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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 12

March 13th, 2018 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

This week in my readings a couple of things caught my eye. John Deere puts out a monthly magazine called “The Furrow” and I suppose that they send it to every farmer in the America, or at least to the ones that do business with them. There are some very thoughtful articles and of course, a lot of John Deere ads. Near the end of every issue they have a page of “Fun & Philosophy”. One of those in the last issue was under the heading of Capsule Sermons: “The greatest challenge in life is to decide what is important and to disregard everything else.” That’s a pretty good description of what happens around here.

It was reported on Thursday that Governor Otter received notice from Washington D.C. Health and Human Services (HHS) that the Dual Waiver request we were debating here would not be considered for approval. The reasoning behind the letter was that the Affordable Care Act is still in force and that no innovative plans to cover the gap population would be approved. And after all of the debate in the legislature on this matter, it came to an abrupt halt. It must not have been important to them to see an effort to address this in an Idaho way, therefore it is to be disregarded by them.

Every day is an adventure in the State Affairs Committee. On back to back days we had the debate on chemical abortion reversal (Senate Bill 1243) followed by the hearing on castle doctrine/stand your ground/justifiable homicide (Senate Bill 1313). Those were two interesting days for the committee and both were sent to the full House for action. Most interesting on the first one was a young lady who told the committee about how and why she changed her mind and had brought her five-year-old son with her that was the result of her decision. Then Planned Parenthood and the ACLU lined up to say the protocol was not scientifically proven and would not work. Hmmm. As for S1313 most interesting there was that some testified in opposition saying it was way too strong and others testifying in opposition saying it was far too weak. If that sounds strange to you, it happens here all of the time. And we get to sort it all out.

Back to The Furrow, under what they call the ‘We Aim to Please’ column is this one: “If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system.” – William James (1842-1910) The good news from home is snow, especially in District 32. We have been worrying about that a lot these past weeks and sure enough our worry has not made a difference and didn’t change the amount of snow.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 5

March 6th, 2018 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

You can learn a lot about people if you take a few moments to just listen – and sometimes that becomes very hard to do because time seems in such short supply. While listening to one of my colleagues the other day, he expressed how amazing it is that one day seems to blend into the next around here. That is a result in large part of so much coming from every direction.

The big news this week was that the Dual Waver bill (House Bill 464) was pulled from the floor calendar and returned to committee. There have been a few test votes on other Medicaid issues that gave the indication that there were not enough votes to pass it. The plan now is to try to find the magic bullet to get enough support to move it forward. Still in my mind the overriding problem is that we are still only looking at how to pay the bill rather than finding ways to reduce costs. And as with many things here there are one hundred and five different solutions. I have been told that if the legislature does not act this year the Governor may submit the waiver irrespective of what the legislature does or does not do.

Another bill that has had a bunch of attention this week is the continuing dialog over what is called the property/trespass bill. House Bill 658 is the new version and is thought to have solved the problems discovered in the previous effort. We will know soon how it works out.

HJR 8, otherwise known as Marsy’s law, was voted out of the State Affairs Committee on a nine to six vote on Wednesday. It is a constitutional amendment for victims’ rights. There has been a lot of discussion as well as email over the last few weeks mostly in favor of the legislation. It still has a mountain to climb in the House as it takes two thirds of the body to pass it and it must go on to the Senate for the same process. If it passes you will get a chance to vote on it this November. The same item came from the Senate to the House last year and it did not get out of committee. They have made a number of changes to remove the objections that were voiced last session.

We’ve had a little activity on the budget this week with a few of those bills coming for a vote in the House. The first have been some of the small ones with little if any increases over last year. There will be a lot more discussion over the bigger budgets next week.

And I haven’t even mentioned CBD oil, bond issues only once a year, gun bills, county commissioners elected from districts, legal notice publication, wolf control, water, Harriman State Park, or let’s see what were the other issues of the week? So maybe what my colleague said should be of no surprise. As one day blends into the next we hope to complete our work shortly.

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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights – Feb. 26

February 26th, 2018 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

I received a text the other day from one of my sons reporting what he called the deep thoughts of Caleb Loertscher: “You know if you follow your blinker it tells you where to go.” That is sound advice from a seven-year old and should apply to the legislature.

