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House Highlights, 29 January 2007

January 30th, 2007 by Halli

By Tom Loertscher
It doesn’t happen very often to me but from time to time I get a song in
my head and it goes around and around and just keeps surfacing. Recently I
thought of a song I heard in the sixties sung by Edith Piaf, a French
singer that was called the “Sparrow of Paris.” I hadn’t heard the song “No
Regrets” in a long time but it kept running through my mind. At long last
I was able to locate the song and listen to it. No regrets is a story for
another time.

Another thing that has been running through my memory this past week is
what a friend and former colleague has been telling me for years, “There
is no right way to do the wrong thing.” It came to mind several times
during some of the discussions that have arisen over new legislation that
will be coming to the House floor for debate. The item that has drawn the
most attention the past two weeks has been the hold placed on the Capitol
expansion project by the Governor. Compromise was in the air and it has
been settled. Now instead of two story wings they will consist of just one
level. Well I suppose that’s only half as bad as the original idea but for
some reason I get little comfort from it. Don’t get me wrong it would be
nice, but I just think the empty buildings across the street would do just
fine.

A new state program for inspecting underground fuel tanks has been
introduced, that is being advocated on the basis that it will give the
State control of the inspections and certifications. This of course would
be to keep the Federal Environmental Protection Agency at bay and would
supposedly be more “customer” friendly. It doesn’t put me at ease however,
because our track record on other such matters is not the greatest. The
legislation will provide early on for the further expansion of the
Department of Environmental Quality. Just what we need, more government
— more state government, to enforce federal regulations. And that quote
just keeps coming up again and again.

Internet sales tax made its way out of the House Revenue and Taxation
committee by way of Idaho participating in an interstate agreement to
collect for other states as well. This is an old idea that has never made
it to the full House before. There is bound to be red tape for Idaho
businesses that sell over the internet. Collecting our own sales tax is
one thing but collecting and reporting for other states is quite another.
And what about other states that have no sales tax, how do we collect
there? How many new auditors will this new process necessitate? These are
just some of the questions. I’m leaning towards a “No” on this one, and I
just keep hearing those words, “No right way —-.”

In State Affairs, what is in committee is greatly overshadowed by what is
yet to come. Some of the major issues are yet to be introduced. One bill
that was introduced was one to change the definition of dessert wine along
with a not so innocent change of what is a catered event, and where they
can be held and what licensing is required. One new committee member
commented that it looked like a rather innocent change to him. I urged him
to take the novel approach of reading the bill a little more carefully,
the change doesn’t look all that innocent to me. Now how does that go? “No
—-.”

I’ve just proof read the above and good grief, I must sound a bit like the
worlds biggest pessimist. I don’t think so. I’m just looking for the right
way to do the right thing.

Posted in Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Property Rights, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

Mom’s Best Peanut Butter Bars

January 30th, 2007 by Halli

This great recipe was a favorite of my high school friends, yes – many years ago!

½ c shortening
½ c peanut butter
½ c granulated sugar
½ c brown sugar
1 egg
¼ c water
1 ¼ c flour
¾ t soda
½ t baking powder
¼ t salt
1-6oz pkg chocolate chips
Chocolate Glaze (recipe below)
½ c chopped salted peanuts

Heat oven to 375F. Grease 9” X 13” pan. Mix shortening, peanut butter, sugars and egg thoroughly. Stir in water, flour, soda, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips. Spread in prepared pan. Bake about 20 minutes. While warm, spread with Chocolate Glaze and sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Cut into bars.

Chocolate Glaze
Melt 2 oz unsweetened chocolate and 3 T butter or margarine. Remove from heat and stir in 1 c confectioner’s sugar and ¾ t vanilla. Stir in about 2 T hot water, one t at a time, until glaze is of spreading consistency.

Posted in Recipes | No Comments »

Immigration Woes Will Get Worse

January 30th, 2007 by Halli

A friend forwarded the link to a very interesting video now showing on YouTube. In it, the immigration problem is graphically illustrated and explained to show that the United States can never keep up with the current levels of third world “refugees” flooding our borders.

As a reminder, Governor Butch Otter, in his State of the State address, signaled his support for a proposed law giving state welfare benefits only to legal immigrants and residents of the state. The time line for this bill is yet to be revealed, but I believe it deserves the support of every voter and taxpayer in the state of Idaho. Contact your legislators. And if they waffle on this issue, forward them the link to this video.

Posted in Idaho Legislature, National Sovereignty, Politics in General, Taxes | No Comments »

Idaho’s Property Tax – Can We Live Without It?

