day for a prisoner is over $50 or close to $20,000 a year. There are over 8,000 in our prisons, so that adds up. On a percentage basis we put more in prison than Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and even Washington and Oregon. Our people are not any more dangerous, and our laws are about the same we need to get to the bottom of this—now.

In addition, Idaho has one of the highest rates of suicide in the U.S. No one really knows why and a statewide hotline has helped a little but there is an urgent need to focus on this and minimize and prevent these tragedies.

Many of you have visited the Statehouse and I have a weekly call in to engaged Pocatellans. These contacts help to no end and keep us grounded. I also get home about every other weekend and get back to reality. There’s a sense in Boise that the tax money we get is ours, so it’s good to get back to Pocatello and out of the rarified atmosphere. I work out of the basement almost all day here with no sun and only a little fresh air. It is great to be here, however, and I am loving the experience.

There will be a lot of significant things going on in the next three weeks.

As a member of the Revenue and Taxation Committee, I have seen businesses come in nearly every day for tax breaks or exemptions. Our Local Government Committee has not been too active but will be dealing with greenways and revising when a city can force a landowner to sell by using eminent domain. This will probably pass.

My third committee is Judiciary and Rules, which is where lawyers are usually placed. We have actually gotten rid of some laws that are old and obsolete. The favorite gave Idaho jurisdiction when some died in a duel here that had taken place out of state.

As I mentioned, being your State Representative is thrilling. While challenging, I’ve always aspired to do this and love it. Coming into our State Capitol each day makes it all worthwhile.

Please let me know your thoughts and thank you for this opportunity to serve.

Week Ten 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

The weather in Boise has been so nice that everyone is wondering how quickly we will end this session. It can be termed “the session that was just because it could”. The amount of legislation reviewed is much lower than normal years and we are starting to get the junk as chairman pull some less than desirable legislation out of their drawers just to have committee meetings. Also, our daily calendars to be considered as a body have somewhere between 30 and 50 pieces of legislation every day – again, much of which are fluff – and we are running double sessions to stay on top of the pile, so the days are long.

Some of the silly legislation we are considering and many times debating --- removal of an old law regarding dueling out of state (took almost 20 minutes to debate) and it doesn't really matter; giving the State primacy over knives by removing all limitations including schools (sounds like guns on campus); giving parental rights to remove children from any school function or class that may do them “harm” with no definition of what harm is; forcing every graduating senior to take a civics test similar to what is required for citizenship; and many more. There are also the annual gun bills and abortion bills floating around.

I had a little fun in JFAC when I introduced a budget for public schools (K-12) which provided for a 3% increase in pay, starting salaries moved to $33,000 and then was shut down as being out of order as public schools were not on the agenda. I was able to speak about the motion and expressed my frustration about nothing happening on career ladder legislation and my fear that if we waited until the very end some legislation that was onerous would appear and the legislature would just vote for it to go home. We cannot get ahead of policy in JFAC and my motion was doing just that; however, late on the day that I made the motion the career ladder legislation started moving again. Maybe I did some good, maybe not. This legislation will be in the House Education Committee today (Friday) so maybe on the House floor on Monday or Tuesday and then to the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday or so.

We are still waiting for something to come out for transportation funding. The member of the majority party accused the Democrats in a television interview of not coming to the table on the subject of transportation. Nothing is further from the truth. The Democrats have a plan which over a five year period will raise the necessary funds, but until just this last week the majority party refused to look at it and I am sure if the plan moves forward it will have a Republican twist so the Democrats will not get any credit. Such is the life in a super-majority controlled legislature. The only legislation being moved forward right now takes money from the General Fund – in other words away from Education. However, as late as it is in the session, I believe the transportation funding will be put off and the can kicked down the road again.

An analysis of why the 2015 legislature is so dysfunctional reveals that the majority party is fractionalized and the leadership is trying to maintain some control over their caucus. This is affecting the function of legislation as leadership is fearful of close votes and the possibility of possibly losing a key piece of legislation. This has already happened once during this session.

