December 16, 2017

January 23rd Newsletter




 

January 23rd Newsletter

We’re off to the races! The 2015 legislative session kicked off last week, and it promises to be an eventful session. Please mark your calendar for our upcoming town hall meetings. Last year’s gatherings were so lively and well-attended that Senator Ward-Engelking, Representative Phylis King and I are adding two additional forums:

  • February 3 – Hawthorne Elementary (2401 W. Targee St.)
  • February 12 – East Jr. High (5600 Warm Springs Ave.)
  • February 24 – Maple Grove Elementary (2800 S. Maple Grove Rd.)
  • March 3 – Les Bois Jr. High (4150 East Grand Forest Dr.)
  • March 12 – Timberline High (701 E Boise Ave.)

All are scheduled for 7-8:30 pm. Please come to any or all!  Also, I have revised my online survey to reflect what’s on deck this year – some questions will look familiar and some are new. Please check it out here and let me know your views.

And now for the report on legislative happenings. We started the session with the Governor’s State of the State address. I appreciated his emphasis on better funding for public schools and restoration of Idaho’s deteriorating infrastructure – hopefully we can finally make significant progress in both these areas. Governor Otter also left the door open to accepting federal Medicaid funds, which could lead to health care coverage for 104,000 currently uninsured Idahoans. I have concerns, however, about other priorities he mentioned, including ongoing expenditures to fight recognition of same-sex marriage. Last week Idaho taxpayers paid out $457,000 in legal fees for this losing endeavor, and the costs will only mount further. I would rather see your tax dollars spent in more constructive ways.

Two bills were introduced in the first week. The first, HB 1, was launched by District 18’s very own Ilah Hickman, an 8th grader at Les Bois Jr. High, seeking to make the Idaho Giant Salamander our state’s official amphibian. This impressive young lady has been working on this issue for 5 years and she did a phenomenal job presenting her research (and a live salamander) to the State Affairs Committee. Unfortunately, the bill was voted down, but Ilah says she’ll be back.  What a stellar example she has set for our kids!

The second bill introduced, HB 2 (“Add the Words”), would update Idaho’s Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This Human Rights Act has been in effect for 46 years, ensuring that Idahoans cannot be fired or denied housing on the basis of race, gender, age, disability, national origin or religion. The proposed amendment would provide that Idahoans also cannot be fired or denied housing because they are gay or transgender. The hearing is set for 8 am on Monday January 26 in the Lincoln Auditorium, and the public is welcome to attend and present testimony.

On the Education Committee, we are focused on implementing the Governor’s Task Force recommendations, with plans to boost teacher pay and improve strategic planning. I have been working on other legislation as well, including an anti-bullying bill and a bill to tighten penalties for animal cruelty. Idaho was just ranked 49th in the nation for its animal welfare protections, and continues to have a high teen suicide rate – problems these bills are designed to address.

I hope to see you at one of our upcoming town halls, and I thank you again for the honor of representing you at the Statehouse.

Warm regards,

Representative Ilana Rubel