by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone
We were greeted early Monday morning by a crowd of people backed up for almost the entire length of the west and east wings of the capitol. I got a few laughs along the way as I asked, “Is there a party going on somewhere?” I knew of course that they had come from all over the state to participate in the hearing for House Bill 2 (aka; add the words). It turned out to be what is thought to be the largest and longest hearing in the history of the state.
It took over 22 hours of committee time with almost 200 people testifying on the legislation. Everyone who indicated they wanted to testify had a chance to do so. the committee was preached to, castigated for waiting so long, and we even had a lecture or two from lawyers and psychologists. At the beginning of the third day I quoted a former legislator that was famous for his homey little homilies in an effort to expedite the testimony and to avoid duplication. “The oftener you run over a dead cat, the flatter it gets” was his favorite.
Testimony from both sides was passionate and very emotional. After all of the testimony was taken, the vote was to hold the bill in committee. No one in those hearings came away without having deep impressions from what was heard.
There is so much in the background that happens to facilitate a hearing like this. A huge thank you goes out to the Sergeant of Arms and support staff, the Secretaries, the Pages, Security and the State Police. Having directly seen what they did I am in awe.
Other things around this place of interest this week have mostly to do with the budget process. This was the week for education with all of the University Presidents in town to make their pitch for more money, guaranteeing no increase in tuition if the legislature appropriates the money they say they need. The Superintendent of Public Instruction presenting a budget request lower than the Governor is a first, but in either case a large increase.
Hearings will soon begin on the Idaho Education Network. There are several ideas floating around about how to fix this mess, one of which is for the local school districts to apply directly to the Feds for funds to operate the network. I keep thinking about possible outcomes for the Historical Racing issue and I am sure the State Affairs Committee has only begun with interesting hearings this year. As for Medicaid Redesign, I hear a groan every time it is brought up.
It was great to get home for the weekend and get some fresh air and prepare for the week ahead. Linda was in Boise with me last week and as we pulled into our driveway she did what she always does after being gone for a few days. She said, “This is the best place on earth.” Home always is, isn’t it?
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