By Rep. Elaine Smith
The first week of the 2012 Idaho Legislature went by very fast. The first day legislators, elected officials and judges heard from Gov. Otter on his State of the State speech. He stated his ideas for education, I-Gems on jobs, rainy day funds reimbursement and tax relief. The governor’s budget sets aside $45 million for tax relief, but there was no specific information on any ideas for this money. I will be very interested to see what is proposed for this money to accomplish. It was good to see money was being set aside in a Higher Education Stabilization Fund, which Idaho universities and colleges have been asking to be created. This fund is similar to the Public Education Stabilization Fund.
I understand the Students Come First legislation passed last year will have bills brought forward this year to “tweak” the legislation. Since so many individuals testified last year on those education bills, I encourage you to again follow the bills in the Senate and House Education committees. Idaho Democrats believe that a quality public education system is vital to the growth of our economy in communities and in the state.
This first week Idaho Democrats did have a press conference on the ethics issue. We believe the people of Idaho should be able to have confidence and trust in our state’s public officials. One legislative proposal is to create an independent commission to evaluate ethics issues throughout state government. Idaho is just one of nine states that does not have an independent commission on ethics. We are hoping the Republicans will join us on this non-partisan issue.
My committee assignments are the same as last year, which were State Affairs, Business Committee, and Environment, Energy and Technology. Also, I am a member of the Joint Health Care Task Force which has endorsed a State Health Insurance Exchange and I am on the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee. This week that committee will receive the report on Reducing Barriers to Postsecondary Education. A couple of months ago the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee received the Equity in Higher Education Funding report, Idaho’s End-Stage Renal Disease Program report and the Distribution and Sale of Liquor in Idaho report. As you can see, this committee deals with a wide variety of issues.
The way to contact me is by e-mail at email@example.com or the website www.legislature.idaho.gov or the toll free number is 1-800-626-0471 or my office number is (208) 332-1031 or my home number is (208) 237-1462. I will be coming home on weekends for various activities. The District 30 legislators and Sen. Diane Bilyeu will be having a forum the evening of Friday, Feb. 3, so information on this event will be announced later.
This column was written by state Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello.