Greetings friends and neighbors! We will be holding five town halls over the next three months to answer your questions and keep you in the loop on what your state government is up to. Two will be virtual and three in-person. Please join us!

All town halls will be held from 6:00 – 7:30 PM:

  • Town Hall #1 (In-person): January 30, 2024 at the Les Bois Junior High cafeteria
  • Town Hall #2 (Virtual): February 13, 2024 (Register Here)
  • Town Hall #3 (In-person): February 21, 2024 at the Lookout Room in the BSU Student Union Building
  • Town Hall #4 (In-person): March 6, 2024 at the Timberline High School library
  • Town Hall #5 (Virtual): March 19, 2024 (Register Here)

In addition, we’ll be holding a Capitol tour at 10:00 am (meeting in Garden level rotunda) on May 18th to show you around the People’s House, and weather permitting we’ll climb up to the outside of the dome. Bring the whole family!

 

The Fiscal State of Play

The state has cut over $2 billion in revenue over the past few years and we are now 5% below forecasts. This means it will be a lean year with big fights over the very small pool of discretionary funds that are left to allocate. I would like to see us put $125 million toward school facilities as the Governor has proposed. While we’ve made advances on increasing teacher pay in recent years, Idaho’s school buildings are in terrible disrepair across the state. We’ve heard reports of sewage in cafeterias, ceilings collapsing, freezing classrooms and a high school in Pocatello suffered a fire due to old wiring. Over $1 billion in school repairs are needed and I think it’s past time to address this need now (plus doing so will save us from more school bonds that drive up our property taxes).

The LAUNCH plan, which provides $8,000 grants for Idaho high school seniors to pursue training for in-demand jobs at Idaho institutions is in its first year and it’s not clear whether it will be funded. It would cost $75 million. It only passed by one vote last session, with a majority of Republicans voting against it, and we expect a funding battle on it this year. It has been very popular with students, though, with 12,500 applicants statewide and 245 applicants from District 18. Here’s what they’re pursuing with these dollars:

If you know a high school senior that may want to pursue higher education in Idaho, here’s a link to the LAUNCH application.

Some other legislators would rather see us use that school facilities and LAUNCH money for more income tax cuts and/or for voucher plans that would send tax dollars to those who homeschool or send their kids to private schools. There is not enough money to do all these things so it’ll be a fight.

 

Culture Wars

No session would be complete without a bill supposedly targeting “porn” in libraries. HB384 is on its way to the House floor, where I plan to oppose it. I of course don’t want children accessing sexually explicit materials, but this bill has big problems and is in no way targeted to porn. It has a vague and overbroad definition of what is “harmful to children” that includes anything that references homosexuality and anything that could be “arousing” to someone under 18. Here’s an example of a book that may have to be removed under HB384:

Libraries and schools would be faced with significant legal and financial burdens and young people would be deprived of access to books that are in no way pornographic and could be enriching. There’s another library bill in the Senate that is much more reasonable: S1221. I’m hoping that one advances instead.

Then there’s a bill to change all the references to “fetus” in Idaho code to “preborn child”. I’m still doing the analysis of all the legal fallout from that. Maybe pregnant women can collect child support and tax deductions before a child is born. Maybe we can’t incarcerate pregnant women because we’d be jailing a child who wasn’t tried. I’ll let you know what I find out!

 

Clean Slate is Live

You may recall that last session the legislature passed my bipartisan Clean Slate Act which allows minor, non-violent, non-sex-offenders to petition to seal their records if they have gone at least 5 years without reoffending. The goal is to make it easier for these folks to get jobs and housing, reducing recidivism. If you know someone who might be a candidate for this relief, here’s the link to apply.

Our town halls are a great opportunity to learn what’s happening and ask any questions you have, so please do join us! You can also email me any time, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Stay in touch – I can represent you better if I hear from you!