January 30th, 2007 by Halli

A recent letter to the editor in the local newspaper suggested doing away with property tax completely, as it is the most unfair of all taxes levied in the state of Idaho, especially property tax levied on personal residences.

Think about it: once you purchase your home, unless you rent out a room or sell it, you do not generate any income from it. Yet the value of your home (especially in Idaho) is likely to go up every year, increasing the amount you are charged in property tax. This is especially difficult for those on fixed incomes.

As mentioned in a previous post, it may actually be argued that no one (besides government) owns any real property in the state of Idaho. If you doubt that statement, see what happens when you fail to pay your property taxes. Perhaps property tax would more accurately be labeled “rent payment”.

The writer of the letter suggested raising the sales and income taxes to make up for the repeal of property tax. At first glance, what may appear to be a revolutionary idea has already been done, in part. Remember the special session of the legislature called by then-Governor Jim Risch in August, 2006? The action taken there removed the schools’ maintenance and operations budgets from property taxes, and raised the sales tax from 5% to 6% to make up for the loss. (It still remains for the legislature to actually appropriate those sales tax dollars from the general fund for school support.)

Why couldn’t the entire amount currently raised by property taxes be shifted to other taxes? Wouldn’t that be more equitable, since not everyone owns property?

Yes, I know that renters do pay property tax, but not directly. Renters are generally quite insulated from the entire notion. Let them pay more in sales and income tax.

Visitors to each Idaho city drive on streets and roads (and use other city services as well) paid for by property taxes. Why not let them contribute more through sales tax?

Obviously there are many problems to work out with such a proposal, but perhaps there is promise in the idea. And perhaps all letters to the editor aren’t from crackpots!

Posted in Education, Idaho Falls Issues, Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Property Rights, Taxes | No Comments »

Being the Grandma

January 29th, 2007 by Halli

Posts this week on TrishAndHalli.com may be a bit sparse.  That is due to the fact that I am acting the “grandma” role in Arizona.  Grandbaby number 7 was born this week, an event and celebration that I wouldn’t miss for the world!

So be patient, continue to check the site, and expect a return to normal posts next week when I travel back to Idaho.

Posted in General | No Comments »

Home Schoolers Snubbed by Idaho State Scholarships Part III

January 28th, 2007 by Halli

Parts I and II detailed the attempts of an outstanding Idaho home-schooled high school senior to apply for several scholarships. There is a break-through in this story which is very encouraging.

Many legislators have responded to this problem, including Senate Pro Tem Bob Geddes of Soda Springs, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, Rep. Dean Mortimer of Idaho Falls, Rep. Mack Shirley of Rexburg, and Rep. Janice McGeachin of Idaho Falls.

Then Dwight Johnson, executive director of the State Board of Education stated in an email to the concerned mother,

“You raise a very legitimate concern. Unfortunately, as currently drafted in Idaho Code, home-schooled children are not eligible for the merit-based Robert R. Lee Scholarship Promise A Category. In addition, based on current guidelines of the governing committee of the Governor’s Challenge Scholarships, home-schooled children are not eligible for that scholarship. As explained in the attached documents, I believe the law and the guidelines may have been written this way because of the practical difficulties in making merit-based comparisons between secondary school students and home-schooled students.”

Mr. Johnson went on to explain that home schooled students are eligible for 3 other “student aid” scholarships. Of course, this message brought considerable disappointment.

However, it is Governor Butch Otter who has promised to get something done. In an email message from the Governor’s Constituent Services, we read:

“Thank you for contacting the Governor’s office in relation to the Governor’s Challenge Scholarship and the Promise Category A Scholarship. Governor Otter is planning to change the regulations for the Governor’s Challenge Scholarship and will introduce legislation to allow home schooled students to apply for the Promise Category A Scholarship. Thank you for bringing this to his attention and helping him make these important changes.”

If the promised changes are made, it is still unclear whether this student will be able to apply for these scholarships, or only home schooled students of the future, as the January 15th application deadline passed while emails were still flying.

This student’s mother will be traveling to Boise with the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators Wednesday, January 31, and will be meeting with legislators and representatives from the governor’s office as well as the Department of Education.

Incidentally, since Part II was written, the student has completed her GED test, with the results stating that her performance places her in the top 1% of all high school graduates. Remember that she also has an ACT score, and has taken the ISATS. No way to make “merit-based comparisons between secondary school students and home-schooled students”? Idaho law must be changed!

