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

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

David Ripley: Otter Signs Landmark Pro-Life Bill

April 9th, 2016 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Governor Otter signed SB1404 into law today. This landmark legislation, known as the Idaho Unborn Infants Dignity Act, makes a huge step forward in affirming the value of the preborn child.

The new law makes it illegal to harvest organs and body parts from aborted babies. It also makes it illegal to conduct medical experiments using tissue harvested from babies killed by abortion.

Another feature of the legislation creates a death certificate for babies lost to miscarriage. Many grieving parents testified before the Legislation, asking for this important recognition of their child. And the new law makes it clear that parents have the right to direct the final disposition of babies lost to miscarriage and abortion.

There are many people to thank for this great pro-Life victory. Let’s begin with the lead sponsors of the legislation, Sen. Cliff Bayer and Rep. Brent Crane. Both of these men signed up early in the wake of the horrible revelations regarding Planned Parenthood’s nasty side business of trading baby parts for Lamborghinis. We had dozens of co-sponsors as well. Idaho is well-served by such citizens willing to accept the responsibility of serving their neighbors at the Capitol.

The leadership of the Legislature in both chambers was very helpful and supportive of this effort. We are especially grateful for the support of Sens. Bart Davis and Todd Lakey. Sen. Lakey in particular devoted tremendous time to making this effort successful. Special thanks are due as well to Chairman Loertscher for his leadership and wisdom, and we are thankful to Chairman McKenzie for giving us ample time before the Senate State Affairs panel.

We must also acknowledge the role played by Americans United for Life. The basic blueprint for this legislation was developed by this tremendous organization last fall, and they continue to play a vital role in rebuilding a wall of protection around the preborn child.

Idaho is blessed to have a pro-Life governor and legislature. This legislation is a strong statement of principle and decency at a time when the nation desperately needs such leadership. Hopefully the Idaho Unborn Infants Dignity Act can be used in other states as a model response to the on-going horrors of an unbridled abortion industry.

There were times in this legislative struggle when the odds seemed long, but the Lord helped us overcome the obstacles in our path. Ultimately, this victory belongs to Him.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, April 4

April 4th, 2016 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

Now that the dust has settled for about a week, it might be a good time to report on some of the things that have happened in the session as a whole and the last week as well. In some ways it was not a typical year but then there is some commonality as well.

As happens every year there is a race on between the House and the Senate to see who can finish first. We in the house don’t win that too often because we seem to have several amended House Bills come back for concurring in amendments and final action. Leadership could have held us there into the wee hours of Friday morning but after last year’s 2:00 AM finish they decided that was not a good idea.

You have undoubtedly read about some of the more publicized legislation that passed so I will mention some things that are significant but did not receive so much press.

We passed HJR 5 which amends the Idaho Constitution to protect the ability of the legislature to review rules of state agencies. The rules review process has been an invaluable tool for the legislature in making sure that agencies administer the law and not make law.

I was visiting with a grain elevator owner the other day and told him about the rule of the Department of Agriculture that would have required them to report from whom they purchased grain, the quantities of such grain, the variety and quality and the purchase price. He told me that such a requirement would have caused great expense and just more things they would have to report. Who would pay the added cost of the regulation? The producer would. That rule was rejected by the legislature. HJR 5 now goes for a vote of the people in November.

Also not much talked about was a bill that will prohibit the harvesting and selling of body parts from aborted unborn children. Unpleasant though it is to talk about, the whole country was shocked last year as videos of the practice were revealed. The legislature passed this as a means of preventing this happening in Idaho.

Property rights legislation of significance was a bill that would allow either party, a land owner or the county to apply in writing to have a road right-of-way issue heard by a judge that is not resident in the county where the property is located. It is of course a longer story than that, but will make sure a property owner has a fair shot in court.

