Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!
Patty and I hope you enjoy the day with family and friends...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Was honored today to accompany Gov Otter to Idaho Falls for a wonderful tribute to veterans at the Elks Lodge, what a crowd supporting vets!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Very happy to report the final Legislative passage of H222. This bill sets aside $20m in a better interest bearing account, where that interest will be used annually for veterans transition programs when from the military to the private sector with a priority to our wounded heroes. Homeless vets, vets in need of special housing, re-education assistance, Veterans Home upgrades and more will now have a long term funding source to help those coming home or struggling after they return. Thanks to my friends and partners, Rep. George Eskridge and Matt Ellsworth in JFAC/LSO for helping put this together and driving it home. Now, to the Governor for a final signature!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Today the language for a proper state wide school security program defined in S1133 was stripped out of the bill and replaced with language not associated with ensuring safe and secure schools for our kids and the staff that educates them. I need your help in contacting the Idaho House members and asking them to normalize the bill with the amended language that has been agreed upon by everyone in the security working group involved.

Our Idaho kids, their parents and the educational staff all lost today with this action. It saddens me when the Idaho Legislature acts like the U.S. Congress we have worked so hard to not become.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Interesting day, moved H222 from the State Affairs committee to the floor (Veteran Recognition Fund) and worked a lot of bills on the Senate floor... we are getting closer to being done this year! Then got a phone call from a gent named Jeffery Martin in N. ID threatening to sue me for all my earthly belongings if I didn't vote the way he wanted me to... he's seems convinced I've somehow been bought, so to get his way, he plans to sue me... would that qualify as an oxymoron?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

End of Week Update for the Legislature:
On Monday the Senate passed HB 214 which amends and strengthens Idaho’s paternity statutes. The legislation is intended to make sure that at the end of an adoption all parties can feel contentment and a sense of peace. The Senate Education Committee had a busy afternoon passing a slate of bills: H 206, H 221, H205 and S 1148. All of these bills were sent to the amending order on the Senate calendar.
Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee heard public testimony on HB 248 (the House bill on the state exchange). After public testimony the bill passed the Committee on an 8-1 vote. Much of the debate against was more against Obamacare vs. the choice of a State or Federal Healthcare Exchange in Idaho. The bill went to the floor of the Senate for debate. The full Senate passed S 1136. This bill bans the formula of two new forms of synthetic cannabis and aims to keep Idaho’s citizens safe from harmful substances.
Wednesday morning the State Affairs Committee heard testimony on the"Add the Words” legislation. This legislation would ban workplace and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. The actual legislation is not going to come up this session. The Senate unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution 019. HCR 019 is intended to showcase the problem of physical inactivity and poor eating habits and increase awareness of the role of nutrition and physical activity in a healthy lifestyle. This HCR will also aid in writing and securing grants and foundation dollars for needed projects, interventions and research to improve the health and reduce healthcare costs for citizens in Idaho. Later in the evening the Senate voted on several amendments relating to education bills HB 206, HB 221, SB 1147 and SB 1148. The bills will be amended and returned to the reading order to be voted on at a later date.
Thursday, the Senate took up HB 248 (state exchange). After meaningful 3+ hours of debate and conversation the bill passed and has been sent to the Governor.
 I voted for this bill as I believe an Idaho, non-profit, exchange can/will protect the Idaho citizens and businesses that end up using the exchange until the ACA is eliminated or modified to focus more on the delivery COSTS of healthcare instead of what we are paying for it through insurance (the PRICE).
Friday, the Senate passed SB 1149. SB 1149 would require that both School Boards and Teacher's unions show good faith in school contract negotiations by proving they have majority support of their members. The Health and Welfare committee had a joint Senate and House session to review the department and Governor's recommendation to expand Medicaid. It pencils out over a 10 year period and would do away with the Catastrophic Care Fund and potentially lower county property taxes and payments for indigent healthcare now paid for by both the State and Counties. The concern I have is that the analysis of that 10 years is based upon the federal government payments for Medicaid to remain flat. I have concerns that the feds can't continue to borrow 40% of what we are now being paid for Medicaid, that must come to an end soon. If that happens in the next 10 years, as I suspect it must, I am concerned that expanding Medicaid will still pencil out in the State's favor.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Senate Local Gov&Tax Committee passed H315 which would give Personal Property tax relief to 89% of small businesses in Idaho...

Monday, March 18, 2013

I've had a number of questions on Idaho's Common Core education standards. I have received this from our State Department of Education to try to clarify some miss information that seems to have been going around:

Idaho chose to adopt in 2011 and are now known as the Idaho Core Standards. We have received several e-mails about his comments this morning, and I wanted to send you information to help answer some of the questions you may be receiving.

