Summer 2011 Legislative Summary from Donna Pence

We finally got some heat units these last few weeks.   This is good for our crops, but hard for our bodies to adjust to after the relatively cool summer.     I trust you have enjoyed our great Idaho natural resources this summer as we have.   My family has been able to catch Kokanee in Anderson Ranch and Mackay Dams, Walleye in Salmon Falls Dam, Crappie in Strike Dam and Trout in each of them.   We have had some great hikes and just this last week- end climbed 11,860 ft. Mt. McCaleb near Mackay.

Legislators have also been busy on Legislative tasks.  The Hispanic Education Task force finished up a master plan for increasing graduation rates for our Hispanic students, emphasizing increased parental involvement, better English acquisition programs, and more publicity for successful programs that are being developed in our local schools.

The Committee appointed to guide the implementation of Supt. Luna’s three Ed. Bills has been working diligently to decide what types of technology to introduce into our schools.    They are looking closely at Maine’s program and others to glean off the successes.   One thing evident is that teacher training is critical to get full advantage of this tool.     Another outcome is a “go more slowly” approach as evidenced by the State Board of Educations’ reduction of required on-line classes from 8-2 during students’ high school careers.   In the meeting I attended in Twin Falls this week there was still concern about effects on students who are not visual learners.   Since this reduction in required hours seems to be in place we should be taking a good look at restoring some of the teacher funding the bills are scheduled to cut.   Those additional 6 classes students are not required to take will have to be replaced with regular teacher led classes.    I am even hearing suggestions about running pilot programs in Districts and a more gradual change over.    We have good people working on this and I expect they will be able to sort out what is best for students.

The revenue figures have been good and the 60 some million surplus has helped schools prepare for next year.  Jobs are the key to a better economy.   Unless investors and companies create more jobs with wages capable of supporting families we may be in for a long slow recovery.  Wel, a trucking and storage company that deals in transporting cheese products just opened in Gooding.   They have decent wages and good benefits.  We need more companies willing to make this leap of faith if we are to get people back to work.

Next week we will be looking at the cottage site leasing issue in our Natural Resources Interim Committee Mtg.    The State endowment lands are supposed to be managed for optimum return but many of the lessees are regular working class families who are being priced out of their family cabins by the $1,000 a month lease fees on State owned land beneath those cabins.  We will also be discussing the problems associated with the states purchase of commercial property with proceeds from sale of endowment lands and the resultant competition with private businesses that is occurring.

The Redistricting Commission has until Sept. 6th. to finish up their plans for Legislative and Congressional districts.   Many of the citizens of this District, including me, would like it  to remain pretty much the same with our 4 counties.   We are within 1600 or 3% below the targeted 45,000 or so people which will make up each district.   There have been over 50 plans submitted and more to come.   If you are interested in looking at these, google Idaho Redistricting Commission and click on proposed maps in the left margin after you get to their web site.  I expect we will hear much about this topic this with the 4 scheduled meetings next week.

I was pleased the Governor got behind Health Insurance Exchanges this week.   These will really be helpful in allowing all Idaho families to afford health insurance.   The Health Care Task Force has also been meeting to help reduce the damage done by the severe cuts to developmentally disabled adults.

Your District 25 Legislators will be starting their fall town meetings the end of September.   A schedule will come out soon and be sure to look up the dates for your community.  We want to hear your concerns.    Now is also the time to come to us with ideas about legislation.   Those of you on the ground are in a much better position to see tweaks and changes that need to be made in the laws.   You can contact me at 208-934-5302,, or 1960 US Hwy 26 Gooding, Idaho 83330.

  1. Biggest issue is jobs.    Without this the economy will improve very slowly.    Jobs like the WEL company which have decent wages and good benefits.   Well just opened in Gooding and is a trucking and storage company associated with the cheese industry.    Need jobs which will allow a family a living wage.     Too many of the recent jobs require two parents to work to make ends meet.
  2. Re-Districting

a.     Will directly effect Gooding.    Democrats favor a plan which keeps this District with the same 4 counties Lincoln, Gooding, Camas and Blaine with a small portion of Twin Falls county across the Snake south of Hagerman  which is most of the rural part north of Buhl.      Other plans which take Gooding County out of the District and puts them with Elmore and much of the western Twin Falls County would prevent a Democrat being elected in the future.

b.     The decision is being made by a Redistricting Commission comprised of 3 Democrats and 3  Republicans.   They have to have 4 of the 6 Commissioners agreeing to the plan before it can be accepted.   They have until about Sept 4th. to complete the task.   It has been pretty partisan to this  point  but they are revising maps and may come to agreement.   If they do not it goes to the court to decide what will happen.

3.  Revenue

a.      We ended the year with 70 million surplus and Ed  got about 50 million and 15 went to funding the Grocery Tax Credit.

b.     The forecast for the 2012 Budget is a 180 million surplus. These two surpluses are the result of picking the lowest estimated figure to budget to.     We have cut many agencies severely so that they cannot perform their regulatory functions effectively.  They need to gradually have those functions restored.     Another concern is that the Legislature used one time only money to balance the budget and the surplus needs to be there to fill in for these monies.  This will be a big issue next session.

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