Shock of all Shockers!! The House State Affairs decided to redo the vote on the Giant Idaho Salamander and this time it passed. Too bad they neglected to tell the young lady that has brought this idea for several years that this was going to happen.

The Tele-medicine bill passed and should be headed to the Governor for signature. This is good for our State given the rural nature. This will help alleviate our extreme shortage of doctors.

I wonder if the dominoes are falling. The Governor did not reappoint Teresa Luna, Director of Administration which probably is due to the Department of Justice investigation on contract letting and is a way to divert attention. No news on who may replace her. The investigation on the private prison is also still ongoing.

AS MUCH AS IT SEEMS MARCH 27 WILL NOT BE SINE DIE, WE ARE SCHEDULING A TOWN HALL MEETING ON MARCH 28, 10AM TO 12 NOON, AT THE POCATELLO CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS. PLEASE COME AND WE WILL BRING YOU UP TO DATE INFO OF WHAT IS HAPPENING.

With the double sessions each day and with the possibility of the career ladder legislation being passed, we might be done with this session the 2nd or 3rd of April --- in time for Easter. Pocatello sounds better each day.

I feel that it is such a privilege to be here in Boise representing you and I thank you for it. You can always contact me at rlacey@senate.idaho.gov or 208-332-1406.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Week Eight 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

Still being hurried but nothing of substance is happening. Budgets are being set on schedule and our last motion should be on March 13th. As it takes about two weeks for the budgets to go through all the steps to be approved, we could be done by March 27th just like the Majority Leadership projected when the session started. However……..what have we accomplished? No transportation funding, no Medicaid redesign, our school funding will be rushed and probably less than desirable, the IEN/ENA mess will still be with us and the session will end just because it can.

So much for being grumpy!!!

I had a wonderful couple of minutes with former Governors Andrus and Batt at a book signing and received copies of their books – Cecil Andrus, Idaho’s Greatest Governor, Life as a Geezer and The Complete Phil Batt. This little visit made my week.

We had a delightful experience on Tuesday with a Hindu prayer. It was refreshing to hear the words in Hindu and then the translation. The prayer dealt much with peace and love. We need to have more prayers from the different religions. One very good thing about Boise is that the population is very diverse and more opportunities to learn are available if you wish to look for them.

The Pro Tem and the Speaker are both anticipating that we will Sine Die (end) by March 27th. Both have pretty much conceded that nothing of substance will have occurred this year in regards to our transportation, education or other pressing matters. I know this repeats my first paragraph but it bears repeating as this may go down as the least productive session in recent history.

There is another election being jammed down our throats. The Republicans have decided to have a Primary Election for the President during the second week of March in 2016. I think I talked about this last week with the $2 million price tag. Of course, this will pull money from the State coffers which could have been used for schools or roads or many other worthwhile projects. Money means nothing when a political body decides it wants something bad enough. It is only anticipated that 20% of the voters will actually participate in a primary election – so how much per vote? Whoever wants a primary should pay for it --- not the taxpayers. At least this is my opinion.

There is a Department of Justice investigation being conducted regarding the internet mess and a rumor that there is a gag order. We had a presentation on this and were told that if we hadn’t been contacted we were not part of a gag order, if there was one. Not much more information is available, but consideration is being given to remove this function permanently from the Department of Administration to make a clean break (separation) from the misapplied contracts. For next year the schools will need to apply for the E-rate funds from the Federal Government. It is interesting to note that many of the schools that shopped around have found internet services for a lesser price than was being charged to the State.

We had an interesting discussion on autonomous cars (cars that can drive themselves) this week and while the legislation allowed for testing in Idaho the restrictions were so great that some believe testing would actually be discouraged. The bill was sent to be amended to remove some of the sideboards so a real test could be conducted and hopefully entice some companies to come to Idaho. There are some small enterprises in northern Idaho that have begun some testing in very select areas with the support of their cities and counties. Many of the advantages that were being brought out are already on cars such as automatic stopping, warnings when lanes are changed, etc.