Q: Is the federal government requiring Idaho to adopt these standards?
A: No! Idaho voluntarily chose to adopt these standards in 2011. These standards were developed through a state-led effort. The federal government has not been involved in the process of developing or implementing these standards. In 2009, Superintendent Luna worked with a few other state superintendents to take a look at the academic standards in mathematics and English language arts. In Idaho, we face a challenge in which students do well academically while in grades K-12 but far too often graduate from high school unprepared for the rigors of college, professional-technical education or the workforce. Many other states are facing this same challenge. Therefore, Superintendent Luna decided to collaborate with other states in a state-led effort to develop higher, more rigorous standards in mathematics and English language arts. This process became known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative. They relied on experts in these academic fields as well as educators in all of the participating states to help develop these standards over the course of a year. In 2010, the standards were published. Each state then had the opportunity to review these standards and choose whether or not to adopt them.

Forty-five states have voluntarily chosen to adopt these standards in some form. Some states have added more standards onto the ones developed through the state-led effort. Others have chosen only to adopt either the mathematics or the English language arts portion. It is up to each state to decide. The state has not adopted a curriculum to go with these standards. These standards only set goals for what each child should know and be able to do by the end of each grade level. Each local school district or public charter school will determine the best curriculum and lesson plans to teach these standards to the students in their community.

Q: Did states follow the same process in adopting these standards or did they follow a new process?
A: In Idaho, we followed the same process we follow every five years in as we review academic standards in every content area and decide whether or not to adopt new standards. We brought in Idaho teachers to review these new, more rigorous standards in mathematics and English language arts. Idaho’s colleges and universities also weighed in, telling us that students will be ready for postsecondary education if they master these standards. We also asked the business community in Idaho to take a look at these standards during the review process. Based on all of this input, the Idaho State Board of Education chose to adopt these standards as Idaho’s new content standards in mathematics and English language arts in 2010. The Idaho Legislature adopted these standards as our new state standards in 2011. They are now known as the Idaho’s Core Standards in mathematics and English language arts.

Q: Are these standards lower than the standards the state had in the past or will they"dumb down” our schools?
A: No, absolutely not! The state specifically worked toward these new standards because they are higher and more rigorous than Idaho’s previous standards. Our colleges and universities as well as the business community have told us that students who graduate with mastery in these standards will be prepared for the rigors of postsecondary and the workforce. This is something we have been working toward for years. In addition, these standards are comparable with the standards of any other country in the world. You don’t have to take my word for it. Ask Idaho’s teachers. They will tell you. Here are clips of Idaho teachers saying just that:

Q: Do these standards encourage teachers to teach math in a new and"untested way”?
A: No! In fact, one reason Idaho chose to adopt these standards is because the mathematics standards are aligned with the Idaho Math Initiative, an effort that began in 2008 to improve student achievement in mathematics across the state. Research has shown that teachers who have taken the Mathematical Thinking for Instruction course through the Idaho Math Initiative and applied these methods in their classrooms see better student achievement results in mathematics.

Q: Will these new standards de-emphasize literature, like Huckleberry Finn, or historical texts.
A: No, these standards make sure students in public high schools receive a well-rounded education in learning both literary texts as well as informational texts. The business community in Idaho and across the country has told us that students need to be prepared to read, write and analyze informational texts before they graduate from high school. We know this is a critical skill in any career or workplace. The standards also include literacy standards for history and other subject areas to make sure historical texts are incorporated throughout a student’s education.

Q: Will the federal government take ownership of these standards in the future?
A: No. This Initiative was and will remain a state-led effort. Just like the standards we had in place before we adopted these, the federal government has never reviewed or approved state standards, and they have not reviewed or approved these. These are Idaho standards. If the federal government ever tries to approve or regulate these, no one will fight harder than we will in opposition.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Yet we've taken it away from vets returning to the private sector...