There has been no end of comment this week about House Bill 536 other wise know as the trespass bill. During debate someone asked the question if the Attorney General had weighed in on the matter. It was pulled back and the AG says it is unconstitutional and now changes will be needed. The real problem is that we have three different types of trespass in law and this was an effort to bring them together. Changes are forthcoming.

Another hot item on the email stream has been House Bill 496 that is one to have the Governor appoint three directors, Corrections, Transportation, and Parks and Recreation. Those three directors are currently appointed by their respective boards and the thought of this bill is to have them appointed by the governor and serve at his pleasure. The email has been about jeopardizing Harriman State Park because of some stipulations of the gift from the Harriman family. The bill is now up for amendment to remove Parks and Recreation director from the bill. As a side note, years ago the transportation director was at the governor’s pleasure and was changed in an effort to remove highways from the political world. And corrections is a very professional assignment . Is it good to make this change? Maybe not. One thing is for sure, Harriman will be safe.

House Bill 591 is another property tax exemption bill concerning new business property of one billion dollars. The mechanics of the legislation are a bit complicated, but the idea is to provide help for new very large companies to get going in Idaho. The law was originally enacted to get a company called Areva to build nuclear related facilities near Idaho Falls. Only problem is that in about a dozen years they have not turned a shovel of dirt. I voted no on this one because my concern is that these types of exemptions tend to shift taxes to other properties including homes, farms and small business. Even the sponsor admitted after the vote that I might be right, and he committed to check it out.

One of my colleagues this week remarked that it felt like the end of the session today. It looks like the Senate will be passing the tax bill we sent them and that is the final piece of the puzzle to make the budget numbers work as we anticipate.

The annual Know Your Government conference put on by U of I and 4H was this week and each year they invite us to breakfast on the last day of their program. Again, this year our own Bear Lake delegation was the largest group at the conference. These young people have great plans for the future.

We have the plan in mind and now it is time to work the plan. I just hope we have the wisdom of my young grandson Caleb and follow our blinker.

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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights – Feb. 16

February 20th, 2018 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

You can never accurately predict how long things are going to take in this place. What looks like a bill that is so harmless and straight forward, seems to take hours and somethings that are complicated in nature just breeze through.

At the end of the week we got all tangled up on the floor of the House about slow movers in the passing lane on the freeway. I am sure you have all been there, and have had the joy of following vehicles for miles on end that just don’t have the horsepower to complete passing. It’s not only annoying but in some cases causes safety problems. The bill seemed simple enough but took very long debate to get it passed. Will it help? I sure hope so.

As I have mentioned previously it is never dull in State Affairs. A large crowd had gathered to participate in the hearing of a bill that prohibits the application of foreign laws in Idaho. It was one of those times when emotions were running high on both sides of the issue. Those are the times when it is handy to have security around, and by the way their presence is enough to settle things down in most cases. It came out of the committee easily, after two hours of very impassioned testimony. Just for the record that was just one of the big deals we dealt with this week.

Medicaid is still on the front burner, with pros and cons in every direction imaginable. It seems like almost every legislator has a different set of concerns. At least now they are looking for answers. Those in high risk pools would be moved to Medicaid while those below 100% of poverty level would be made to qualify for subsidies on the state health exchange. About the only thing that is unclear is how all of this will reflect in the world of health insurance premiums. Does it seem that the topic of health insurance used to be easier than it is now? The bottom line is, and I think everyone around here knows, that people are currently being priced out of the market. And just saying no, does not solve the problem.

Budget setting has begun and that is the signal for getting our work completed. While there are many bills yet to consider, the budget always is center stage. Everything else is a series of fixing stuff. Another thing that we seem to work on a lot here is water. There are still problems with some of the agreements that have been made and fixes for those are in the works.

Looking forward to next week it looks like some long days are in order. That was probably a prediction and given the nature of most predictions don’t get your hopes up. And as for me I am ready for a couple of days at home. The truck is fixed, and I will shortly be on my way.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights – Feb. 9

February 12th, 2018 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

Acceleration as defined by mechanics is, “the time rate of change of velocity with respect to magnitude or direction; the derivative of velocity with respect to time.” This concept has applied to the legislature this week.