And as is the case at the end of the session in an election year, we have the opportunity to say so long to those from the body who have chosen not to run again. Rep. Linden Bateman is one of those and sat next to me on the House floor for the last two years. His love for Idaho is unique. Being a teacher by profession, he taught us Idaho history at every opportunity. He sponsored a bill this year to require testing to include questions about Idaho history. He was broken hearted when the Senate Education Committee would not vote his bill out of committee. He has been regarded as a prince of a man and a great friend.

To all of those who will not be returning, thank you for the time you have given on behalf of Idaho.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 21

March 22nd, 2016 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

The other day there was a group of legislative advisers (lobbyists) gathered in a huddle in the hallway outside one of the committee rooms. I stopped for a few seconds to see what was weighing so heavily on their minds. I told them they reminded me of something that a former legislature used to say, “All we know is what we tell each other.”

Looking at what we still have on our plate for the year it might take a little longer than expected to get through it. In the State Affairs Committee we have plowed through most things. We do have a couple of bills that we know will be coming from the Senate that need to be considered. We should know early in the week if we can adjourn by week’s end.

There are still talks going on to come up with a plan for a solution to what we are referring to as the gap. At this stage it has been a new plan every day in an effort to see if one of them will get enough votes to pass. There are three distinct groups of legislators on this issue, those that think we should definitely do something, those that don’t want to do anything at all, and those that want to come up with the perfect plan. At least they are talking, which is more than has happened over the last three years.

The compromise bill that will allow carrying a concealed weapon without a license passed the House on Friday and is headed to the Governor’s desk for his action. The Idaho Sheriff’s Association as well as the Fraternal Order of Police supported the legislation. I am reminded of what Paul Harvey pointed out often, that freedom implies responsibility and this bill comes with the responsibility of knowing where Federal Law will not allow weapons without a license.

I learned to drive at a very young age because my dad needed someone to drive the tractor when he fed the cows. I had become a fairly good driver by the time I was old enough to get a license. Because I would be old enough to get my driver’s license before I could complete driver’s education, I told my dad that I was not going to take the class. I was told that I would indeed take the class because I would learn things that I needed to know. I obtained my license before I finished the class, but I have been grateful that I listened to Dad. I did learn things that I needed to know. And so it is with carrying a concealed weapon. I would recommend that anyone who desires to carry a concealed weapon get the training. You will be glad you did. Getting a license is not that painful either, and will help you at the gun store as well.

I went to dinner with some folks the other night, a chance to relax and get away for the evening. As is typical, even though we did talk about other things besides legislation, our conversation always seems to turn back to what we do around here. It might be true after all, “All we know is what we tell each other.”

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

David Ripley: Legislature Gives Final Approval to Ultrasound Bill

March 18th, 2016 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

The state Senate today gave final legislative approval to an improvement in the Informed Consent statutes on a party-line vote. For reasons all their own, every Democrat opposed the legislation.

HB 516, brought forward by Right to Life of Idaho, would require the state to provide a pregnant woman or girl considering abortion with a list of pregnancy centers around Idaho who provide free ultrasounds. That list would be given to the mother prior to an abortion decision.

Of course, the state cannot force the woman to take advantage of those services. Nor should it. But giving a woman in crisis information about alternatives to the reality concocted by Planned Parenthood and Company is in the public interest. Those ultrasound images are the single greatest weapon against the Big Lie that there is not another life at stake in the abortion decision.

We expect the Governor to sign this modest advance into law, and commend RTL for bringing it forward.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, March 14

March 14th, 2016 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

Things don’t always go as planned around this place. And sometimes it takes a bit of patience to see some things through.

It is rare for a budget bill to fail on the floor of the House but it happened with the budget for the arts last week. There were a variety of reasons all the way from funding the arts is not a role of government to spending too much to some drama in trying to make a point. No matter how you might feel about the state funding the arts, there is one thing someone reminded me of over the weekend. There is nothing quite as undead as a budget bill that fails to pass one of the houses of the legislature. It will be back and could be one of those going home bills. Patience is the operative word.