End of Week Update for the Legislature:
On Monday the Senate passed SB 1108 which would allow rural communities to have more of a say in the initiative process by requiring that 6% of registered voters in 18 of 35 legislative districts signal their support for the initiative to make the ballot. In the Education Committee testimony was heard on H 206, 221, and 224 regarding funding, renewals and contracts for charter schools.
Tuesday, the Senate passed SB 1079 which creates an Internet Crimes against Children Unit within the Office of the Attorney General. The creation of this unit would allow for the additional hiring of staff needed to aid in investigating and prosecuting those who use the Internet and technology to exploit children. The ICACU would partner with local and state law enforcement agencies to pursue the prevention of sexual exploitation of Idaho’s children. In the Senate Commerce Committee"opportunity grants” were unanimously supported. These grants would provide aid to local communities to attract and keep new businesses.
On Wednesday the Senate passed SCR 124 which asking the federal government to cleanup networks of trails damaged by years of wildfire. The Frank-Church–River of No Return Wilderness area would be designated a natural disaster area allowing for its cleanup by the US Forest Service. The move ensures Idaho taxpayers are not responsible for paying for land the federal government should be taking care of. The Senate also passed HB 159 which would allow the Nez Perce Convention Center to receive a liquor license. This would promote economic activity in the area and create new jobs.
Thursday, the Senate and Judiciary Rules Committee unanimously voted to add two version of synthetic marijuana,"spice,” to the state’s list of banned substances. The additions now allow law enforcement and local police agencies to crack down on its distribution.
Friday, the Senate had the honor to unanimously pass SCR 124, a Senate Concurrent Resolution that honored five fallen Idaho servicemen. The five fallen servicemen who gave their lives in the service of their country in 2012 were: U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Daniel J. Brown, 27; U.S. Army Sergeant Chris J. Workman, 33; U.S. Army Private First Class Cody O. Moosman, 24; U.S. Army Specialist Ethan J. Martin, 22 and U.S. Army Private First Class Shane G. Wilson, 20.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

FYI, here’s an updated summary of Gun Bills that appear to still have some legs now in the Idaho Senate and House:

• Senate Bill 1099: Idaho is home to some of the world’s premiere weapons manufacturers. Evidence shows that 50% of hearing damage in Idaho is caused by improperly protected ears during shooting. Unfortunately, due to federal regulations, many Idahoans do not have access to the tools to protect their ears from this damage. Senate Bill 1099 would eliminate the $200 registration fee to buy a suppressor as long as its only used in Idaho. This would eliminate a major fiscal hurdle for lower to middle income firearms owners who want to acquire suppressors but cannot afford the fee to own the item. The bill is currently held in the Senate State Affairs Committee pending 9th Dist. Court decisions on related language now in law, not likely to move this session.

• House Bill 258: This bill will allow anyone who applies for and pays fees for a Concealed Weapons Permit, to then make formal request for a copy of their Criminal History check which would have been completed as part of the package. The copy of the background check will be provided at no additional cost, still in the House.

• House Bill 219: This bill would keep Idaho’s law enforcement officials from being directed, through federal law or rules, to violate their oath of office and the Constitutional Rights of Idahoans. This provision would disallow the confiscation of firearms except those actually used in the commission of a felony or crime. The bill recently passed the House and is being sent to the Senate for approval.

• House Bill 192: This legislation would allow for the creation of an enhanced concealed carry weapons permit requiring additional training from a certified instructor. This supplementary license will allow for Idahoans concealed carry permits to be recognized in many other states. It also cleans up some language regarding re-issue of a CWP that now closes the re-issue period from"forever” to within 180 days of expiration. This bill has passed the House and has been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee.

• House Bill 183: A clean up bill from S1441 of a few years ago, this bill would limit the ability for any city or municipality to regulate, prevent or punish individuals for having a concealed carry permit. This bill would protect Idahoans’ right to legally carry firearms if they have a concealed weapons permit. The bill has passed the House and has been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spent a long day driving to and back from N. Idaho for a funeral with my family. Thanks to the Pro-Tem for the excused absence today, back at it at zero dark thirty tomorrow...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. ~ Abraham Lincoln

