What I Did On My Summer Vacation
The 2019 legislative session ended on April 11, 2019. We are now in the “interim” period until the 2020 session starts in early January. Some people think that legislators only work for the three months while the legislature is in session. And in fact, we only get paid for about three months of full-time work (approximately $18,000 paid out over the full year). However, my work as a legislator does not stop when the session ends. The work continues throughout the year in several of ways:
I started visiting voters at the door in May. The best way for me to stay current with the issues that concern people is to have direct, meaningful conversations with them. I have talked with over 1,300 voters at their door in the last three months. The top concerns thus far are:
- Under-funding education
- Failure to adequately manage growth
- Difficulty keeping up with the cost of living (including higher property taxes, fees and rents)
- Healthcare (costs, mental health services, restrictions the legislature added to Medicaid expansion that was enacted by voters last November)
- Failure to protect access to public lands
Two new issues that voters are angry about concern announcements by Republican Party leadership to:
- Change the redistricting process so they have total control when drawing future legislative district boundaries – thus enabling them to gerrymander Idaho.
- Prevent future citizen-driven ballot initiatives by making it virtually impossible for future initiatives to ever get on the ballot again.
My goal is to walk the entire district, like I did last year. I hope to see you at the door soon. But if I miss you, you can always reach me on my personal cell phone at 208-890-9339. Your input, positive or critical, helps me be a better Representative!
While the legislature meets for only three months, I am your Representative for the entire year. One of my most important responsibilities is constituent services – answering people’s questions and helping government work for them.
I believe public service is more than what I do in the statehouse; it’s what I can also do for the community. This is why I created a new Constituent Help Desk (208-921-3571). You can call this number if you have any questions about city, state, local government or community services. Volunteers will help connect you with resources that might be of assistance. Here are some of the items we’ve addressed:
- Improved traffic signage at a busy intersection
- Fixed a school district irrigation water leak flooding a constituent’s yard
- Information about a free summer lunch program offered at city parks
- Directed constituents to ACHD “Tell Us” website to report neighborhood problems or concerns
- Helped constituents with concerns about violations of city code
- Status of several road, pedestrian and cyclist projects
Several interim committees and task forces were created after the session ended. These groups meet to discuss, explore and take action on a variety of topics. They do not have the power to take legislative action, but their work will often influence the next session’s agenda.In June, I was appointed to the Governor’s Idaho Complete Count Committee (ICCC). This committee is chartered to help the federal government with the 2020 census in Idaho. The committee will work to get an accurate tally of Idaho’s population, including reaching historically under-counted populations (click here for more).Here’s why this committee is so important: Idaho lost an estimated $450 million in federal dollars during the last decade due to undercounting over 31,000 Idahoans during the 2010 census. Counting every person living in Idaho during the 2020 census will have a significant financial impact on Idaho. I will keep you updated with the work being done by this committee.
Another important interim activity is the Governor’s K-12 Education Task Force (dubbed “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future”). Its purpose is to develop a five-year plan for continuous improvement and outcomes in K-12 education. I am not on this committee, but it will impact my work on the House Education Committee next year (click here for more).Preparing for the 2020 session
Work on legislation addressed during any legislative session actually starts earlier. There is more time during the summer and fall to collaborate with colleagues and legal resources to create draft versions of bills.
One of the most valuable sources of ideas for legislation comes from directly from constituents, especially during my conversations with them at the door. Some of the topics raised by voters include: consumer protections, CBD oil, medicinal marijuana (not recreational), social services, property tax relief, considerations for veterans, school curriculum, mental health services, and government purchasing policies. I have begun to address some of these topics with my colleagues and other experienced resources.
On The Air
Here are some of my interviews with the media during 2019:
- January 31 - Idaho Matters radio interview (with Rep. Jake Ellis). Click here.
- March 14 - BYU-Idaho radio interview on key legislative topics. Click here.
- August 1 - BSU radio story on redistricting. Click here.
- August 15 - Capital Update radio interview on protecting the ballot initiative process. Click here.
Here are some interesting articles pertaining to the 2019 session and topics that will impact and inform the upcoming 2020 session:
- New Sheriff in town, or legislative wild card? A look at the House Education committee, of which I am a member.
- Idaho ranks dead last in per-pupil school investment. Companies with good-paying jobs are not flocking to locate in a state that is 51st in education investment. The last major out-of-state company that built new facilities in Boise employing hundreds of people in good-paying jobs may have been Hewlett Packard in the 1970s.
- $40M of Idaho taxpayer dollars spent to build charter schools. A portion of your property tax dollars goes to build charter school facilities every time a school levy is passed. And there is no requirement that these tax dollars be spent on a charter school that your kids can go to.
- 47 school districts float $485 million in new bonds and levies. Clear evidence that the Idaho Legislature is still underfunding public education throughout Idaho.
- Idaho missed 33 of its 34 ESSA education benchmark goals. This is one of the consequences of failing to adequately fund education for the last 10 years.
- IACI 2019 session wrap-up. IACI (Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry) is one of the most influential business organizations in Idaho. Governor Brad Little is a former Chairman of IACI.
- Boise’s economic boom might not be sustainable — and Idaho’s educational system poses part of the problem. This is a problem for rural Idaho as well. Many rural counties in Idaho take more money from the state’s General Fund each year than they put in. Their financial well-being is in part dependent on the counties that put more money into the General Fund than then take out – such as Ada County (and specifically Boise).
- How private landowners are blocking access to your public lands. This is a serious, growing problem in Idaho – as anyone who has run into new No Trespassing signs while trying to enjoy the Idaho wilderness knows. Out-of-state billionaires are buying up hundreds of square miles of Idaho and using their holdings to block your access to the public lands on the other side of their property. They are effectively privatizing your public lands for themselves.
- Governor Little asks state agencies to limit budget requests. This will likely translate into reduced state services next year.
- How supermajority control of a state legislature breeds complacency. The Republican Party controls 80% of the seats in the Idaho Legislature. This article describes the situation Indiana, but it applies to Idaho as well. (Note: This is a problem when any one party has supermajority control – it doesn’t matter which one.)