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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, April 13

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

The last two or three days of most legislative sessions are hectic and slow moving at the same time. This year was different and full of “firsts” from beginning to end, at least in my memory.

For the State Affairs Committee it was a year of long hearings on tough issues and hard votes. Most years we see a couple of bills that have some controversy surrounding them. This year there was not a week that went by without major and difficult legislation to consider. Add the words, historical racing, chemical abortion, special liquor licenses, gaming commission, Cananbidiol, agency purchasing, and open meeting law just to name a few. I can’t begin to express how hard the committee worked this year and even though everything didn’t turn out the way I would have liked no one around this place could claim that House State Affairs did not give them a fair and thorough shot.

Whether you agree with what the legislature did or not there were some milestones achieved. Amid continual cries that it was not enough, about $120 million new dollars are going into education. Career ladders for educators with a path forward to fund them are seen as a major step forward. Will these steps improve what our detractors call “Failing Idaho?” Time will tell. By the way and for the record, I for one think that we have schools that are achieving great things. I don’t know about the rest of the state but we have teachers, administrators and parents in District 32 who are innovators and work hard for our kids. The idea of long distance learning and dual credit courses had its real beginning right here at home.

Probably the most visible issue this year was transportation funding. Early on in the session the discussion surrounding transportation was about the same as usual, not enough money to keep the roads in good condition. Also as usual, the level of increase was argued back and forth. What came out of that early talk was an effort that could have provided some sweeping changes in tax policy in Idaho. That effort was summarily dismissed by the Senate. What happened then is what lead to a final week of turmoil on the issue.

This is what came from that process. A 7 cent per gallon increase in gas and diesel tax, a $21 increase in registration fees ($25 for trucks), and the return of the infamous ton mile tax for all trucks over 60,000 pounds which has a delayed implementation date. Most interesting of all is a method of tapping the General fund by sweeping half of any surplus to transportation. It is a little more complicated than that but in general terms that is how it would work. And that brings us to the last two days.

There was very little for most legislators to do except to wait for the results of a conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and the Senate. From the vantage point of the House it looked like the House flinched first. After four redrafts on Friday night, the amendments went to the Senate first and then to the House. The full House did not receive those amendments until about 12:50 AM Saturday morning and then voted on the measure about 1:15 AM. By that time most were willing to vote for anything just to get out of there.

I once asked my dad why he didn’t use the lights on the tractors and tried to quit when the sun went down. His reply has been good advice over the years. He said, “Tom, after dark is when the serious mistakes happen.” That is the feeling I had at the close of this session at 1:30 am on Saturday morning.

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

David Ripley: Thank You, Governor Otter

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Thank You Governor Otter
Posted: 08 Apr 2015 04:30 AM PDT
Governor Butch Otter signed HB 154 this week – our legislation to better regulate chemical abortions in the state.

We are grateful for his continued support of the pro-Life movement, his defense of those most vulnerable babies in the womb. Governor Otter has created a tremendous pro-Life legacy.

Thank you Butch.

Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, 6 April

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

I started to look a little bit ragged around the edges so I went to Great Clips and checked in to get a haircut. As the hair cutter began she said to me, “You’re from eastern Idaho aren’t you?” I responded, “Yes. How do you know that?” She said, “Oh I remember you, you’re not a Senator.”I complimented her on her fine memory and then she said, “I could never do a job like that because no matter what you do someone doesn’t like you for it.” I asked her if she watched the news and kept track of what was going on at the Statehouse. She said she never watches the news as it’s too depressing. She may be onto something there.

It was quite an eventful week as the House did its business and tried to move us closer to the end of the session. One of the transportation bills that was sent to the Senate had an interesting fate as it arrived there. They had a hurry-up meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee and sent the bill to the floor without recommendation. After a brief caucus they convened on the floor and immediately sent the transportation bill back to committee and tabled it from the floor of the Senate. I think everybody in the place was rather stunned that there was never a vote taken and was summarily killed without discussion.

So I guess it’s back to the drawing board for the transportation issue. More importantly, until the issue is either put to bed for the session or some type of bill passed, the transportation budget cannot be set. A friend of mine commented that they must be undecided about whether to spend $550 million on roads next year or $650 million. At any rate it looks like it will be a matter of who flinches first.

Also during the week there was another long House State Affairs Committee meeting on the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for the treatment of patients, especially children, with intractable seizure disorders. CBD comes from a variety of the cannabis family that has virtually no THC (less than 3/10 of a percent) and has no hallucinogenic properties. It also has high levels of CBD which is the ingredient that seems to help with reducing the seizures. The committee initially kept the bill in committee on a tie vote and then the next day had second thoughts and sent it to the floor. It was a heart wrenching hearing, especially listening to the parents of young children who have continual seizures with no means of stopping them with any conventional medicines.