Committee work this week has accelerated and more and more time is being devoted there as legislation moves through the process. Two items of great interest around here have been the tax bill and dual waivers. The tax reduction bill moved through the House and now is on its way to the Senate. It was a long debate by the body abundant with procedural votes in an effort to either amend the bill or to divide it into several parts. The bottom line is the bill passed which will mean that income tax rates will go down, of course if it makes it to the governor’s desk. Good news for all taxpayers.

The Medicaid waivers came out of the Health and Welfare Committee and will be up for debate soon. It seems like a double edge sword to me in that on the one hand we could be accelerating the pace of increase in the cost of Medicaid to the State. On the other hand we would be able to provide coverage to those who fall in the so called “coverage gap.” There are mixed opinions on every side of this one. And I haven’t even mentioned how much this will cost.

Several groups were in town this week, Idaho Cattle Association, Nez Perce Tribe, Historical Society, Association of Realtors, Mining Association, Association of Counties, Developmental Disability Network, and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe just to name a few. Meeting with our county officials from our district is always a priority and as always it was good to see them and hear what is happening at home. The Disability Networks presented information from their perspective on The Medicaid waivers and there are things in the waivers that might help these folks.

It was interesting to hear from the Coeur d’ Alene tribe and their efforts with a new medical center. They have developed a “one stop shop” for medical services in Benewah County that is impressive. I thought that part of their presentation was better than the mentalist (he called himself an experimenter whatever that is) they had for entertainment.

The Idaho Mining Association event was a chance for all of us to reflect on the contribution mining makes to the economy of the state. It is good to remember that there are only three things that create new wealth, mining, timber and agriculture. Knowing that we have all three in District 32 makes me grateful to live in this great part of Idaho.

On a personal note, I’ll have to put on my mechanics hat before I can get home this weekend. I have to replace the injector pump and as Linda would tell you, I am the original do-it-yourself guy. Dealing with diesel fuel and its pungent odor will be part of the privilege. It reminded me of the time in the distant past when I fueled a diesel car in England. The attendant at the station was taken by surprise that the car I had required diesel fuel. She commented (put on your best English accent), “It’s such filthy stuff you know, and such a nice car too.”

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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, February 2

February 5th, 2018 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

This has been a week of transition in the House. For the most part committee work has dominated our time and now more items are moving to the full body for consideration. Committee work has also changed from mostly introducing legislation to the hearing process on bills. New items are still coming as well. Every day someone approaches me with a “brand new” idea for the greatest bill ever.

One of those new ideas (which by the way has been seen several times in the past) was to change the requirement for publication of legal notices in newspapers to online notices. Great idea, except that even in these times, not everyone has internet access. This idea will probably have a rough time around here and rightly so. When we deal with peoples’ lives and livelihoods, public notice needs to be available to all.

Another “great idea” brought forward was, that if a bond or levy election loses at the polls, a similar issue can’t come forward for twelve months. I am sure our schools will have much to say about that one. I have memories of how difficult it was to consolidate those elections to just four dates per year. I can see the e-mail stream pick up a lot on that issue.

Most things that are getting to the full House have been simple things but that is not going to last long. Some heavier things are on the way or will be soon. Science has been a big topic for the education committee. On the tax front, that committee has arrived at a tax bill that may get out of committee next week. Health and Welfare is moving forward with what they are calling the dual waiver proposal which is to authorize the department to apply for the waivers. If either of those waivers are unsuccessful with the feds, the other would not work.

State Affairs is getting an array of stuff from election changes to an article V call for a convention to propose amendments to the constitution. And don’t forget some changes in alcohol licenses. And Have I mentioned Marsy’s Law? There is a full court press on the committee for that one. We still have not seen the final draft on it but we will soon.

I get asked frequently, especially from new members, just how do you keep up? Believe me when you get a broad array of subjects to deal with, and huge numbers of e-mails, it does seem a bit daunting. My best advice is to do your homework and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Chances are you’ll get some help. After all, everyone around this place at least has an opinion.

We have gotten some lessons this week on procedure, which was welcome. You may ask, why are we so stuck on procedure? If we don’t do it right, and by the rules, whatever we do is not valid. We have even had some training for committee chairs and no matter how long we may have done this around this place there are things to learn.

Even though there has been a transition occurring, more is on the way. It will soon be more difficult to introduce something new and longer calendars will at least shift us to a higher gear. The train has left the station for sure and the next step will be home to live with what we have created.

