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Updating The Referendum Process

Addressing the concerns of some Idahoans about Senate Bill 1159, we introduced House Bill 296 in the House Ways & Means Committee on Thursday. HB 296 will change the number of districts required for initiative qualification to 2/3 of Idaho’s legislative districts and increase the time for signature collection to 270 days. Both SB 1159 and HB 296 are a result of work in both the House and the Senate to preserve the right of initiatives to serve as the voice of the Idaho voters rather than have the process subverted by outside interests and well-funded out of state entities.

“Most Idahoans agree that initiatives should have a solid vetting process, or we would run all legislation through initiatives. You elect leaders you trust to do that work for you,” said Majority Caucus Chair Rep. Megan Blanksma. “However, the initiative process is important, and these changes still allow for the process to take place in a more clearly defined and equitable way.”

The complementing pieces of legislation moving forward are supported by recent polling data showing bi-partisan support to preserve the rural vote and protect the initiative process for the Idaho voter rather than external special interest groups.

Idaho Medal of Honor Highway

Governor Brad Little held a special ceremony Monday to mark the success of House Bill 89, which designates Highway 20 as the Idaho Medal of Honor Highway. Little signed the bill earlier this month, but held the ceremony on National Medal of Honor Day. Idaho’s portion of the highway is part of a larger plan to have an entire highway that begins in Newport, Oregon, and ends in Boston, Massachusetts.

Rep. Scott Syme, a retired Army Colonel, sponsored the bill, and took part in the ceremony. “Being a veteran myself, I was all over that. I wanted to be involved.”

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military award for battlefield valor. Officials say 48 Medal of Honor recipients were either born in Idaho or lived in the state. In Idaho, the highway starts near Parma and ends on Targhee Pass where it enters Montana.

*picture courtesy of Governor Little’s Office

Setting The Table For Formula Funding

While many of us are disheartened the Legislature was unable to create a new equitable school funding formula this session, we are setting the table for next year with House Bill 293. This year’s model lacked reliable estimates of enrollment and other data which made it difficult to accurately forecast funding of each individual child and district. HB 293 fixes issues including better definitions, enrollment data and district expenditures to see where more local funding control is possible. Further clarification of reporting requirements will come through department rules. HB 293 does not change funding to any school districts.  It does require a legislative review of procedures, practices and effectiveness of funding every 5 years.

“We will create a new model that gets to the Governor’s desk in 2020, and ensures our children get the quality education they deserve. The stakes are too high not to level the playing field for our schools and students,” said Rep. Ryan Kerby.

Medicaid Expansion

Work continues on creating an Idaho Way Forward on Medicaid expansion. While we were hoping to go home this weekend, Idahoans still need us to create a fiscally responsible plan that’s directed at complete population health. We also need to keep our conservative promise of being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

A Distinct Honor

Congratulations to Representative Holtzclaw on being named the 2019 Legislator of the Year by the Fraternal Order of Police!

A Fond Farewell

As the session winds down, we said a fond farewell to our House Pages on Tuesday. They worked incredibly hard over the past six weeks, and we will miss them. They are amazing young women and men, and are some of the future leaders of this state.