The photo above is from the Twin Falls area newspaper and its prediction is true! Many folks here in the Capitol say this is the fastest start to the session they can recall. Bills are flying and committees are busy. As a one day sample, here’s my schedule from this past Wednesday:
8:00am – 11:00am – JFAC. This is the joint finance & appropriations committee made up of 10 members of the Senate and 10 from the House. We meet every weekday morning at 8:00am and typically work in committee until 11:00am.
11:00-11:30 – Senate floor. Our daily full Senate floor session is brief right now because bills are still getting printed and being discussed in committees before they can be heard on the floor. In February and March these floor sessions are hours long, and often twice each day because there are so many bills to consider.
12:00-1:15 – JFAC working lunch. This is a voluntary group of 4 that gets together every Wednesday with the analyst for the Health and Welfare budgets—there are many budgets and they are huge. We go go over budget details and evaluate the requests. Bring your own lunch and eat while you work!
1:30-2:20 – Try to get some paperwork done! Go to LSO (Legislative services office) to discuss two bills in process.
2:30 – Meet in my office with folks promoting more medical residency programs.
(Normally the Health & Welfare committee meets from 3-5:00 but was cancelled because of CEC—below)
3:00 – 8:45pm: CEC – Change in Employee Compensation committee. All members of Commerce committee are automatically on the CEC committee for the first two weeks of the session. We have had three very long meetings to decide the pay and benefits for state employees. Our meeting on Wednesday was supposed to go until 5pm, but went almost 4 hours longer (no dinner) due to extended committee discussion and multiple motions and votes.
9:00pm: I went back to my rented temporary apartment, cooked some dinner and went to bed!
These are very long and interesting days. The energy outlay is immense but it comes back as excitement about important changes we can achieve. We can make a difference in Foster Care and CASA. We can raise government transparency in the Public Records request law. We can increase voter involvement in schools by moving board elections to November rather than May. We can empower parental choice in education. We can improve the affordability of and access to health care in Idaho. These are all areas I am working on with others. Step by step, inch by inch.
Here are some quick updates on other issues:
–The $27.5 million that was supposed to go to roads at the end of last session was unanimously appropriated by our JFAC committee yesterday.
–The legislature is working hard to evaluate the Federal tax bill’s impact on Idaho and adjust accordingly.
–The Unemployment Insurance reduction that was hijacked and turned into the grocery tax repeal at the end of last session has now been passed by the House and will pass the Senate next week. It will be a big help to businesses.
–The grocery tax repeal will come back again this year. There are several versions coupled with other tax policy, so we’ll decide when we see them all.
Thank you for the opportunity to do this important work. I am truly honored by your trust!
Hope you have a wonderful weekend — Mary