Senate Update, 2/27/16

Win some, lose some…that’s how it goes in Boise! My week started out early last Monday, with an important presentation in front of the Senate State Affairs committee. I explained my “blanket sunshine” bill, S1299, to the committee made up of all the leadership in the Senate. This committee is known to be a bit intimidating. They were actually very nice to me and even though it was well over an hour of back and forth questions and conversation, and even though they didn’t advance my bill, they offered good ideas for making the bill better for next year. Here’s what the bill was about:

S1299 required all local candidates and ballot measures (bonds, levies, initiatives & recalls) to report their campaign donations and expenditures. It also required Political Action Committees (PACs) to report their donations at the local level. Right now, all of the state level candidates and ballot measures and PACs have to report, but at the local level it is inconsistent–some do and many don’t.

I had the support of several key leadership members but it was not enough and the bill was held in committee. I’ll work again with the Sec. of State’s office to create a plan for updated technology on the SOS’s web site, and see if we can streamline much of the process to make this a more achievable goal next year.

Speaking of second tries…the Parental Rights in Education bill that Sen. Den Hartog and I presented last year but was held in the House over testing concerns, easily passed the Senate Education committee this week. That’s a win! Now numbered S1293, we added some invitational language that clarifies the “reasonable accommodations” parents can expect from schools, so there’s a more clarity on both support and limitations. The bill was well received and will go on the the full Senate next week.

Two other bills I am co-sponsoring relate to School Board elections, to change the date from May to the general election in November, and to open zone voting so everyone in the district can vote, just like for county commissioners. These bills will be heard in committee soon.

We are very busy right now. We have a long list of legislation to consider on the floor of the Senate each day, with double floor sessions, morning and afternoon, two days a week. Tuesday we voted on 24 bills, but Wednesday we got through only 6, because of extensive debate, and yesterday our late afternoon session went over 2 hours on only one bill. It was S1339, which deals with oil and gas recovery processes and notifications. It passed with only 4 dissenting votes. You may not be aware, but Payette County in southwest Idaho has a fairly new oil and natural gas operation underway, so establishing working rules that honor all sides is important.