The dangers of tanning beds was very ably described to our Health & Welfare Committee and we have sent a piece of legislation to the floor that would place age limits (except with specific parental permission) for those who would be allowed to tan in these devices. This legislation has been floating around the Capitol for 4 or 5 years and until this year was not successful. Our children need protection and this legislation provides just that unless we, as parents, wish to override. Good bill should pass.

There is a controversial piece of legislation regarding the classification of sex offenders for their registry. Right now there are two categories, non-violent and violent. The proposal is to make 5 categories which in itself seems to be fine, but the cost to implement the changes is over $1.4 million and then will cost about $1 million per year to maintain. I just can’t support that much money for such a little change. It is another one of those “sounds good” bills that people like to fund even if it takes away from schools, transportation, etc. Most legislators do not think about a bottom line as surely the State has lots of money. It costs a lot of money just to run the State without adding all these extras.

The two Pocatello representatives and I have been discussing dates for our next Town Hall and had felt March 28 may be a good day, but, if the session ends on the 27th we will all possibly still be in Boise to begin the move back home. I will keep you apprised.

Things are looking better as by the end of next week the budgets will have been set by the Finance Committee and my early morning meetings will cease and maybe I can again become a normal person. I appreciate your trust and encourage you to pass on your ideas at rlacey@senate.idaho.gov.

Dems to talk about Education Legislation

education

Pocatello, ID - An up-to-date report on new laws aimed at Idaho teachers' pay and possible effects on the growing shortage of teachers in the state will be the program at the Bannock County Democrats' monthly Political Soup luncheon Wednesday, March 11th. Maggie Calica, Director for Region 5 of the Idaho Education Association and Tom VanDeren, Pocatello Education Association President will present the program, Career Ladder and Tiered Licensure, and answer questions.

"It's going to be even harder to recruit teachers," under the bill, "we expected to see introduced Thursday," said Calica. The Pocatello School District is just one in the state, she noted, that is using teachers without full credentials because of a shortage of certified classroom teachers willing to accept open jobs.

This Political Soup event will be held at the headquarters of the Bannock County Democrats, 355 Yellowstone Ave., across the street from Mama Inez restauraunt on Yellowstone in Pocatello. Yummy food will be served between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. with the program beginning at noon. A small donation is appreciated.

Political Soup s a great way to stay in touch with what's important for voters in the area, as well as to pass around ideas and suggestions. For more information about this event, please contact our organization at bannockdemocrats@gmail.com or call (208) 234-8908.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Legislative Update

marknye
Mark Nye Office Address
District 29 State Capitol
Committees: P.O. Box 83720
Judiciary, Rules & Administration Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
Local Government (208) 332-1079
Revenue & Taxation mnye@house.idaho.gov

The next six weeks of the Legislature will tell the tale. The majority is not only failing on many important issues, but drawing national attention and some embarrassment to Idaho. First was the salamander bill and one legislator being named dumbest in the State, then, another lawmaker trying to urge impeachment of judges who rule against your view. Recently, the Legislature went viral when a North Idaho Legislator was asking if swallowing a camera could determine if a woman was pregnant.

I know of two legislators who are armed and packing, at least one at all times in the Statehouse. So all this is new when I thought I was going to Boise to help the state of education and transportation. Now a local legislator is again trying to pass legislation that would restrict ways the city might finish our Greenway.

The majority leadership is privately talking about fixing our highways with higher taxes. This is because of the failure to keep up with necessary maintenance. Roads, streets, and bridges have been underfunded for years since the legislature has refused to raise the gas tax since 1996 and now faces over $200 million in backlogged work. I've been working with my colleagues to put together an alternative funding plan.

We have no certainty for what K-12 or higher education will see. Schools have also been underfunded for too long, and I am working to increase funds for education.

On a brighter note, the Idaho State Police are finally getting a long overdue building on South 5th in Pocatello. And, we recently assisted in clarifying measures to help new businesses settle at places like the airport.

Lastly, the anticipated revenues for the State are up. This allows for some extra funds to meet the needs and we should know more in about two weeks how this will look.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.