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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, February 28, 2010

February 28th, 2010 by Halli

By Representative Tom Loertscher, R-31

I can’t remember a time when we have had a chance to look at a preliminary budget blueprint that has had so many red numbers (budget decreases) on it. As it came to us at week’s end, it took the breath from some of us who have been busy with other committee assignments. It came as no big surprise, but to see it on paper jarred the senses a little. These first numbers include an anticipated decrease in the number of funded state positions by 400. That does not mean there will necessarily be 400 less employees, just 400 less positions available.

Sometimes legislation is introduced around this place to fire a shot across the bow of an agency, to get their attention and/or get their help on a problem. Rep. Gibbs and Senate Pro Tem Geddes came before State Affairs with our little bill to solve the septic tank issue that has caused problems in Franklin County. Little did we know that this has been a big problem elsewhere in Idaho and the committee’s response was quick to have it introduced. Rep. Anderson who sits next to me expressed pretty much what we have heard from others, “I like this bill!” It may have been a warning shot, but it has garnered not only the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality, but the support of a large number of legislators and others.

It must be the year of firsts, and another event took place that has not happened before. Governor Otter requested to come to the House Republican Caucus to discuss what happened with the public employee retirement increase. After the meeting the Associated Press did its best to try and get some comments from me about what had happened and what the Governor had said. I don’t think it appropriate to quote the governor, nor do I think it is my job to question his motives. Do I think less of the Senate for what happened? No, this is just what seems to be normal around here. And as Forest Gump said, “That’s all I have to say about that”

Another first this year has to do with the Speaker of the House Lawrence Denny. It has been traditional in the House to have some entertaining production on the Speaker’s birthday which was on Friday. Before we convened I asked him if there was another “skit” planned for the celebration this year. He has told me other years that he dreads what is about to happen, but I think he has been a good sport about the fun and games. Expecting something to happen as we were about to adjourn, the annual production conspicuously didn’t happen. I couldn’t tell if he was relieved or disappointed. It reminded me of the story I heard of the family that lived along the railroad tracks and were never awakened by the 3:00 AM train. Then one night it didn’t run and they all woke up and said, “What was that that?” It was sort of the same reaction.

And also for the first time, there seems to be a plan to get this wrapped up before April arrives. Now that is really a first. And if the wheels stay on this wagon it is doable. Just one little hiccup along the way could alter this. For the first time ever the Senate co-chair of JFAC is going to share the intent language for the education budget before it is set. It is a year for firsts indeed.

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