A look back on week 6 in Boise

By Rep. Elaine Smith

Hello from Boise at the end of the sixth week of the Legislature.  Committee meetings have been long with sometimes very contentious issues, like Thursday of last week.

In House State Affairs, there was no public notice given that House Concurrent Resolution 42 pertaining to rejecting the PERSI Board’s decision to give a 1 percent Cola raise to 33, 538 retirees in Idaho was going to be reconsidered as the last item on the agenda.  The day before the vote had been 13 to 5 to hold HCR 42 in committee.  Then the issue became very political instead of a business decision.

The PERSI (Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho) Board had recommended a 1 percent retro Cola (cost of living) raise and this House concurrent resolution would reject this raise.  Upon recommendation it passed from the State Affairs Committee and on Friday the House voted with 46 voting yes, 19 voting no, and 5 absent.  I voted no because I have faith in the PERSI Board granting this COLA to retirees.  Thus, those interested in this issue need to immediately contact state senators because this bill is in that body now.

This week two RS proposals, which I sponsored in the House Business Committee, were passed.  One bill is HB 585 on expansion of the Cosmetology Board and the other bill is HB 586 on motor vehicle towing and storing.  On the latter bill it is a combination of input from towing companies, insurance companies, law enforcement, state Department of Transportation, and car dealers.  To get a bill passed it is crucial to have the various stakeholders have a part in the wording of a bill.

Senate Bill 1367 on resident student status for veterans passed from the Senate Education Committee.  I am a co-sponsor with Sen. Bilyeu to help returning veterans with their education.  This bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program will give veterans more options.

The past two weeks I have seen Bannock County, Pocatello and Southeast Idaho residents representing the PTA, INL, advocates on mental health issues, advocates on substance abuse prevention, college students from the social work field, farmers, retailers, school board trustees, and broadcasters (TV & radio).  Congratulations to Judge Bryan Murray for two state awards in two weeks for his outstanding service and support with mental health and then on substance abuse issues.

For those of you who have been calling, e-mailing or writing letters in support of public TV, you are making a difference.  Presently it sounds as if there will be budget cuts to Idaho Public Television, but not elimination of all state funding. Starting Feb. 22, the Joint Finance & Appropriations Committee will be developing budgets for the state agencies.  I understand the public education budget discussion in this committee will be on March 1, while the higher education budget discussion will be March 4.

To contact me or any legislator, you may call toll free 1-800-626-0471, fax 208-334-5397, or mail to legislator’s name at State Capitol Building, 700 W. Jefferson St., Boise, Idaho 83720-0038 (House member) or 83720-0081 (Senate member).  My legislative e-mail is esmith@house.idaho.gov.

Elaine Smith of Pocatello is a member of the Idaho House of Representatives.