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Idaho House Highlights – March 25

March 25th, 2009 by Halli

By Representative Tom Loertscher, R-31

One of the things that is dangerous in the legislative process is when
a committee tries to re-write the language of a proposal before it has
become a bill. We got caught up with that the other day in State Affairs
and finally came to our senses at the last moment and sent it back for
re-drafting. While committees are fairly good for sorting out good ideas
from not-so-good ideas, when it comes to actually writing something it
doesn’t always work out the best.

A couple of bills having to do with the International Fire Code were
sent to the Floor of the House last week and we had a large group of
fire chiefs and the fire marshal there in force and in opposition. The
controversy was centered around the new version of the code that now
requires all new single family homes to have automatic fire sprinkler
systems. If you live in urban areas where there is sufficient water
supply and you don’t have freezing temperatures this might work out
well. But if you live in the country (as many of us do) and you live in
places in Idaho where the temperatures get below freezing (as almost all
of us do) it becomes problematic. Both bills came out of the committee
and one of them passed the full House. One colleague commented, “Not a
good week for fire marshals.”

There are some small Quaga and Zebra Mussels that have become quite a
problem in some parts of the country, as close as Lake Mead. They are
transported from place to place, mostly in the bilges and cooling
systems of boats as well as on the hulls. Once they get a start they
take over waterways and make a huge problem. They will completely close
off irrigations pumps and pipes and they clog up electric generation
turbines. The bill provides for an annual fee of ten dollars per boat to
get boat washing stations at our lakes and reservoirs.

Representative Gibbs of Grace pointed out that Bear Lake would be
especially hard hit if we did not take measures to keep them out. One
House member suggested that we have these washing stations at the ports
of entry. I then reminded the body that we have some lakes that we share
with other states and there are no ports of entry on those lakes. Bear
Lake is the most unique body of water in the world, and these little
critters would permanently alter the lake.

The first of the Governor’s revenue raisers for transportation did
not fare well at all in the House. It would have increased the fuel tax
by seven cents over the next three years. I voted no. Folks at home have
been particularly vocal on higher taxes, and I have gotten more comment
on these proposals than on any other.

In conversing with some budget committee members, I asked how it was
going. Fast, is how one committee member put it. There are no budget
enhancements to consider, no line items, and no increases only
decreases. Of course they are working on the easy items first and the
toughest of all will be the K-12 budget this year. Is there a chance we
will be giving some much needed flexibility to the districts? There will
almost certainly have to be. Our mettle is about to be tested.

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