House and Senate leadership decided that it would be a good idea for us all to go home for Good Friday and return on Monday. It’s that time of session when tempers tend to flare a bit and we start saying and doing things that are not the best for anyone. So if the plan works at least we might calm down some nerves and get on to the end of the session.

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Posted in Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

David Ripley: Idaho Gives Final Approval to Chemical Abortion Restrictions

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

The Idaho House gave final legislative approval to HB 154, our legislation to restrict the practices of Planned Parenthood in dispensing this deadly drug. It should reach the Governor’s desk in a day or two.

The Abortion Industry fought this legislation strenuously – because it greatly interferes with their agenda of expanding abortion access across the state by circumventing the FDA regulations surrounding the use of RU-486. Throughout the public debate, Planned Parenthood has denied that our legislation involved any legitimate concern over a woman’s health. Instead, they tried to argue that they could be trusted to self-regulate.

The likes of Kermit Gosnell shows us what happens when government abdicates its responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of women and girls who submit themselves to an abortion.

Planned Parenthood is certainly motivated by convenience and profits in its drive to create a “remote control” abortion access system across the nation. But they are also driven by ideology.

They are attracted to using RU-486 over surgical abortions because it advances the notion that abortion is nothing more than treating a headache with aspirin. That is why they fought so hard over the terminology of chemical abortions – preferring that the media call them “medication abortions” instead.

Even their language is designed to deceive women and girls.

We are grateful to leaders like Rep. Tom Loertscher and Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll who stood tall this session to help us gain an important legislative victory.

And we are grateful to you, our readers and supporters for your prayers and participation in demonstrating that Idaho does, indeed, choose life.

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 30

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

Legislators receive all types of calls from constituents needing help with problems that they encounter with government. I received such a call over the weekend concerning a property valuation issue. I was asked if I could have my staff write up something for him. I was quick to inform him that he was talking to my entire staff. Sometimes that is the limiting factor around this place especially at this time of session when things are coming at us so rapidly. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not advocating for a larger staff. That notwithstanding, it makes us stay on our toes as things come so quickly.

There has been an agreement reached on education issues. Instead of the $91 million of new money the amount agreed on was $125 million. About a fourth of that money goes to career ladder development. Other parts of the budget will allow for more spending flexibility for districts. That is one of the things the local school districts have wanted for a long time.

There is still a lot of finger-pointing going on with regard to the Idaho Education Network. In the meantime local schools will be able to have their own contracts and the ability to provide Internet access at a much reduced cost. The legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluation released their report of the data collection system that was supposed to be of such great value to our schools. At the time, many of us here were skeptical that the program would do what it was intended to do and the evaluation made that very determination.

The other big issue that still does not have resolution is for increases in transportation funding. I’ve been making some inquiries about how much money we spend on roads each year in the state of Idaho. Another interesting little tidbit that came along this last week was how the GARVEE bonds that we used for major projects over the last few years is coming back to haunt us. We are now spending an awful lot of money on servicing that debt which prevents us from being able to have enough money to keep up with our maintenance projects.

The bill that will be before us early in the week would increase the sales tax to 7 cents, remove sales tax on food, eliminate the grocery tax credit, increase the fuel tax by 7 cents, increase registration fees and cut income tax rates. Bottom line is over $100 new money for transportation. Complicated is not an adequate word to describe this one.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to best describe this past week of this legislative session. It reminds me a little of the last time we worked the cattle before putting them where the sheds are for the calving season. There’s always a few of those critters get off by themselves and don’t want to come anywhere near the corral. It takes longer to round up the last half-dozen than it does to gather the rest of the herd. Rounding up those last couple of issues this year has consumed a lot of time. And just like the cattle, we’re all running off in different directions. Hang on your hats, the rodeo isn’t over yet.

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Posted in Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Rep. Tom Loertscher | No Comments »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 16

March 16th, 2015 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

A few weeks ago I was asked by a lobbyist when I would be scheduling a hearing on a particular bill. Kidding him a little I replied that I was looking at February 30th. He began to quiz me on why I had chosen that date. Another legislative advisor standing nearby began to laugh and then we had a good laugh together. We sometimes tend to take ourselves too seriously.

I was listening to some commentators on public TV and their lamenting that this has been a ‘do little” session. If that were true, some I know would say that’s a good thing. Also if it were true, it surely hasn’t seemed like we have been doing nothing. I imagine that comment comes because some of the larger things are still not resolved, namely education and transportation. Teacher career ladder legislation went down in flames in the Education Committee to the delight of teachers but not so much happiness for administrators. Work has begun on a different approach which might fare better.

As for transportation, three more ideas were introduced that don’t get to the level the governor wants or wouldn’t fill the gap that is said to exist. All of a sudden the effects of GARVEE bonds are settling in leaving us short on maintenance dollars.

All too often we encounter legislation that is aimed at fixing disputes between opposing groups. One of those issues that passed the House last week was the naturopath bill. Rather than fixing much it looks like it might cause more problems. If you read it carefully and if the Governor were to not appoint a board for the larger group of naturopaths, they would not be able to be licensed. The Attorney General sees some problems in the way the bill would operate. Because of the potential conflicts, I voted against the bill, but it now resides in the Senate.

We are in the middle of three other groups, the Racing Commission, the simulcasters and the Tribes. The historical racing repealer was heard in committee for a total of eight hours on two separate days. One comment from a conservative think tank that provoked some discussion was that this piece of legislation did not belong in the legislature because the result would be made by politics rather than sound principles of free enterprise. Maybe that’s fair but there is not a political safe haven on this one. A vote in favor of the bill makes it look like you favor one group over another , and a vote against it makes it look like you fully support gambling in Idaho. Being caught in the middle isn’t comfortable.

Looking toward an adjournment date, given the issues we have yet to resolve, looks like at least a week beyond the target date of March 27th. The test for an adjournment date in days gone by was that when the ground dried out enough for crops to be planted we’d head out of town. It isn’t that way so much these days. There is still serious business to do and in our part of the world, March seems too early to plant. Most of us are more concerned about water. With little or no snow pack, it’s going to take a lot of timely rain to make up the difference.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 9

March 10th, 2015 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

Saturday night I made the mistake of changing only a few of the clocks in the house for the time change. When we woke up Sunday morning the conversation went something like this: Linda: What time is it? Tom: Ten to five. Linda: Is that real time? Tom: Well, I set this clock to daylight savings time. Linda: Did you move the clock forward or back? Tom: I moved it the correct way, I’m sure. Linda: What time is it then? Tom: Ten minutes to five. Linda: But is that real time? Tom: I give up.

This last week was the week to dread things. My mother-in-law would have said that we had enough dread. The issue that desperately needed attention was the “permitless conceal carry” bill. I did the novel thing of reading the bill. In addition to a misplaced modifier, the language actually would have required someone who desired to conceal carry without a permit, to comply with all of the requirements to get a permit (I am not making that up). Even though the sponsors tried to argue the point, I am sure that is not what they intended at all. Other portions of the bill left our reciprocity with other states in question, which was also not intended. Others around here have been working hard on this issue and we may soon see new legislation coming forward.

Historical racing is another of those things we have been dreading. If other members of State Affairs have had the kinds of discussions I have had on this bill, they have been busy. I had one lobbyist suggest that there needs to be a broader discussion of the future of gaming in Idaho, and that a gaming commission would be the pathway forward. I asked him if he saw wide open gaming in Idaho’s future. There was no real response. The horsemen are telling us that live horse racing will be destroyed if the repeal passes, and the Tribes are telling us that the machines the horsemen are using for historical racing are not legal. It looks like we are caught in the middle of another issue. House State Affairs will begin the hearing for this one on Wednesday.

Another item that has received some attention is a new Naturopath licensing bill that does something I have not previously seen. The bill would create a second naturopath board but would allow both groups to use the same titles with a slightly different scope of practice. Two different boards for the same profession is not what we see anywhere else. This has been a ten year process that has not been resolved, and this doesn’t seem like the right approach either.

Budgets are beginning to trickle into the full House with many more to come. There is still no consensus on what will be coming forward in the way of increases for highway funding. So far everyone is thinking that the other guys should pay, but there are way too many “other guys.” Ideas are bouncing around in a very creative way. The latest is to inflict a little pain on every conceivable source. It kind of reminds me of the idea that if you hit your thumb on your right hand with a hammer after you hit the left one, it won’t hurt so badly. But hurt it will.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 2

March 10th, 2015 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

I was participating in a video conference and describing all of the issues that are before the House State Affairs Committee. Someone on the other end of the meeting said, “Wow! You get all the good stuff!” A member of State Affairs told me that it is certainly not a committee that gives you a chance to relax much. Relaxation is over-rated anyway.

There are some who want to come up with a consensus about increased funding for highways. Progress on that front is slow at best, with no clear-cut way forward. Everything that has been proposed so far has not gained much support. A new sales tax for roads bill is yet to be introduced, and may not come about at all. The main idea floating around is a one cent increase coupled with not taxing groceries coupled with eliminating the grocery tax credit coupled with a reduced income tax rate to a flat tax. That is even confusing to write about, let alone writing a bill that would cover all of those bases.

Another little non attention getter (except in local government circles) is a bill to take half of the new construction tax and give it to schools to pay off bonds and other limited uses. We are getting an earful on this one from the counties. What most people don’t know is that this is money that comes in after the levies are set and is over and above what is budgeted but can be spent without going through the normal budgeting process. It is still stuck in committee.

