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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 5

March 5th, 2012 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

There’s a little convenience store in Ammon where I was visiting with the owner about various and sundry matters. Whenever I stop by there, he always engages me in a conversation about one thing or another having to do with government. He was waiting on another customer and forgot to give her one of the items that she had purchased. When she came back to the store for her item he was very apologetic. After she had gone, he turned to me and said that he wasn’t enjoying getting older very much because he kept forgetting things. I agreed immediately with him about those prospects but I told him that the only way out of these kinds of problems is through them.

We are starting to clean off some of the committee calendars at present, which means a heavier workload on the House floor. Some days we get a lot done there and other days not so much. Whenever there is a long and protracted debate about a piece of legislation, it slows the process down but that’s a good thing. We make big mistakes when we go too fast. There was a little bit of comic relief the other day when representative, Ken Andrus from Lava Hot Springs, presented a bill about wool growers. He was asked a lot of questions about the bill that is located in the section of the law about sheep and goats. There was concern about the goat grower’s not being able to participate with the wool growers because most goats don’t have wool. Angora goats were mentioned as a possibility to solve that dilemma. One Representative asked, “Could a goat grower buy just one Angora goat?” His answer, “It’s a free country.”

There was a lot of discussion on the floor involving an income tax cut bill which in essence makes the Idaho income tax into an almost flat tax. This is a proposal that has been pushed by Governor Otter in what he and others see as an economic development tool. Another selling point of the legislation was to take some money off the table in future years. The bill passed the House quite handily but it may have problems in the Senate.

Another interesting piece of legislation in the state affairs committee this last week, was a cigarette rolling machine that some of the tobacco shops have been using to provide for a variety of different tobaccos. It has been discovered that some of these machines have been used to roll pipe tobacco into cigarettes, thereby avoiding the higher taxes associated with other types of tobacco. We hear a lot about level playing fields around this place and this was probably the biggest reason it was forwarded to the whole House was to make sure everybody pays the same tax.

Representative Gibbs and I were involved in discussions between high-ranking people from Monsanto and Rocky Mountain Power. Legislation has been introduced in the house that provides for advanced knowledge of capital projects of the investor owned utilities. I think we opened the door for productive discussions to take place, and we hope that we have been able to get something constructive done. I’m not sure any of these parties really want to air out their differences in public by way of a full-blown committee hearing. I wish it were simpler than it is to decide what to do in this matter. The rate setting process, which involves the Public Utilities Commission, is a very complicated one. But then I suppose the only way out of this may be through it.

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