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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, Jan. 27

January 31st, 2018 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

As the third week of this legislative session draws to a close, I’ve gotten a lot of comments on how much different this session seems to be from last year. I will admit that there seems to be a little more urgency than normal.

We had what I like to refer to as our first “fur fight” on the House floor this week. Because Idaho does not have a revenue code for income tax, we have historically conformed with the federal code. Doing so makes things much easier and simplifies Idaho’s tax forms. After a brief protest debate on something not really related to taxes, the bill passed and was sent to the Senate.

Speaking of taxes, the above-mentioned tax conformity is driving an income tax reduction bill. If we do not address that issue it would cause an automatic tax increase to all income tax filers. If that sounds a little complicated, you would be correct. It only makes sense to ensure that federal changes do not create a wind fall for the state. The exact amounts are changing from day to day but will be firmed up so we can set our budgets.

This has been education week for the joint budget committee (JFAC) and they have been listening to the wish lists of every level of education. With that comes the chance to visit with the University presidents. Three of them have announced their retirement and it is a bit unusual to have that happen all at once. One thing they all have in common is that they have great feelings for Idaho. At least one of them is remaining here after retirement. He said that Idaho has become home.

The water user’s association was in town for their annual meetings and conversations are always interesting with them. There doesn’t seem to be anything ag likes to talk about more than water, unless it is the weather. Since one depends on the other, the two subjects get equal billing. As I talked with some they have been all smiles about water abundance in the reservoirs until snowpack is mentioned and the brows furrow some. All of that notwithstanding in general they are optimistic. One thing in the realm of water that is coming up more frequently is the need for water in the municipalities. One person told me that doing more aquifer recharge is indicated and in the next breath said that he wished farmers would return to the good old days of flood irrigating. Now that is a topic that would take a few pages to cover.

We are seeing a lot of legislation being introduced and the State Affairs Committee is ground zero for some of the things that will be controversial, at least it seems that way. I have put the committee on notice that our meetings are bound to become longer in the coming two weeks. Even though the meetings may be longer they will in the words of one committee member, “not be boring. It is something new every day.”

We are trying a new timetable this year and that may be the biggest reason for the urgency. History tells us that when we hurry, the bigger the hurry the bigger the mistakes. One of our newly appointed members is about to sponsor her first bill on the floor of the House. She told me that she was concerned about making a mistake. I told her not to worry much about that because chances are somebody around here already made that mistake.

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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, 27 March 2017

March 29th, 2017 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

As we came to this session, I thought it was interesting that House and Senate Leadership set a target date for getting our work completed and calling it a day. It is easy to do that given how long it takes for the budget committee (JFAC) to go through their processes and then allowing for the normal time to get those bills through both bodies and to the governor. That calculation would have ended the session on March 24th. Also a reality in most sessions is that there is always a potential for a train wreck or two that could gum up the works.

As is also normal for us, the volume of bills in the last few days of the session dramatically increases and are jammed through. In spite of our best efforts to avoid the end of session “bubble” this year, it happened anyway. So, at this writing it looks like there will be another few days needed to wrap it up. In addition to a few budget bills, there are two that we need to address, taxes and transportation.

One day this week we voted on the appropriations for Public Schools. Although there are several parts to that budget, the total exceeds two billion dollars. Those half dozen or so bills passed the full House quite handily in about thirty minutes, without debate. There has to be a record of some kind in that. The following day was Higher Education Day. One of those bills that spent about forty million dollars took an hour and a half of vigorous debate but passed easily as well. The day after that was Health and Welfare appropriations that exceeded two billion dollars passed in a short period of time, again with little debate. At any rate it was a lot of your money that was spent those three days. So, most of the money is gone as our good friends on JFAC would say.

And speaking of train wrecks, we finally got around to having one. As a result we slowed down enough to get us back to town for at least another few days next week. During the weekend it is hoped that the members of the body will get some rest, and more importantly study up on the remaining legislation and be ready to complete our work. There are some appropriations that need to be completed and some other things that are a must do.

It goes without saying that everyone here wants to get this session concluded. Someone told that it felt a little like a trip to the dentist when the anesthetic is beginning to wear off. I don’t know about that but because the things we have been going through this last week are a bit normal in most respects.

