Rep. Steve Berch Newsletter - Constituent Services edition
This newsletter discusses an aspect of being a Representative that I’ve not written about before: being a public servant.
Most people understand that the role of a legislator is to write the laws that govern us. However, there’s another part of the job that is rarely discussed – being a resource to constituents. It is why I am your Representative year-round, not just when the legislature is in session. This newsletter provides a glimpse into this other part of the work I do as your State Representative.
As always, please check the end of this letter for ways to contact me – which is how much of the content of this edition of my newsletter was generated to begin with. Please contact me anytime for any reason.
I love being a public servant. I get to help constituents without having to convince a majority of 104 other legislators to agree with me. I can have an immediate, positive impact on people’s lives. The actions may seem small in the grand scheme of things but are important to the individual, especially when I can help make government work for people. Here’s just a few of the things I’ve worked on for constituents in District 15 during my first term in office:
- Worked with ACHD to install four-way stop signs at a dangerous residential intersection.
- Connected residents with city agencies in regard to unruly neighbors.
- Helped a teacher share her concerns about writing four-year plans for middle school students with the State Department of Education.
- Confirmed status of the Three Cities River Crossing, a long-planned connection between Five Mile Road and State Street (it has been set aside due to cost concerns).
- Asked ACHD to fix an issue with water constantly pooling in front of an elderly person’s mailbox. ACHD determined the roadway did not drain properly, so they carved a channel to fix the problem:
- Informed ACHD of concerns for student safety along Cloverdale Road when walking to Joplin Elementary School while the road was under construction (walk ways were put in place).
- Helped a constituent learn why they could not access water from their local irrigation district canal.
- Informed ACHD of concerns about manhole covers not installed flush with the road surface (it’s a known problem being addressed throughout the city).
- Worked on a concern regarding the Idaho sex offender registry and how it is applied relative to the laws of other states.
- Informed ACHD of a constantly clogged storm drain on a residential street (turned out to be a flaw in a drainage pipe).
- Notified Boise City Council of concerns about insufficient parking being allowed for small high-density development within a residential neighborhood (a local planning and zoning issue). NOTE: There are limits as to what I can affect, even as a state legislator. I cannot guarantee the outcome of an issue that is owned by another governing entity. However I can help connect constituents to the appropriate resource and advocate for their concerns.
- Connected a constituent with the governor’s office regarding the lack of volunteer preceptors needed to complete nurse practitioner graduation requirements at ISU.
- Connected a constituent with PERSI management to address a membership participation issue.
- Helped clarify certain constraints on HIPAA in regard to parental notification.
- Worked with Boise City in regard to disruptive for-profit business activity on a residential street.
- Responded to many requests for data or information on a variety of topics.
- Currently addressing a wide a variety of questions and concerns related to voting by mail for the May 19 primary election and the current public health crisis.
There’s another benefit of doing this work. I get to learn more about how government works at all levels. Every request for assistance that I get often results in my building new relationships with people in other parts of state, county, city and other local government entities. It can also be the source and impetus for new legislation to remedy a bad situation or benefit citizens everywhere.
This is why I willingly give constituents my personal cell phone number. If a person seeking elected office doesn’t want to make it easy for constituents to contact them, they shouldn’t apply for the job. And it’s why I will continue to make it easy for you to contact me as I apply to continue being your District 15 Representative this November.
If you’d like to learn more or support my re-election campaign, please visit my website at www.berch4idaho.com.
Note: You can see how I voted on each of these bills by clicking on the bill number. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns as to how I voted and to understand my reasons for doing so.
Notable new laws
Use of cell phones while driving (H614). A statewide ban on non-hands free use of cell phones while driving goes into effect on July 1, 2020. Warnings will be issued through the end of 2020; fines begin on January 1, 2021.
Notification of rent increase (H594). Residential landlords are now required to provide 30-day advance written notice prior to increasing one’s rent or if they intend to not renew a lease.
Forced eviction of tenants (H461). A landlord can now forcibly evict a tenant and remove their possessions within 72 hours upon a court order of eviction. Judges do not have discretion to grant more time based on extenuating circumstances (e.g. illness, disabilities, emergencies, etc.).
