The next session of the Idaho Legislature starts Monday and our message to the lawmakers is simple.
Get things done.
The last several sessions of the Legislature have been marred by infighting and the proverbial kicking the can down the road.
You name the issue and the Legislature’s response has likely been inaction and gridlock, which happens with surprisingly frequency in Boise considering that most of our state lawmakers are Republicans.
First off, we hope the Legislature supports higher education and transportation this session.
It’s well documented that Idaho’s infrastructure — roads and bridges specifically — are in poor condition after years of fiscal neglect.
The last thing our state needs is for these infrastructure needs to be further ignored. Some of our bridges are in such a deteriorating state that they are presenting public safety concerns. Action rather than inaction on the part of our Legislature is needed.
Regarding higher education, we and others are singing the praises of our Idaho Board of Education as well as the universities themselves for agreeing to a much needed tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students.
This move is going to take a toll on the universities’ finances and the last thing they need are further budget cuts forced on them by the Legislature.
We implore legislators to acknowledge that our state’s higher education system is doing its part to pinch pennies and should not be financially fleeced during the upcoming legislative session.
Considering how higher ed impacts our state’s economy, most importantly by providing an educated work force, we believe Idaho’s colleges and universities deserve more funding and not less.
Regarding Idaho’s K-12 education system, our lawmakers need to not let the session end without implementing a new funding formula.
The current formula is decades old and outdated but legislators have struggled mightily to bring the formula into the 21st century. It seemed that lawmakers were presenting a new proposed formula every week during last year’s session and every new incarnation caused our state’s K-12 education leaders to grow more concerned.
The Legislature needs to make it a top priority to get this formula figured out this session.
Other top priorities we’d suggest for our lawmakers would be making it illegal for children to marry adults in Idaho, finally adding the words to the Idaho Constitution to protect LGBT individuals under the state’s human rights act, toughening the state’s weak child vaccination laws, and stop allowing the practice of parents to forego medical treatment for their children in lieu of faith healing because faith without modern medicine often leads to preventable tragedy.
All of that stuff should be a no-brainer for legislators.
And we shouldn’t have to say this after last year’s initiatives debacle, but Idaho’s lawmakers would be wise to lay off the initiatives process this session. Idahoans need to have a way to implement changes to Idaho’s laws and regulations and we believe the current initiative process is for the most part stringent enough. If lawmakers want to add a requirement that Idahoans pushing a particular initiative need to include how it would be funded that would be an acceptable change.
But anything to make it tougher for Idahoans to get initiatives on the ballot will be met with the same firestorm of opposition that we saw last year. Hopefully our lawmakers don’t repeat last year’s missteps on the initiatives front.
Along those lines, we’d like to say that it’s time the Legislature stops wrestling with and complaining about closing the Medicaid gap and get it done in a way that doesn’t financially punish Idaho’s cities and counties.
And last but not least, the Legislature needs to repeal the grocery tax and give lower income Idahoans a break.
We challenge the Idaho Legislature this session to become a branch of government known for truly fixing the state’s problems rather than arguing with each other and doing things that rub their constituents the wrong way.
Last session the Legislature left many of us scratching our heads about not just the competence of our lawmakers but also their motives.
Here’s to hoping the Legislature gets on track this session and removes any doubt about who they’re working for in Idaho.