February 21, 2019

  • Slide 1 – Bag Ladies
  • Slide 5 – Group Sign
  • Slide 3 – teaching
  • Slide 2 – Team 18
  • Slide 3 – D18 BBQ

The 2019 session has begun! Make your voice heard at an upcoming Town Hall event in Boise:

Mark your calendars - each Town Hall will run from 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM:

  • January 30, 2019: East Junior High (5600 Warm Springs Ave.)
  • February 11, 2019: Maple Grove Elementary (2800 S. Maple Grove Rd.)
  • February 20, 2019: Timberline High School (701 E. Boise Ave.)
  • March 6, 2019: Hawthorne Elementary School (2401 W. Targee St.)

What's happening at the Capitol in 2019:

State of the State / Revenue Situation

Governor Little delivered his 2019 State of the State address and released his proposed budget. I was encouraged by his stated commitment to education and public lands (including meaningful proposed increases to teacher salaries and boosted funding for literacy programs). Unfortunately, due to last year's tax cut and associated withholding problems, we are now facing a serious revenue shortfall, and within days of the address JFAC reduced the Governor's forecasted revenue by $93 million (and 6,000 federally employed Idahoans not receiving their paychecks due to the shutdown will not help our revenue situation).

This shortfall makes it less likely we'll be able to pursue all the investments outlined by the Governor. It also means you may be getting an unpleasant surprise in your April tax bill as many Idahoans have under-withheld under the new tax law. The Tax Commission has developed a new W-4 form, available here, which all employers are encouraged to switch to immediately.


Health Care

You may remember that I've been working with a group of parents and doctors for over a year to secure insurance coverage for hearing aids for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The lack of such coverage meant that affected families were heavily burdened and many children had to go without the needed devices. Last Thursday, we secured final approval for the rule change that will assure coverage for kids' hearing aids as well as 45 speech therapy visits. I can't tell you how excited I am that we finally got this done.

On another healthcare note, many are wondering what's happening with Medicaid expansion. After the passage of Proposition 2, Governor Little expressed his intent to implement the will of the voters "in an Idaho way." As session unfolds, we will learn more about what this means, but I for one will fight to implement Medicaid expansion exactly as passed by voters, without additional barriers to coverage.


Criminal Justice

Last week, Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Burdick told the Legislature, "the courts realize there are better ways to handle criminality than building bigger jails and prisons." We also recently learned that Idaho is 3rd in the nation for portion of the population incarcerated or on parole, and a large portion of our imprisoned population is comprised of non-violent drug addicts. Before session, the Dept. of Corrections announced they would need $500 million to build more prison space. Because such an expense would take away from school and road funding, I think we need to take a hard look at our incarceration practices.

I plan to re-introduce bipartisan legislation to reform mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders, which passed the House last year with a large majority but did not get a vote in the Senate. Here's an article I wrote with my GOP co-sponsor describing the bill. I'll need help from the public to convince the Senate Chairman to give it a hearing and get it passed. Please respond to this email if you're willing to help advocate.


Education

A new proposed school funding formula has been put forth that is based on student enrollment and takes various other factors into account. According to this analysis, Boise schools would stand to lose $6.6 million under the proposed new formula, so I will have to give long and hard thought into whether the plan makes sense. I hope you will come to our town halls to discuss this and other important items coming up.

Things come up quickly during session, and much more happens at the Statehouse than I can fit in this newsletter. Our town halls are a great opportunity to ask any questions you have. Stay in touch - I can represent you better if I hear from you!

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