I have been receiving a lot of mail from folks who find themselves in the Obamacare gap. There is a common thread that weaves through these letters. Many of them are hard working people that find themselves unable to afford health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. How’s that for a contradiction in terms? A lot of them have chronic conditions and would benefit from improved access to primary health care. There are still ongoing talks to find enough support for block grants to health clinics for the gap. One of my colleagues asked me if I would rather spend $5 Million on this than to spend the $5 Million that has been set aside for a community college that does not yet exist. A fair question but not enough around here want to answer. This is one of those things where patience doesn’t seem to control the discussion.

Sort of along those lines, I had another thousand mile weekend. My cousin Paul Loertscher passed away and I attended the viewing in Salt Lake before returning to Boise Sunday evening. I couldn’t help but reflect on the family in which he grew up. There were 12 children in the family and they lived in what we today would call poverty but they did not seem to know it, or at least they didn’t act like it. They are a closely knit family. They have a family song they call “The Sewer Song.” One of them told me it is the only profession where you start at the top and work your way down. They had very little but they made do and somehow survived without government help. In those days there was not an earned income credit, or food stamps, or Medicaid, or WIC, or help with utilities, and on and on. But all members of the family worked hard and they made do and survived. I know that things have changed, oh, how they have changed.

I watched the news briefly Sunday Morning and the co-anchors were lamenting the change to daylight savings time. They cited a study that indicated it takes at least three weeks to recover from springing forward. I think I might have figured out what the “savings” part of daylight savings time is. You take the hour you surrender in the spring and put it in your “time account,” save it until fall and withdraw it to use then, all without interest of course. Are you buying that? I didn’t think so!

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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 11

March 14th, 2016 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

There are interesting things that take place that you don’t get a chance to hear much about at home. One example is a group of legislators that have been meeting in an effort to solve a problem we have encountered in our efforts to prevent invasive species, namely quagga muscles, from getting into our waterways. This is a serious matter because these tiny critters attach themselves to the walls of irrigation pipe and the internal workings of pumps and turbines which literally make them nonfunctional.

We are trying to find a way to step up the number of hours our inspection stations are open to inspect boats that are coming later in the evenings when our stations have been closed. Several ideas have been brought forward, one of which is to transfer the responsibility from the Department of Agriculture to a different agency. Representative Gibbs and Senator Harris and I along with several other legislators have been conversing regularly in an effort to come up with a solution.

I had a very interesting experience the other day when a gentleman dropped by wanting to visit with me. He had a young lady with him and he introduced her to me as a refugee that had come to the United States. She’s been here for some time and was very gracious and said how grateful she was to be in the United States. I asked her where she was from and she answered that she had come from Syria.

Her husband was a doctor and had been killed by the regime. After a lot of effort and a difficult process she was able to escape with her two children and come to the U.S. I asked her how she felt about our country. She said, “America is my mother.” Her children also love America and are doing well in school. She is happy to have them here where they can grow up in freedom. I asked her if she had a long-range goal of returning to Syria. Because her passport now has a stamp that says refugee, if she were to return she would be killed. She will never be able to see her parents and family again.

Our second annual Idaho Day was celebrated on Friday and we had the privilege of having all of our living past and present governors speak to us. Governor Batt was unable to be there but we were told he was watching the proceedings via the internet. It was a rare moment to have them in the same place at the same time. They were asked to tell what made Idaho special to them.

I visited with Governor Andrus for a few moments prior to the presentation. I told him that if I were talking, I would tell about the unique landscapes of Idaho and of our wildlife and the renewing of the seasons. He told me that is what he was going to do for a couple of minutes and then “stick a stick in.” I told him that we would not know it was him if he didn’t stick a stick in. And that is exactly what he did.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, Feb. 29

March 2nd, 2016 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

The season of the Lincoln Day celebrations is in full swing and our part of the world is not an exception. It is what I have referred to in the past as my thousand mile weekend. For me it was a journey well worth taking and it was great to get back home and visit with folks. I can’t remember one of these events that I enjoyed more.

