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Idaho House Highlights: January 28

January 28th, 2009 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher

There are a lot of fascinating things that happen in life and every so often you even get to experience them if you are just paying attention. It is no different around the Idaho House but to experience some of this stuff you have to really be paying attention.

As the activities on the House Floor begin each day there are a number of routine matters that occupy the first few minutes. Sometimes members are busy reading their mail or checking on personal items and they miss what goes on in the first few orders of business. There are two of these times I like to listen carefully, the introduction of bills and to which committee a bill is referred. An interesting one happened the other day when a bill was read across the desk and it caught my attention quickly. It was a personal bill of a North Idaho legislator repealing all sales tax exemptions except for medical bills and prescription drugs. I looked around and saw that few noticed that little (or not so little) item. Even more noteworthy was to hear it referred to a committee (Ways and Means) where it is not likely to see the light of day. In a nutshell that kind of legislation would cause such a huge tax burden that it would have serious consequences to the economy of Idaho.

The rules reviewing we do at the beginning of each session is another one of those places where it pays to pay attention. This can be a little more difficult because sometimes the intent of the agencies can be unclear to legislators. After all they do this all year long and we have but brief encounters with some of this stuff. Legislators sometimes don’t become aware of rule problems until they adversely affect our constituents.

I was assigned to review a set of rules in a Health and Welfare subcommittee dealing with child protection and foster care. As I started to study the rules in depth I found some processes being put in rule that concern me. The length of time a child can be kept in foster care as described in these rules is much too long. To a child in this type of situation even sixty days can seem like an eternity and the rule provides for up to two years, with mandatory reviews every six months. This one definitely needs some work.

One thing that is different this year than others is that everyone seems to be paying more attention to what is going on with the budgeting process. The usual mode of operation is to leave these matters to JFAC. On what we would call normal years there is not a lot of attention until the actual budget is done. This time members are getting more calls and e-mails about proposed budget cuts so they seem to want to know more about how we are going to make ends meet.

Another area where more folks around here seem to be devoting more attention is the Fish and Game request for higher fees. And mixed up in these discussions is what is going on with wolves and predators of all kinds. One friend commented to me that Fish and Game would probably have all the revenue they could ever use if they just had more product. And now Fish and Game has come full circle. I can remember reading news accounts of when they were eagerly supporting wolf re-introduction and now they are requesting permission to kill wolves in North Idaho.

As we have now completed the work of the first two weeks of the session, the committees are up and running with rules to complete and all kinds of new laws to consider. So you might say we are paying attention to our work but the real question is yet to be answered. Will we be paying attention to detail?

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Idaho Legislature, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

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