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House Highlights – February 20

February 20th, 2008 by Halli

By Representative Tom Loertscher

It took some time this year to accumulate bills on our third reading
calendar in the House. Now however, there is no shortage of legislation
to be considered on the floor. And then there are the proposals that
seem to slow us down with a lot of debate.

Debate of the issues is a good thing and it is interesting to hear some
of the points that are stressed by the two opposing sides. One bill this
week was another one of those “automatic pilot” bills that would
have taken funds directly to a program without the normal appropriations
process. Whenever that happens the members of the Appropriations
Committee get to their feet and give all of the reasons why that is not
a good idea. It seems to me that budget setting needs to be more than
just a formality, I voted no.

It was brought to my attention that every House committee has a
statutory mandate to review performance measures of the agencies they
oversee. There are ten of them for which the State Affairs Committee is
responsible. I have never been one to think that these presentations
have much value but that has changed with a change in focus from what
the agencies do, to how well they are doing it.

One of particular interest this week was the Lottery Commission. Part
of their mission statement is to promote responsible playing of the
lottery. What catches your ears in these discussions is how much effort
they make to increase sales. The mixed message then becomes, don’t
overdo it, just buy more tickets, two very different sides of the same
coin. The lottery is sending about seventeen million dollars to schools
this year and an equal amount to state buildings. It only took about one
hundred forty million dollars of gambling to get there.

School boards were in town and we had a chance to meet with several of
them briefly. As with most folks who approach legislators, they have a
list of items outlining their concerns. Funding was not the top issue
for them. First on the list was the election consolidation legislation
that is about to be introduced. No discussion with educators would be
complete these days without a discussion of ISTARS, Superintendent Tom
Luna’s proposal for teacher compensation.

With the Governor lowering the current fiscal year revenue projection
to two percent, more alarm bells went off than at a school fire drill.
As I visit with colleagues, the most frequent worry expressed is not
wanting ever to have a repeat of what happened in 2001 through 2003.

With all of the agency budget hearings now complete, JFAC is about to
begin setting the budget for fiscal 2009. And as tradition would have it
we are about in the middle of the session, theoretically. The first set
of pages is about to head back to the classroom, budget setting begins,
and our calendars are full. But it’s not time to relax yet.

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Posted in Education, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

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