Broadband and other legislative discussions

By Elaine Smith

It has been another busy week with more Rules discussions, presentations, and print hearings on what sponsors hope will be future House bills. In Environment, Energy, & Technology Committee we had 6 presentations pertaining to broadband in Idaho on the subjects of LinkIDAHO, libraries, health care, business, education, and public safety.
JLOC report , “Strengthening Contract Management in Idaho,” was reviewed Monday. Agencies are not necessarily properly trained and more monitoring is needed. It was determined that more training for state agencies is the best way for Idaho to improve its contracting process.
The next JLOC report will be on State Employee Compensation and Turnover on January 30th.
This week in Senate State Affairs legislation was printed making it harder to collect enough signatures to qualify to get an initiative or referendum on the ballot. This bill would require signatures of 6 percent of registered voters in 22 of Idaho’s legislative districts. There are 35 legislative districts. I believe this is reaction to the Prop 1, 2, and 3 which were on the 2012 ballot. To give your input, go to the legislative website, www.legislature.idaho.gov, for a list of committee members to contact on this and any other issues.
February 1st will be a joint public hearing of the House and Senate Education committees on policy issues. Committee hearings, daily floor sessions, and joint committee meetings are audio/video streamlined on the internet at www.idahoptv.org.
This has been the week of universities at the Capitol, Idaho State University, University of Idaho, and Boise State University. Education Week in JFAC is where the university presidents make presentations on the needs of each university. The Governor’s budget recommended funding for the Treasure Valley Anatomy and Physiology Laboratory at Idaho State University in Meridian and updating the Anatomy Lab at ISU. The Bannock County legislators did meet with Dr. Vailas one evening and also with ISU Alumni and friends another evening.
There were Department of Insurance meetings this week and last week for legislators to receive information about the difference in state and federal insurance exchanges. Also, the governor has sent information to each legislator about myths and facts on state health insurance exchange.
Currently Nevada and Oregon are testing their systems for a state health insurance exchange. It would be possible for Idaho to piggyback with the state of Nevada which would be less costly for us on a state exchange system. I have found several citizens who believe if Idaho would not support any type of exchange then the Affordable Health Care Act would go away, which is inaccurate. The current law states each state will have a health insurance exchange. It is up to each state to determine what the exchange will look like and this is a very hot topic in the Legislature.
There is now legislation proposed to create a standing House Ethics Committee with three members elected by the Majority Caucus and two members elected by the Minority Caucus to serve for two years. The Speaker of the House would appoint a Chairperson from those elected. This bill will be heard in House Judiciary and Rules committee; Representative Carolyn Meline is a member of this committee.
I am honored to be your Representative from District 29 and I appreciate hearing your opinion. Please contact me at esmith@house.idaho.gov or 1 -800-626-0471.

This article was written by state Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello.