by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone
Setting the stage for a legislative session is usually what the first week is all about. At least that is what most people around this place would tell you. Generalities were the order of the day as the Governor delivered his message. There were lots of goals with not a great deal of detail about how to get there.
The top of the list this year, as in other years, is education with larger increases than some might have expected. Most of what he outlined might be achievable if the revenue stream for it holds up. Keep in mind that the budget we will set is eighteen months out and is the caution that we look at every year. Subtopics up for a lot of discussion are Common Core (a hot one) and State Affairs will be taking a hard look at what happened and where we are headed with the Idaho Education Network as a part of a larger topic of purchasing for these types of items.
Another theme was more road money and since the State Of The State, legislators have been trying to figure out just what he really meant and how there were no plans laid out for the Legislature to consider. “This is what we need, you figure it out,” does not give a lot of direction. He was firm about not diverting sales tax spent on vehicle related items such as tires, batteries and repairs to the road fund. I can already hear the talk now how this is the right time to up the gas tax because the cost of fuel is down so people can afford it. Just when you thought you had an extra buck in your pocket.
Medicaid expansion suggestion is one of just listen to the folks who worked on the committee and then again, you decide. What I have been interested in is a plan that is being looked at by several here to do a system involving primary care. What will gain traction around here remains to be seen. There are plenty of Medicaid skeptics in these halls.
House Bills 1, 2, and 3 are coming to the State Affairs Committee for further review. It’s a little unusual that the first three are all headed in our direction. House Bill 1 is to designate the Idaho Giant Salamander as the State Amphibian. That should be a great bill to start the session. House Bill 3 is a correction of election law to bring it into compliance with the State Constitution. House Bill 2 will be a big one and I am sure you will be hearing a lot about” add the four words” over the next little while.
So stay tuned and hold on to your wallets, the Legislature is in session. The stage definitely is set for long days and a myriad of topics. And I haven’t even mentioned agency rules.