I have been asked to help with a working group to try and find a way forward with the discussions that are going on about Medicaid. One of the issues is about our current Medicaid plan. Since Idaho first began participating, the major effort has always been on finding the resources to pay the bills instead of developing a healthcare system in a managed care model. For that to happen Idaho must apply for a waiver to change to managed care, which would direct those on the program to less expensive primary care. It has been demonstrated in other states to reduce costs as well as provide better care.

The other element that will be looked into will be what to do with the “gap” population that the Affordable Care Act created. Governor Otter has proposed a way forward that has to this point been a hard sell. How that will all turn out is impossible to predict. This next week will be a busy one on this subject.

Many are excited about the announcement of a public-private partnership to establish a medical school in Idaho. Currently we are investing a lot of money in out of state schools for seats for medical students from Idaho. The school would be an extension of Idaho State University which currently has the mission of providing medical related education and it would be located in the Boise area. The effort would be one that would provide an incentive for our medical students to remain in Idaho. It is thought that the state funding we do in other states now could be re-directed to this effort. More details will follow shortly.

I had a representative of the new Catholic Bishop of Idaho in my office last week wanting to discuss some of the changes of emphasis they are making at this time. It was a very enjoyable meeting and he told me that they are feeling the most important thing we can all do, no matter what your religion, is to strengthen our families. I could not agree more. They would like to help along the way with any issues concerning families.

We are working our way through legislation and soon will be voting on budgets on the floor of the House. If all goes well we are on track for a shorter than normal session. That is a very big “if” knowing that the Governor may not be pleased with some items we may have to trim to keep the budget balanced as the constitution requires. Meanwhile we will soon see February revenue numbers and we are keeping our fingers crossed.

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

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, February 22

February 24th, 2016 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

More than likely you have heard the radio commercials that are sponsored by the J.A. & Catherine Albertson Foundation that for some time have been telling us about all the deficiencies in education in the state of Idaho. It gets a little discouraging hearing all of those things about how “bad” education is here.

Last Friday the Teton High School girl’s basketball team came to town to participate in the tournament. Representative Marc Gibbs and I were able to spend some time with them touring the capital. We were able to get them into the governor’s office for a look around there and to take a few pictures. We also took them to the House floor and talked to them about how bills are passed in the legislature. What a great group of young ladies.

We told them about our page program that provides an opportunity for seniors in high school to come and help us during the legislative session. It is such a good opportunity for them and the pages learn a great deal during their time with us. Toward the end of our time with the team, their coach told me that the average grade point for these girls is 3.87. That is quite an accomplishment for those young ladies and it sounds like we are seeing successes and doing something right in our schools. I would hope that the Albertson Foundation could find the success stories that we have in Idaho instead of just looking for all the things that they seem to think are wrong with our schools.

For several years it has been my feeling that we needed to seriously consider creating a gaming agency that would regulate all of the gaming activities in the state. Particularly in light of what occurred last year with regard to historical racing. It could have been a vehicle that would have prevented much of the problem that occurred. I was able to get a bill introduced that would provide oversight of all the gaming activities that Idaho has including the lottery, pari-mutuel wagering, and tribal gaming. There have been several that have indicated that they would like to visit with me about the bill. Whether we like it or not, over the last few years Idaho has become a gaming state. That had its beginnings when the voters approved a change in the Constitution to allow for a lottery.

It was a good weekend for me at home. I was able to have some time with the family and to get out and take a look at the cattle and see how things are progressing there. Maybe more than anything else it was a chance to get out and breathe the fresh air. My son Bruce can hardly wait to start tilling the ground and start planting the crops. I had to remind him that it’s February and oh by the way the calving season has just barely begun. For some reason or other I don’t think we’ve seen the last of winter, even though at our elevation most of the snow disappeared this last week. Everything in its proper time and season.

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

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