Posted in Education, Idaho Falls Issues, Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Taxes | No Comments »

Baked Pasta

January 27th, 2007 by Halli

This great recipe from the “Let’s Get Cooking” radio show can easily be doubled, if you own pans and bowls large enough! Even one recipe of this great pasta makes a large amount. After being assembled it can be kept in the refrigerator several days before baking, if desired. It’s great for serving large groups, or for sharing with friends or neighbors who are under the weather. Chris Woodhouse brought us this recipe.

Cook according to package instructions 1 ½ lbs ziti or rigatoni pasta. Drain and set aside

Brown together:
1 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Drain well and stir into pasta.
Add:
29oz can diced tomatoes
1 26oz jar thick spaghetti sauce
½ t dried basil
½ t dried oregano
1-2 t minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Pour into a 9” X 13” pan (it may not all fit!). Top with lots of grated Mozzarella cheese and a lesser amount of grated Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil. At this stage, it can be refrigerated for up to two days before baking.

Bake (with foil on) at 350F for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more.

Posted in Recipes | No Comments »

Update: North American Union Plans Denied in Argument over Semantics

January 26th, 2007 by Halli

WorldNetDaily.com reports that congressmen are beginning to do their own research on reports of a proposed “North American Union“, or Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

At a House committee meeting Wednesday, questioning of Jeffrey N. Shane, undersecretary of transportation for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, quickly dissolved into a matter of semantics.

The result was the same when White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was questioned on the existence of a North American Union aka Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

How can the American people get past this argument over semantics? Fortunately, it seems at least a few congressmen are not going to let government officials off the hook so easily.

Keep an eye on WorldNetDaily.com for updates on the topic.

Posted in General, National Sovereignty, Politics in General, Property Rights, Taxes | 3 Comments »

The Certificate of Need, Otherwise Known as the Certificate of Non-Competition

January 25th, 2007 by Halli

Many years ago, the Idaho Legislature required something called a “Certificate of Need” for each new hospital or hospital addition, medical facility or even new equipment. The Certificate of Need was ostensibly designed to prevent duplication of services when scarce medical dollars were being allocated.

The result, however, was to squelch competition for existing hospitals and medical facilities. A board was selected to review all proposed new facilities and decide whether there truly was a need. Of course, the board included individuals with serious conflicts of interest – they were vested in existing facilities which they hoped to protect from new competition. It was a political process, not based on true need. Fair trade was denied, and consumers of medical services suffered.

Fortunately, that law expired sometime in the early 1980’s. But now the Idaho Hospital Association is seeking to resurrect this very bad idea. Already St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise has hosted a number of legislators at a lovely meal that included a course in “Certificate of Need” flambe’, so to speak. Lead “chef” was Jeremy Pisca, lobbyist (you remember – he helped bring us another great idea in Contractor Registration).

The argument now specifically addresses doctor-owned facilities, which existing hospitals see as threatening their bottom line. Even though surgical centers and other specialty facilities can offer much lower prices for patients, save money for private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare, and offer yet another health care choice, they are in the cross hairs.

Clearly, Certificates of Need are not about “need”, or patients, or saving money at all. They are about stamping out competition for existing hospitals who would like an exclusive corner on the health care market.

Keep an eye out for legislation bringing Certificates of Need back to the Idaho health care scene. A bill would likely be introduced in the Senate or House Health and Welfare Committee. Be prepared to contact legislators with your opinion on the subject.

Posted in General, Idaho Legislature, Taxes | 2 Comments »

The State of Idaho Wants to Tax Your Internet Purchases

January 25th, 2007 by Halli

In fact, it is already law that you owe the state 6% sales tax on all your internet purchases, even if the business you are dealing with is not located in Idaho. You doubt me? Take a look for yourself, or even download the form.

The legislature, and the entire tax commission bureaucracy, I suppose, are already salivating at the millions of dollars they hope to collect from all of you internet shoppers. The proposal is to join the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, which already boasts membership of at least 20 states.

Of course, if you should drive across the state line into Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming or Montana and make a purchase at a brick and mortar store, you won’t find Idaho demanding their 6%. So what’s the difference? Good question.

Today this bill passed out of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee with a tie-breaker vote from Chairman Dennis Lake, of Blackfoot. Lake is usually thought of as a conservative, favoring smaller government and less taxes, but he occasionally and inexplicably departs from his base.

Expect a fight over this legislation on the floor of the house (remember that you can watch it happen over the internet), and do take time to make your opinion on the subject known.

Posted in Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Property Rights, Taxes | No Comments »

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