We are still struggling with the procurement rules of the Department of Administration. Like some other proposals I read here, I can’t seem to read them without wanting to change every sentence. When it comes to how the State asks for bids for contracts, awards them and renews or extends them, there is much room for improvement. We are told that The Department of Education, for example has about fifteen hundred contracts in existence, about half of which are active. Seems like a lot in either case.

The bills now before the full House number in the mid thirties and I sense that there are a few of those that will be taking some longer than average debates. There are still no budget bills among them, but that will change soon. As for State Affairs, we still have some interesting stuff ahead. A year without a liquor bill or two would not be normal and on that score it will be a normal year. Still to be heard is the historical racing bill and of course a little thing dubbed Constitutional Carry. And don’t leave out doing away with Daylight Savings Time from being looked at, again. I’ve been trying all weekend to get in touch with a legislator buddy in Utah to see where they are on that issue. In any event brace yourself for the change next week. It’s not one of my favorite things, or anything close to it.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights Feb. 24

March 10th, 2015 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

I can’t remember a year in the legislature that has been anywhere near as busy as this one. This last week was jam-packed full of committee hearings, memorials, page presentations, and speeches from our two US senators. I also can’t remember a session where there are as many contentious issues as we have before us at this time.

There are several bills in the State affairs committee that are awaiting their turns for hearings that are bound to bring many to the capital for comments. Among those are historical racing, state purchasing, parental rights, constitutional carry, and open records to name a few. I am sure there will be a few things appear that we don’t know about yet.

There is an annual 4-H conference known as Know Your Government that brings young people from all over the state. We are invited to visit with them over breakfast, talk about their experiences at the capital, discuss what they have learned and what their plans are for the future. We seem to have the largest group from District 32 and they are a lot of fun to be around.

Another of our annual events is for us to honor those former members that have passed away in the previous year. It is a chance for us to reflect on their achievements and to remind us that all who have served touched the lives of many. There were eleven memorialized this year and the scary part for me is that I served with seven of them.

Our first set of pages are on their way home now and it is customary for them to do a skit for the House before they leave us. It is shocking to see how observant they are of what we do here. They portrayed our idiosyncrasies to a tee and we found it very entertaining. These are great young high school seniors that make it possible for us to do our work.

It was my thousand mile weekend and I was able to visit with many in Montpelier and Idaho Falls. The calving season has begun at home as well and we could not ask for better weather. One cattleman in Montpelier told me that the only problem with this kind of weather during calving season is that you have to catch the calves the first day or it is impossible to do. So I left that for the boys and returned to Boise. Oh well, they are better at it anyway.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, Feb. 10, 2015

February 23rd, 2015 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-BOne

This week reminded me of saying I heard once, “Ideas are like pizza dough, made to be tossed around.” There are a wide variety of topics that will probably shape the outcome of this year’s legislative session.

There are a number of ideas about how to provide additional funding for roads and bridges for the state. There has been a menu developed from which we would be able to choose. One item is to increase the fuel tax five cents per gallon this year and add an additional one cent each year thereafter. Another item is to impose large increases for registration of electric cars and hybrids. Yet another item on the menu is to impose a fuel transfer fee on each gallon of fuel including fuel used in agriculture. Since Idaho has some of the lowest vehicle registration fees in the country, (we are told) another proposal is to increase all registration fees for all types of vehicles with even heavier increases for large trucks.

Those are just a few of the ideas that are being tossed around having to do with transportation funding. While meeting with County officials last week, they put in their idea for a share of the gas tax increase to go to local governments for road construction and maintenance.

There are a few folks around here that are pushing for a separate presidential primary to be held in March of each presidential election year. There have been a lot of concerns expressed about the caucus system that is being used by both the Republican and Democratic parties. I’ve been asked by several what I thought of the idea, and I have been quite frank about it. If you think it is hard to get a good turnout at two elections in a year, just imagine how much more difficult it would be to have a large turnout three times in one year. And then there is the cost to consider. Well, at least at this point it’s just an idea.

Another issue that is getting a lot of conversation around this place is the Idaho Education Network. At this point there is so much conflicting information about where we are and what potential solutions might present themselves, that it is difficult to even come up with ideas to fix the problem. So far rather than ideas, the main focus seems to be on damage control. That lends itself to the idea of correcting problems that exist in the way services are contracted for the state. A lot of different numbers have been floating around about what it will take to keep the network operating at least until the end of the school year.

So there you have it, just a few of the ideas that are being tossed around the legislature like pizza. So far a lot of tossing to see what might stick. Ideas are like pizza in another way, some really good and others not so much.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Education, Idaho Legislature, Rep. Tom Loertscher | No Comments »

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