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House Highlights – March 19

March 20th, 2008 by Halli

By Representative Tom Loertscher

As we are coming down what might be called the home stretch for this
session, I was visiting with a fellow House member about the number of
bills we were going through each day. He commented that he hoped we
would not get going so fast that we would make a lot of mistakes. My
response was that is why we have so much clean –up legislation the
next year.

In one way or the other we have been working on the naturopath
licensing dilemma for most of the time we have been here. First it was
the rules that were rejected and in the last few weeks it has been a
bill to change so much in the law that it totally would change the
original intent of the legislation that was enacted in 2005. It took
forty years to get the three main groups together enough to pass
legislation and now they are more fractured than ever. We thought we had
a deal worked out. In fact I was kidding one of the parties that we must
have the perfect bill because no one seems to like it. The whole thing
fell apart on Friday and the bill is back in Health and Welfare. So much
for compromise.

A lot of your money has been spent this week as the budgets continue to
go through the process. The largest one so far has been the Medicaid
portion of Health and Welfare coming in at just under one and one half
billion dollars. The bad news is that it is such a large amount and if
there is good news, at least it is not a double digit percentage
increase over last year’s budget. About one third of that is from the
State general fund and the remainder from the Feds. But it is still all
the taxpayers’ money.

Members of the Transportation Committee in the House have been working
on a plan to inject more revenue (that’s a polite way to say increase
taxes and/or fees) into the Department to cover what has been dubbed a
“shortfall” in funding for construction and maintenance this next
year. Under one of the ideas older car fees would double while newer
vehicles would go up forty percent. It is sinking in more and more that
if GARVEE (borrow to build roads) had not been started we would not find
ourselves in this magnitude of a situation. A friend at home asked me
how we could even think of these unfair increases when it is clearly the
time for some belt tightening.

The ninety three page election consolidation bill was introduced in the
State Affairs Committee this week. What the legislation seeks to do is
to have all elections except irrigation districts run by the counties on
four fixed dates each year. This is the most comprehensive election bill
ever and will have a hearing in House State Affairs this next week.
Voting would take place for all elections at the same polling places and
the sponsors argue that it would remove the confusion that has
surrounded some of the taxing district elections in the past. Four and
one half million dollars with an inflator for inflation would be made
available to the counties on an ongoing basis to pay for the process.

As I sat here writing this evening, I received a call from home telling
me of the passing of a good friend and former House member, Ray Infanger
from Salmon. I had the privilege of sitting next to him for four years
on the House floor. Great wisdom came from him every time he spoke.
Poetry from the great writers would come from his lips from memory and
with ease. His love for and ability to quote from the Constitution is
legendary. He was one of the great ones.

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

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