Displaying political signs on your property (H503). Your homeowners association (HOA) can no longer prevent you from displaying political yard signs, the American flag or a POW/MIA flag on your property.
Predatory booting of cars (H345). This law prevents a car from being booted for the sole reason of an expired or improper vehicle registration.
Daycare safety (H549). Child care licensing requirements have been updated to comply with federal safety regulations and Idaho Child Care Program standards.
Redistribution of sales tax revenue among cities (H408). This law redistributes wealth from large cities to smaller cities. Boise will receive over $1 million less in sales tax revenue than it otherwise would have.
Idaho Patient Act (H515). This law protects consumers from predatory medical debt collectors.
Medicaid reimbursements (H351). This law cuts Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals and nursing facilities, which could have a negative impact on Medicaid patients.
Tele-health (H342). This law enables greater use of technology to provide remote medical services, especially for those who have difficulty traveling to a medical service provider.
Vaping (H538). Vaping products are now incorporated into the definition of tobacco products and subject to the same regulations and vendor permit requirements.
Participation in women’s sports (H500). Your daughter participating in high school or college sports may now be required to undergo a physical genital examination and a blood test for testosterone levels and a DNA analysis (at your expense) if someone suspects or accuses her of being too masculine. The trigger language within this new law may impact any girl or young woman whose gender is “disputed” (page 3, line 15).
What didn’t happen
Property tax relief – Not a single bill was passed that would provide any form of sustainable property tax relief.
Grocery tax relief (H494) – Increase the grocery tax credit on state income tax. Died on House floor.
Minimum wage (H337) – Allow local governments to increase the minimum wage within their jurisdiction. Killed in House committee.
Voter registration (H336) – Enable an eligible citizen to be automatically registered to vote when they apply for or renew their driver’s license. Killed in House committee.
Plastic bags (H338) – Enable local municipalities to regulate the use of plastic bags within their jurisdiction. Killed in House committee.
Wrongful convictions (H384) – Provide financial compensation for a person wrongfully imprisoned. Vetoed by Governor.
Legalize industrial hemp (S1345) – Killed in committee.
Idaho is “Too Great to Hate” license plate (S1297) – Failed on House floor (“Idaho Chooses Life” license plate did become law).
Fair chance employment (S1318) – Prevent employers from asking about prior criminal convictions on a job application (often used to screen applicants from initial consideration). Died on House floor.
Retaliation for using paid sick leave (H475) – Prevent an employer from penalizing an employee for using their paid sick leave (via discipline, discharge, demotion, suspension, etc.). Died on House floor.
Classroom supplies (H554) – Compensate teachers for their out-of-pocket costs for basic classroom supplies not funded by the legislature. Killed in House committee.
Renter security deposit (H595) - Require residential landlords to provide an itemized receipt of the actual cost for repairs or cleaning being withheld from a security deposit. Failed on House floor.
Add the Words (S1226) – Add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Killed in Senate committee.
Contraceptive prescriptions (S1275) – Require insurance companies to provide its members with up to a six-month supply of contraceptives (current law only requires a one- to three-month supply per prescription). Killed in Senate committee.
Allow concealed weapons on school property (S1384) – Died in Senate committee.
End-of-session reviews in the media
Idaho State Journal
Boise State Public Radio (bills awaiting the Governor’s signature at the time the article was published, some of which were subsequently vetoed)
- March 19 - BYU-Idaho interview. Click Here.
- March 6 - KBOI interview. Click Here.
- February 27 - BYU-Idaho radio interview on education and sales tax exemptions. Click here.
- February 13 - Capital Update interview on the House abolishing education standards. Click here.
- January 10 - KBOI interview (with Rep. Megan Blanksma). Click here.
- November 5 – Podcast interview about my experiences while running for office. Click here.
- August 1 - BSU radio story on redistricting. Click here.
- March 29 - KBOI interview (with Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking): Click here.
- March 14 - BYU-Idaho radio interview on key legislative topics. Click here.
- January 31 - Idaho Matters radio interview (with Rep. Jake Ellis). Click here.