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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, January 13

January 14th, 2014 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, Bone

A friend or two over the weekend asked me how the new legislative session was going so far. I responded that it seemed to be normal in that there is some extra money for which every agency wants the lion’s share and then some. One thing that is different is that the optimism is flowing very strongly in hopes of a short session, but in reality the way we do things in this place takes time and we are bound to have a hang up or two along the way.

Also new this year, or at least revisited, is the practice of convening a Change of Employee Compensation committee (CEC) that has not been done for a while. I was assigned to the committee and all but a few things were as expected. Most revealing to the committee was that this year because of what is affectionately called the ACA or Obamacare (take your pick) there will be a tax of about $3.8 Million imposed on the state for its health coverage for state employees and will increase as time goes by. The net effect of that and other federal requirements is that health insurance premiums for the state plan will increase dramatically both for the state’s share and the employee share. That is the first time in memory that the cost of health insurance is being driven by more than medical inflation and utilization.

In 2012 the legislature enacted a measure to require the agencies to have negotiated rulemaking and as a result we have decided to have a few agencies in to see how they are handling the process. The agencies we have invited are, Health and Welfare, Department of Environmental Quality, Fish and Game, and the Tax Commission. We now have their written responses in hand and the hearing is scheduled for January 23rd. The committee members already have questions to ask of the directors. This is something we have not done before and we hope it will provide us with information on how the agencies do their rules and we also hope it will inspire them to have good public and stakeholder input in the process.

Talking about the beginning of the session would not be complete without mentioning a few items that were brought up by Governor Otter in his State of the State Message. For the most part, it was pretty vintage Governor Otter, but there are two things that deserve mentioning. The first is his desire to place $86 million in our various savings accounts. I am a big fan of preparing for a future rainy day. It is going to be interesting to see if we are able to place that much in savings. I’m sure there will be an amount, but possibly not that large. The other program that he intends to begin is to put in place mental health centers as a pilot project in some of the communities throughout Idaho. This is most interesting to me because prior to the Department of Health and Welfare consolidating all the mental health services in fewer regions, he now desires to shift those programs back to the communities where in my opinion we will be able to do much better job. In the past, community run mental health programs did much better than we have experienced in recent years with the centralized system.

It may seem that things are normal, but it might not last long. Every session seems to take on its own character and this one will probably not be an exception.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Presidential Politics, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

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