The end is in sight. We just about finished all the bills on the board this morning, the packing boxes are stacked up, and the “punch list” of end of session chores is being finalized. The best guess is that we adjourn “sine die” on Tuesday or Wednesday. Not that we have all our work done. Plenty of problems and projects will await the next legislature.
Budget discussion’s last gasp
The major impediment to completion is the determination of budget. The Governor and the House Majority want a $35 million income tax reduction. The Senate Republicans do not think there is enough ongoing revenue to reduce it by that much. Besides, they would rather replace some of the funds removed from our schools to pay for the Luna bills, for laptops and online classes. Senator Cameron even wrote a bill that passed the Senate unanimously to restore the money, but the House has not even given the bill a hearing. The size of the impasse is not huge, but there are control issues compounding things.
Another education bill that bit the dust was one from Rep. Brian Cronin that would have put in place reporting and oversight of the on line course vendors. It seemed reasonable to me, and just leaving it to the Department of Education left the fox guarding the henhouse. But it was defeated in Chairman Nonini’s committee. So much for transparency.
Ultrasound and women’s rights
The big splash this week was S1387, Senator Winder’s bill that would have required a woman seeking an abortion for whatever reason to have an ultrasound, with the provider recording the fetal heart tones (if present) and the size of the gestational sac. In addition the woman would have to sign a form from H&W that she had an opportunity to view the ultrasound image. The type of ultrasound (abdominal or vaginal) was left up to the provider and woman, but they could not choose to omit it.
When the bill was heard in the Senate, it kicked up a firestorm of controversy. After it passed the Senate floor, the uproar was almost continuous. I have had hundreds of personal emails from women (and a few men) who are strongly opposed to government dictating a medical procedure, especially one potentially invasive and very few saying it was a good idea. This follows a bill that asks the Federal government to drop contraceptive, sterilization and IUD coverage from the women’s preventative health benefit list.
The hubbub continued with sizable protests outside the Capitol and a demonstration of fetal ultrasounds in one of our meeting rooms near the Senator’s offices. Of course there was a counter protest, all leading up to Thursday when the bill was scheduled for a hearing in House State Affairs.
Late Wednesday afternoon the House Republicans went into closed caucus. About 90 minutes later they broke the huddle and cancelled the hearing, and it looks like the bill is dead for now.
The big issue was forcing someone to have a medical procedure against their will. From the same people who claim the right of conscience and that requiring health insurance is government overreach. There was real concern about how that played with the female republican voters-there is a primary election coming soon, after all.
Sunset for the tanning bed bill
(H486) , a bill to limit cancer causing UV radiation from tanning during childhood, failed in Senate Health and Welfare. I was disappointed but not surprised. The default position if you do not understand an issue is “no”, and I only had 2 days between when we passed the House and when we had our Senate hearing. I will likely try again, as this limitation will save lives and decrease the number of melanoma cases.
Expectations, Hopes and Disappointments
This session is turning out much like I anticipated it would.
The major budget discussions are how much to put into reserves, how much to replace in shrunken budgets (especially education), and the desire to cut income taxes.
The social issues–vaginal ultrasounds, contraception, gold and silver coins, right to hunt–all presented themselves in time for some political posturing before the closed Republican primary election. And the Luna laws that caused so much discussion and rancor last year were almost not seen, awaiting the referendum this fall.
We had hoped, and still hope, to focus on the culture of the legislature, one of arrogance and entitlement. From per diem chiseling to parking meters, to undisclosed conflicts, to personally beneficial game tags, this session seemed to have a new example every 2 weeks. Although acknowledged as an issue, the GOP rebuffed any meaningful change. The new legislature will have another chance.
Although I didn’t see much progress with our IJOBS bills, I fully expect that some of the ideas will come back. We still have 60,000 fewer jobs than 4 years ago. The only significant program was IGEMS, building on the universities and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies. Eerily similar to our tech transfer proposal from 2 years ago.
A major disappointment for me was the failure to engage on health issues. Whether it was mental health in our prisons or in our communities or the Health Insurance Exchange, there was more interest in beating on “Obamacare” and keeping our departments of Health and Welfare and Insurance from making progress than on efficiently meeting the needs of Idahoans.
I hope to see you soon (I expect to get home Thursday or Friday). The Valley Chamber is setting up a Legislative Report session on April 18. With the new district including Lewis County, I hope to visit Kamiah, Nez Perce, Craigmont and other places there too.
I will be sending out a more complete summary once I recoup a bit at home
Help me represent you…..
Even though the session is over, I continue to be your representative. If there are ways I can help, or even things to begin studying next year, contact me. Email is best.
Information and Contact Information
Next week will likely be my last weekly letter for the session. I will do less frequent ones, especially as this might be an interesting political year with new districts, new primary process, presidential politics and all. These newsletters are meant to be shared, so feel free to pass these on through your friends and organizations.
Another way to keep track of things down here is through the papers and blogs (Betsy Russell’s Eye on Boise, Bill Spence (of the Tribune) Political Theatre, Dan Popkey (of theStatesman)Idaho Politics) are among the best.
And I again invite you to check out my healthcare/health politics blog Idaho Housecalls
You can call and leave a message at home (208-743-1339) but it often takes a while for Kay to get the message down to me. My Boise office is 208-332-1130 but I am there only rarely. A better way is to and I will get back to you.
If you lose my email address, the Legislative website is another good access point, and has links to bills and committee meeting, agendas and minutes.
It continues to by my honor to serve as your representative.