By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone
A couple of years ago, we were cleaning the shop at the ranch. While doing so I could hardly believe some of the things that I had kept around the place. There were worn-out bearing races, short pieces of useless metal, and other old parts that we had accumulated from previous repair efforts. I thought that it probably was just me, but I soon found out that the whole family had been doing the same thing I had. Apparently, there is a little bit of pack rat in all of us.
Each year as I leave a legislative session, I gather up some of my stuff from the capital and take it home. Linda is not terribly fond of this activity because it all resides very comfortably in the off-season in my office. Now I’m not going to say that I never use these things, but I do tend to go through them from time to time looking for information on things that were done during the previous session. As you can imagine, the next thing that happens is to repack everything and haul it back to the capital. I was doing that last week on Sunday evening after arriving in Boise. The only other person I happened to see at that time in the entire building was a security guard and I don’t think he saw me. It was an eerie feeling to have everything so quiet knowing full well that the legislature would start in earnest the next morning.
On Monday, After Convening in the House, and gathering the Senators, the Elected Officials, and the Judiciary, the Governor Gave His Annual State of the State Message and Budget Message. It was one of the more interesting that I have seen during my time in the legislature. I think it is the first time that I have heard a governor not present a large wish list for the legislature to consider. He has projected a small increase in revenues but seemed to recognize that there is no room this year for new items in the budget. One thing that stood out, was his request to bond for the money that we owe the federal government for unemployment benefits. It certainly deserves consideration but at the same time we need to make sure that we don’t over-extend the resources of the state.
The other item during the week that seemed to occupy a lot of discussion time was the new education reforms that Superintendent Luna proposed. I think it is a good thing for students to begin to learn how to take courses online. There are so many resources available for education in this day and age and I hope that educators will have an open mind when it comes to considering these new ways of educating kids. I have been told that there is a vast new resource online called Google Apps Education that is being successfully used in other parts of the country. I hope we will look seriously at what is available from that source. The other part of the proposal in providing a laptop computer for every student is one that will need careful consideration. Just giving a computer to each student could be problematic and a better way might be to require some ownership of the students for the equipment. It seems like when we as humans have some ownership we take better care of things.
Several members of the House health and welfare committee had a chance to participate in a conference call with the former director of health and welfare for the state of Rhode Island. That state has worked with the federal government in getting flexibility to operate the Medicaid program. They claim to be realizing great savings while at the same time not reducing the programs or eligibility. This looks to be a major new effort that we will be looking at during this session.
And so it begins. One of the suggestions I heard around these halls was that we probably should just adopt the Governor’s budget and go home. That may be too much to hope for because I am sure a lot of legislators want to have a careful look at what he has proposed. Seeing how it is our constitutional responsibility to develop a budget, that is what we will do.
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