New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.
The Legislature may be winding down, but I am not. Here are updates of what is happening in the State House.
Victim's Rights-Marsy's Law
The Senate unanimously passed an amendment to an existing clause in Idaho's Constitution regarding the rights of crime victims. SJR 103 will now make its way to the House where it will need 2/3rd support to pass, as well as majority support in the next general election in order to change the Constitution. The change would require victims of crimes receive a "reasonable and timely" prior notification of all legal proceedings, the right to attend those proceedings, the right to confer with prosecutors, as well as "full and timely" restitution for economic losses. Marsy's law was motivated by the tragic death of Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas who was stalked and murdered by her ex -boyfriend while attending University of California Santa Barbara in 1983.
Foster Care and Child Welfare
This legislative session I have been heavily focused on the well-being and education of our children. The old adage "children are our future" will forever ring true and it is imperative that Idaho's children have safe homes and are cherished. Over the interim I served on the Joint Foster Care Committee which requested a study from the Office of Performance Evaluations (OPE) on the Child Welfare Division of Health and Welfare. The study resulted in the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) creating and approving a budget increase and 8 new positions. This week the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee (JLOC) voted to accept my request for OPE to conduct two further studies in support of well-being of vulnerable children. Issues to be addressed:
- Do the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) provide effective advocacy for the best interest of our children and what resources are available to improve upon the program?
- Is there alignment between expectations, delivery of services, resources and outcomes?
- What impediments exist that affect the performance of Idaho's CASA program?
- As well as identifying how many children in the child welfare system end up in the Juvenile Justice System of Department of Corrections?
- What supports are available for teens aging out of the child welfare system vs. adoption?
- Are preventative services identified and shared across the system?
Access to Voting Upheld
HB 150, restricting early voting, died in the Senate State Affairs Committee Wednesday morning. The bill would have limited early voting in Idaho to just one week prior to an election. Not only would that limitation prove unrealistic for many Idahoans, it would result in voter suppression. I voted against this legislation. Idahoans deserve to be afforded every to exercise their right to vote.
Climate Change Hearing
650 people packed the Lincoln Auditorium for an informational hearing about the impact of climate change on the people and economy of Idaho. Representative Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, convened the important discussion geared to increasing understanding and assessing risks of climate change and planning for the future. Experts from a multitude of disciplines presented at the event. The hearing came in response to Legislative removal of five paragraphs from K-12 science standards that required teaching climate change and human impact in schools.
Senator Bert Brackett presented bills S1188 and S1162 to the Transportation Committee on Thursday. S1188, a substantial transportation funding bill, was defeated on a 4-5 vote. The second bill (S1162), a $300 million GARVEE Bond bill and passed on a 5-4 vote. While I deem GARVEE deficit spending, I did support S1162. We must give attention to our seriously deteriorating roads. The House and Senate have been working together on this issue and the House will come through with another iteration of legislation on transportation funding for consideration.
On Thursday, the Senate voted to amend an income tax exemption bill (HB67) by changing the language to remove Idaho's 6% sales tax on groceries. Removing this tax will directly benefit middle-class families who proportionately spend a higher percentage of their income on groceries. If the bill passes as amended on the Senate floor, it will be sent back to the House for consideration.
Here to Serve You
My goal is to address the immediate needs of District 19 while working strategically toward long term goals. It is my honor to serve you in the Idaho State Senate. Know that your letters, emails, texts, and calls are invaluable. I appreciate hearing what is most important to you and your family.