End of Week Update for the Legislature:
On Monday the Senate passed HCR 5; this resolution supports renaming the Capitol Auditorium the"Abraham Lincoln Auditorium. The move honors one of America’s greatest Presidents and marks the sesquicentennial territorial celebration for Idaho. Idaho’s Senators and Governor attended the festivities and Governor Otter spoke, stating"Idaho’s people are no different today than they were in 1863. They had then and we have now an obligation to be the architects of our own destiny.” The creation of the Idaho Territory was a critical strategic move on Pres. Lincoln's part to block slavery moving into the West, while being able to leverage the gold and silver from the Gem State to pay for soldiers, arms and ammunition to win the civil war. Earlier in the morning JFAC set the teachers division and operating divisions for Idaho’s public education budget.
Wednesday was a very busy day in the Legislature. JFAC set the budgets for the Department of Administration, the State Department of Corrections and the Permanent Building Fund. In State Affairs legislators approved SB 1108 which would ensure that a greater geographic distribution of votes by legislative districts would be required to have an initiative qualify for the ballot. This would allow rural voters to have a greater say in the process while not disenfranchising urban voters. SB 1117 passed the full Senate. The bill would allow state and local roadway managers to allow extra-heavy trucks to traverse Idaho roads. This would allow businesses to ship goods more efficiently and save money to hire more employees.
On Thursday the Senate passed SB 1078 which prohibits Idaho public postsecondary educational institutions from discriminating against a religious student group based on the religious student group's requirement that its leaders adhere to its sincerely held religious. The law protects the rights of religious student groups to choose their members and preserves their 1st Amendment’s right to freedom of religion.
Friday morning JFAC set Idaho’s budget at $2.783 billion. The budget is a 3% increase from last year and accounts for increased demand for public services and providing additional support to education. Over the next month JFAC will work with the Legislative Services Office to set individual agencies budgets and provide agencies with the resources and flexibility they need to help keep Idaho thriving. Idaho Senators also had the chance to chat with the newest Idaho State Police graduating class. These brave men and women put their lives on the line to serve Idaho’s citizens and we should all be grateful they do.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My buddy Rick Largent passed on today, we grew up together and experienced a lot of life together when we were younger. I loved him like my brother and will miss him dearly. My thoughts have been with Terry, Nancy, Sharon and John all day today as I know the family is suffering his loss even more. Rest in peace my friend, give your Mom a hug for me...
If someone enriched your life, enrich theirs in return by letting them know while you still can...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

No one lives forever. When Hugo, Hugo!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happy B-day to my first love, Idaho. This beautiful lady is 150 years old today and continues to fulfill the needs and provide security to those of us who still love and protect her.

The capital in politics is trust... If you don't have it, you will have little influence in policy making.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

End of Week Update for the Legislature (March 1, 2013)
On Monday the Senate voted overwhelmingly to support SCR 112. The Senate Concurrent Resolution states that the chamber does not support marijuana use in any form. A Concurrent Resolution does not have the force of law but is simply a statement of support. Later in the session the chamber voted to support Idaho’s"primacy” declaration through SB 1061. The bill states that it is against state policy for any threatened or endangered species to be introduced in the state without Idaho’s approval. This action ensures Idaho is exercising its sovereign rights under the 10th Amendment to manage its wildlife.
The Senate passed HCR 4 on Tuesday, honoring two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Kristin Armstrong for her achievements not just in sports, but also for being a positive role model for Idaho’s youth. The Chamber also approved SB 1100 which would define Health Care Sharing Ministries as exempt from being labeled an insurance company. A HCSM is a purely voluntary Healthcare cost-sharing agreement between individuals who share the same beliefs. It is administered by a non-profit organization and offers a unique way to lower Healthcare costs into the future. Lastly, the Senate approved HB 29 which approves funding for three more district court justices, one each in Ada, Jefferson and Canyon Counties. This will help fulfill a"Continual obligation that we share with the 3rd branch of government, and that obligation is to provide access to justice for every person through timely, fair and impartial resolution of cases,” said Senator Patti Anne Lodge.
On Wednesday the Sen. State Affairs printed a constitutional amendment that would eliminate gender and age for state run militia members. The militia is recognized both by the state and the feds as an organization controlled solely by states (not under the auspice of the federal government.). By eliminating age and gender, most Idahoans can be members of the militia, and as such members could bear arms and not be subject to federal regulation. This bill will not be heard until next year. As a constitutional amendment, two thirds of the legislative vote are required, then it would then go to the people in Nov. of 2014. SB 1074 passed the Senate on Wednesday as well. The bill expands a 1984 law that created a special liquor license for the Lewiston Roundup, by adjusting the acreage and city-limits rules so that it matches the Caldwell Night Rodeo. The move has the potential to increase the positive economic impact of Caldwell Night Rodeo which benefits the entire Treasure Valley.
Thursday, the Senate passed House Concurrent Resolution 3. This Concurrent Resolution states the support of the Legislature for schools continuing to teach students how to write in cursive. According to experts, cursive handwriting improves hand-eye development and coordination.
On Friday, the Senate passed SB 1098 which promotes openness and transparency in teacher-school district negotiations. The bill had the support of the School Boards Association and the Idaho Education Association. Also, the Senate voted unanimously to protect the 1st Amendment Rights of all Idahoans by rejecting Department of Administration rules that would have limited people’s right to protest in and outside the Capitol.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I'm blessed to have so many birthday wishes today, it is good being 35 again! LOL Thanks to all for your kindness!