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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights Jan. 24

January 24th, 2016 by Halli

Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

Probably the hottest topic discussed around the legislature this last week, was all of the issues that are going to appear on our agenda soon. Even though several issues were discussed by various groups, not much actually came forward at least in a way we could begin introducing legislation. What will more than likely occur is that all at once we will have much on our plate and then we might hurry too fast getting things done.

I was asked last year and this to participate on what has been fondly dubbed the CEC Committee. The CEC stands for change in employee compensation and in other sectors they call it employee raises. The purpose of the committee is to recommend to JFAC (budget committee) what state employees should be paid in the next fiscal year. After much discussion and three different hearings on the matter and five different motions, the committee recommended that the governor’s proposal for salary increases be adopted.

What that translates into is a 3% across-the-board raise for state employees in the coming year and in addition the state will pick up all increases in employee health insurance costs. I thought there was a better motion out there that would have given a 2% across-the-board raise and then move the pay policy closer to the private sector by using the other 1% and have that pickup the increase or at least part of the increase in health insurance costs.

That decision was made very early in the morning on Tuesday and I had the privilege of reporting the result to House leadership and committee chairs in their regular weekly meeting. Because of the CEC meeting I arrived a little late and found that they had been discussing the governor’s budget and all kinds of brake lights were coming on in the room. The memory banks were alive with what occurred around this place in the year 2002, when a 13% increase in spending took place in spite of a 6% increase in revenues being predicted. That led to the longest session of the legislature in 2003 trying to find a way to close the budget gap created by overspending and revenues coming in at less than the 6% that had been forecast. So it looks like there is some caution being expressed and reservation about spending at a level that exceeds what we project for revenue increases. Alarm bells are beginning to come on for some.

We had the privilege of listening to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Jim Jones and I have to say that his talk was somewhat refreshing from others I have heard from the court. He had just finished his presentation to the Senate and as he began his comments in the house after we had waited for a few moments for his arrival he said, “I’m sorry that you were waiting for me so long but there was some windbag over in the Senate that prevented me from getting here any sooner.”

Representative Batt, the State Affairs Vice Chairman, spends a lot of time doing the rules review for the agencies that come before the committee. She discovered that two different agencies had written two sets of rules concerning the same matter. What was even more interesting was that neither agency knew what the other was doing. Her comment to me was that at least you would think they would talk to each other.

I received a call from the inventor of powdered alcohol who lives in Arizona. He sounded a bit unhappy about the bill that was introduced to ban the product. He wants to come to Idaho to testify before the committee. We’ll try not to hurry through this one or put it off too long.

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

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