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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, February 20

February 20th, 2012 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

We have a page program in the legislature that gives high school seniors the opportunity to come and work in the legislature. These young people are the crème on the crop as students go and they come for a six week period to help. They must have permission from their teachers and principals, and are able to be away for that period of time, and they must keep up on their studies in addition to their page duties.

At this time of the session it is time for the first half of the session group to head back to school. The tradition around here is for them to put on a program which usually is a reflection of what they have learned while they are here. In that short of a time they get to know us pretty well and they have a great time making fun of our little idiosyncrasies. It is clear that they really are paying attention to what goes on and they are not bashful about making us laugh at ourselves.

Our schedule has picked up and we have a lot on our plate. The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee has finished its hearings and will now start setting budgets. Most of us have seen the “big picture” overview of where they may be going given the revenue projection and the requests from the Governor and the agencies. The target number for the budget is about a 7.8 percent increase in expenditures over last year, but the revenue projection is for about a 4.5 percent increase over last year.

I realize that some of that is due to the meager amount that seems to be coming in over what we had projected last year but does not explain away all of the increase. Somewhere in the back of my mind is the memory of just ten years ago when the legislature spent twice the increase and how that led to a disaster in budgeting the following year. I for one do not want to see a repeat of that incident.

More and more stuff is making it through the committees to the floor for debate. One bill on early childhood education was presented to the body and after a few questions but no debate, it failed to pass the House. We don’t see that happen very often. Most of the time when a bill fails it is after a very rigorous debate, with passionate debate on both sides of the issue.

A former legislator who now lives in Boise County and is now one of the commissioners there, has been around the halls of the Capital quite a bit the last two weeks. He and I used to have quite the debates, both on and off the floor of the House. More often than not our disagreements were pretty sharp but over the years we have maintained a mutual respect for each other. We would “duke it out” during debate and then late into the evenings as we sat around our desks, we would discuss and re-discuss in an effort to persuade the other. We still probably don’t agree a lot, but in spite of our differences in philosophy, it was good to see him and talk about some of the funnier things that have happened in the past. One thing we agree on after these intervening years is that having differences on the issues is OK, but having rancor should not be part of the process or of life in general.

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

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