By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone
I had a chance this last weekend to do a little plowing at the ranch. I couldn’t help but think of a fellow I met years ago that had given up farming in order to get a job in town. I asked him why he did that and he said, “I got tired of going around in circles and getting nowhere.” I’ve never felt that way about farming and in fact I was glad to be able to spend some time on the tractor, getting a little therapy as it were.
The two biggest unresolved issues for this session are education and transportation. While visiting with the Speaker late last week, he assured me that things have progressed to the point that an agreement may soon be reached for education but there is still a wide gap on how to best find new money for transportation. No matter where the Transportation Committee looks, it involves higher gas taxes, higher registration fees, and a minor shift to the general fund. All of these issues seem to have some support but not enough yet to find its way into law.
In State Affairs I presented a Gaming Commission bill for introduction which is now known as House Bill 279. If we have learned anything from this racing bill it has been that there is a definite need for better regulation. It would do away with the Lottery Commission and the Racing Commission and puts in place a regulatory framework that would oversee all gaming in Idaho including Tribal Gaming. Later on in the week we had a hearing on the proposal but the State Affairs Committee decided to not forward the bill for any further discussion. As with most things around this place we had several who testified on both sides. For the most part the horse racing community was very much in favor of the bill and representatives of lottery interests and the tribes were not in favor. The bill was held in committee. The bill to repeal historical racing was voted out of committee and sent to the floor of the House.
I keep thinking that the controversial stuff is going to go away but we still have a couple of issues that we will be deciding in the coming week. There never seems to be a dull moment in the State Affairs Committee. I was visiting with a couple of members of the committee and they told me that it is usual for this committee to be involved with one or two controversial items during the session, but this year has been much different. It seems like we’ve had one or two of those difficult issues each week.
On the lighter side, a resolution was passed by the Senate and sent to the House declaring the week of September 28 through November 4, 2015 to be recognized throughout the state as National Diaper Need Awareness Week. (I am not making this up, and you can read the Senate Concurrent Resolution number 110 online). Let your imagination wander about the puns that were flying around on this one. The members of the State Affairs Committee decided that if there was time to talk about diapers on the House floor, there was time to talk about the state salamander. House Bill 1 was sent to the House floor with a do pass recommendation. The young lady who has been bringing this to the legislature for the past several years was surprised and ecstatic. So at least we made someone’s day. It doesn’t happen often.
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