End of Session Letter – 2017
Dear Friends and Neighbors of District 19,
It has truly been an honor to serve as the Senate Assistant Minority Leader. Working in partnership with Minority Leader Senator Michelle Stennett and Minority Caucus Chair Senator Maryanne Jordan is a joy. We share a strong sense of purpose, and styles that complement, challenge and support each other and a commitment to lead with purpose, compassion, and humor. I am appreciative for the high degree of collaboration we have established, and maintained with Majority Leadership this session.
Your District 19 legislators worked diligently this session to interrupt passage of legislation we deemed detrimental, in committees and on the floors of the House and Senate. Working in conjunction across the rotunda is also a testament to our successes this session.
Representative Melissa Wintrow, House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding and I thank you sincerely for the great attendance at our town halls and your participation. Maintaining contact with constituents is an important aspect of our jobs and open communication creates the space for thoughtful exchange and focused action. We greatly appreciate your ongoing support, and confidence in us as your elected leaders.
Representative Wintrow built on legislation she passed last session regarding sexual assault. This year, HB 146 passed into law and will codify standards for sexual assault evidence preservation. This is an important step in ensuring victim’s rights are valued within our justice system. Additionally, Representative Wintrow brought awareness to rare diseases and the vital need to recruit and retain pediatric neurologists to the state of Idaho with HCR 9. She worked with doctors and families dealing with rare diseases to bring this resolution through the legislature and eventually to the Governor’s desk. Representative Wintrow began serving on the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee this session. This was a great learning experience for her, as she helped set important budgets for our state’s various programs and departments.
Representative Erpelding brought attention to a problem looming over Idaho’s precious waterways: an invasive species known as the quagga mussel. The legislation he successfully passed (HB 211) will raise boat tag fees for out of state visitors. This increased revenue will allow us to fend off this dangerous species that will surely destroy our beautiful waterways. Representative Erpelding also pushed HCR 20, which would have made our public lands easier to access. His proposal would have made maps available online to all citizens who were looking to differentiate between federal public lands, state endowment lands, and private lands. Unfortunately, his proposal failed after the Majority party fought against this transparency bill. Representative Erpelding will keep fighting for our public lands and the important conservation efforts that Idahoans care about.
My areas of focus this session included education and child welfare. We realized great success in the education arena by continuing funding for and implementation of the 20 Education Task Force recommendations including but not limited to: reading intervention, mastery learning, professional development, mentoring college and career counselors, dual enrollment and year three of the career ladder. We enacted legislation that affords more local control of discretionary funds and restored funding to public school districts and public charter schools for travel expenses for field trips and off-site learning opportunities.
Beyond education, I served on the Foster Care System Interim Committee pre-session, charged to ensure that all Idaho children grow in homes where their needs are met and they are cherished. As a result of the committee’s dedication, focused work, and an Office of Performance Evaluation (OPE) study, the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee approved an increased budget appropriation for the Department of Health and Welfare Child Welfare Division. The increase will fund an additional eight positions including two social workers. Additionally, I am pleased that two proposals I submitted to OPE this month in support of the well-being of vulnerable children were approved for study.
The session was quite robust and much was accomplished, not the least of which was killing legislation to call for a Constitutional Convention. However, we left some important work undone. We failed to close the Medicaid gap and cover the 78,000 Idahoans who lack health insurance. This is a top priority for Idahoans. We must take positive action next year, serving people of District 19 honorably and with transparency. Thank you for the opportunity.
Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb
Representative Mat Erpelding
Representative Melissa Wintrow