And down on the farm, Bruce called me and told me that he could use my help for some things there. Be patient son, I’ll soon be on my way.

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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, Feb. 20, 2017

February 21st, 2017 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

I was looking through some old stuff in my desk the other day mostly in an effort to clean it out a bit to have a place to put more current things away. As Linda can attest my filing system is of the “I’m sure it’s here somewhere” variety. It really is not a bad system, it just doesn’t look very good. But the worst part is finding things that are four to five years old that should have been chucked long ago.

Today was a good example. I had someone asking me about a proposal they thought I had received from Legislative Services (bill drafters). I knew I had seen the thing but no matter how hard I looked, it was nowhere to be found, and then I remembered I had seen it in my email.

We have had a number of items this last week that have seemed like they got lost in the filing system somewhere. I can’t remember a time when we have seen so many re-drafts of bills because of unforeseen problems the bills would create. In these cases at this stage of the session we have been able to start over. We are at the traditional mid-point of our time here and corrections will be more difficult.

In the found and lost column this week is the discussion about the coming of the total eclipse on August 21st. A member of JFAC told the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce that there likely would be no funds coming from the state for the event. On a website I saw, I found an ad to sell eclipse viewing glasses for a mere $23.40 for ten sets. And I recall that we have been told repeatedly that there is no safe way to look directly at an eclipse. But then these are certified which begs the question by whom? A friend in good humor asked me, “What would happen if we had an eclipse and no one showed up? Or, what would happen if everyone showed up and the eclipse didn’t? Or, what would happen if the eclipse came and stayed?” Ah, what food for thought!

Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of things we are discussing that are far more serious that we are spending a lot of time working through the process. Those in the State Affairs Committee are immigration, special elections, Tribal gaming, abortion, desert wine, codifiers corrections, lottery, personal delivery devices, and guns just to name a few.

And then there is the budget, which is the main reason for the session. I have suggested that we could just adopt last year’s budget and go home. After all just how many new laws do you think we need? I think I know what you would say about that. As to the numbers found in the wish lists and what the governor wants the budget to look like, I have this piece of paper that I laid on my desk the other day and it is here somewhere. I’ll have to look through my filing system to find it.

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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, Feb. 13, 2017

February 21st, 2017 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

One day this last week I had a member of the press corps stop by to visit with me about a matter or two. He had his handy little digital recorder in his hand. That is a signal around here that they are looking for the “quote of the week.” His final question was, “Why does this session feel so much different than past ones? It seems like a more sluggish start than usual.”The real answer is that every session of the legislature has its own “feel.” It hasn’t seemed to me that it has been bogged down much around here.

I stay about nine miles from the capital and morning traffic is not my idea of a great time. For that reason I arrive at the House quite early every morning to avoid the big rush coming in from Canyon County and West Ada. All is quiet at that time and I get a about an hour or so to read up and do preparation for the day.

During the night calls come in from all over the state, some are interesting, some are rude and some border on threatening. One caller said he knew that I had a problem with how a certain bill was worded but the people of the state didn’t care about the words that are in the proposal they just want it passed. In other words we won’t know what’s in the bill until we pass it. Sound familiar? I think it’s better to know about what’s in it up front rather to have regrets later.

The counties were in town this past week with all six counties in our district being present. They have a lot of questions about what is going on that might affect our part of the state. One current issue that has been brewing for a while is the funding formula for the heath districts. It seems that the two largest districts want a bigger slice of the pie and have introduced legislation to make the change…after they had agreed to work it out by negotiation. In the Treasure Valley there is very little understanding of how things work in our rural counties. We have to remind them on a continuing basis. They have agreed to attempt negotiating the formula without legislative action. We hope it sticks.

Last week I wrote about the tax bill that passed the House. Since that time the weather has changed and the results of a more severe than normal winter are beginning to show up on our streets and highways. In some areas the potholes in the roads are as big as the cars causing tire failures and road closures. In addition, we have several roads closed because of avalanches and avalanche danger. And then there is the washout in the Raft River area and the closure of I 86. The tax bill is being re-thought.

Does it sound like things have been sluggish around this place? Probably not, at least from this vantage point. And at this writing, and to the great relief of the folks in Boise, today’s high temperature was in the sixties. However, it is still only February.

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