I made it through the pre-Christmas bustle, got my shopping, wrapping, and mailing done in a timely fashion. I even helped Kay make cookies.
The last few weeks have also been busy with pre-session meetings around the community. I have appreciated the feedback and opinions. But now it is time to pack up and begin the trek south to Boise.
The Idaho Supreme Court hears the Twin Falls challenge to the Redistricting Commission plan on January 5, The second challenge from several norther Idaho counties is scheduled for January 19. The Attorney General is defending the Commission and its product, and has already filed his brief. I think the arguments are solid, and would not be surprised if the Court defers to the Commission, another constitutionally authorized body, to make the decisions within its scope. The argument will likely be “how many county divisions are too many” to meet the requirement of “as few county divisions as are necessary”.
In the meantime, it is hard for county clerks and the Secretary of State to get the preparations done for candidate filing (beginning the end of February) and the May primary election until the district boundaries are settled. It is also difficult to pin down candidates interested in running until they know what their district looks like.
What to expect this session
The most often asked question this month (after “are you ready for Christmas?”) is “what do you expect this session?”
I do not expect it to be quite as emotional. We are not going to overhaul K-12 education like last year, and I doubt that there will be another push to reduce support services for mentally ill and disabled adults on Medicaid like last year. Added to the mix is an expected excess of revenue over budgeted expenses.
But as angst-provoking as the cuts were, there will be a lot of discussion about “extra money”. Everyone wants a share for their industry or program, and I am sure there is not going to be enough to satisfy all requests. So budgeting will still be interesting.
There is talk about putting much of the excess into reserves, our rainy day funds. Certainly the K-12 education changes of last year require funding. And there are a number of “one-time” funds that will need replacing.
I do expect that the health insurance exchange will be a big topic. There is a lot being written about it, and almost all of the health care industry, the insurance industry, the businesses buying health insurance and providers of care support building an Idaho exchange. The only loud voice against it is the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Wayne Hoffman who seems to be against anything that is part of the Affordable Care Act. IACI and the Chambers of Commerce vs. Wayne Hoffman and the IFF. interesting contest.
Jobs and unemployment continue to be a major concern for the people I talk to. The Governor and legislature have not done much in the past few years, but our Caucus expects to introduce several bills (IJOBS 2.0) for consideration.
I also believe there will be some good government bills focused at the effect of money and lobbying on State contracts, as well as improved ability to report and investigate illegal activities in government. These bills have not gone very far in the past.
Overshadowing this all will be the May primary election. New districts and a new, closed Republican primary makes me think that there will be quite a bit of positional posturing, everyone in the Republican race trying to get to the right of their potential primary opponent. Kind of like the GOP presidential hopefuls in Iowa.
All in all, I still expect it will be one of the shorter sessions as people try to get home to campaign.
The only sticker is water. If we do not get more snow I expect there will be a bill to buy water for irrigation, and that is usually a late session deal.
Idaho House Calls
One of my major interests has been health policy. And with all of the federal health reform changes, the changes in Idaho around Managed Medicaid and costs of indigent care, in the delivery system through practice purchases and integration, there is a huge amount going on.
So rather than try to squeeze it in here, I have started a blog, Idahohousecalls.com. In it, I hope to pull together articles and opinions on health, health policy and health politics as it affects Idahoans. Drop by and take a look.
How not to Govern…..redux
After the debt ceiling standoff, I though that we would be able to see some cooperation on a deficit reduction plan and see Congress move forward. First the failure of the 12 person Congressional Committee and then the inability of the House Republicans and the Senate to agree on the extension of payroll taxcuts demonstrats that at least in DC, elections rate higher than governing.
it makes it really hard to figure out what the best path for us to choose. Idaho gets a fair amount of federal money for roads and transportation, for education, for Medicaid and, lately, for family support through federal unemployment.
Transitioning to Boise
Just after New Years, I will be loading the car and heading to the apartment in Boise. The TV and newspapers in Boise have preview events the week before the session, the Economic Outlook Committee (it helps set the revenue we budget to) meets as does the Healthcare Taskforce.
I can still be reached if there is a piece of legislation you would like, but the short time frame might make it difficult to get it through the legislature.
The staff in our Minority office will begin work after January 3, and The real start of the Session, the Governor’s State of the State address is on January 9.