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The momentum at the State Capitol continues to build as both chambers have completed preparation of personal bills and committees are working through extensive agendas.

Democrats Release Plan to Improve Idaho's Future

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett and House Minority Leader John Rusche rolled out the Democrats' legislative agenda for 2016 and the years ahead. "A Balanced Plan for Idaho's Future" is a document that lays a strong foundation for the future and calls out goals and principles toward realization of a better Idaho that include:

  • Investing in Education
  • Safeguarding your Pocketbook
  • Holding Government Accountable
  • Protecting our Quality of Life
  • Ensuring Security for our Seniors
  • Defending Your Rights

The document is designed to be long-term road map that will influence Idaho Democratic policy-making in the state for years to come. Legislation has been crafted and the following has already been introduced this session:

  • Medicaid Expansion (SB 1204, SB 1205)
  • Cutting tuition and student debt burdens (HB 411, HB 424)
  • Statewide broadband service (HB 408)
  • Minimum wage (HB 400)
  • Scrutinizing sales tax exemptions (HB 419)
  • Preferences for Idaho businesses, workers and products in state contracts (HB 402)
  • Improving employment opportunities for older Idahoans (HB 409)
  • Allowing permanent absentee voting (HB 401)
  • Online voter registration (HB 407)

Review the comprehensive plan in its entirety by clicking here.

Education Update

Superintendent Ybarra delivered an expansive presentation to a joint session of the House and Senate Education Committees detailing her plans for the department. Following up on her Education Week budget request, Supt. Ybrarra was specific, definitive, and direct as she illuminated her priorities for the coming years. She identified her three main goals for public education: 

  • All Idaho students persevere in life and are ready for college and careers
  • All education stakeholders in Idaho are mutually responsible for accountability and student progress
  • Idaho attracts and retains great teachers and leaders

Supt. Ybarra also innumerated action items that her department is undertaking to achieve its goals:

  • Remove Smarter-Balanced Assessment (SBAC) at the high school level
  • Permanently remove the high school graduation requirement of SBAC
  • Continue implementing Mastery-Based education
  • Continue exploring early learning opportunities
  • Close the reading gap by third grade

Medicaid Expansion Hearing

Hundreds of concerned citizens converged on the Capitol to give testimony at the first public hearing on Medicaid Expansion in the hope of finally seeing movement by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on this critical issue. While a 90-minute hearing was held, the decision was made just prior to commencement that the hearing would be informational only, meaning no vote would be taken. What a disappointment. Senate Democratic Leadership issued the following press release in response to the hearing.

Healthy Idaho Plan Deserves a Vote

BOISE - Much appreciation to Sen. Dan Schmidt for bringing legislation to the Health and Welfare Committee and for broadening the dialogue on expansion of Medicaid. Thanks also, to Sen. Lee Heider for convening the hearing.

The question arises, "Public testimony over action?"

Legislators are charged to be responsible to the needs of Idahoans. Sitting in the complacency of inaction is not an option. The last minute decision to make the hearing an information-only session, without taking a vote, is critically unfortunate.

We have heard the voices of our constituents, we have listened to their stories, and we have witnessed the tragedy of the failure to enact legislation that would provide healthcare coverage to 78,000 working Idahoans who have no access to health care.

It is an abdication of legislative responsibility to avoid making tough decisions, defer casting votes and to fail to answer to constituents. Swift, considerate, courageous leadership on the part of legislators should be expected and required. What is the function and purpose of being a legislator if not to vote, and be accountable to the needs of the electorate?

We fear that the politics of the Majority party are getting in the way of good public policy.

The legislature should take action for a healthy Idaho. The Healthy Idaho Plan (SB1205) deserves a vote.

Black History Month Resolution

I was pleased to introduce SCR 133 on the Senate Floor this week, which celebrates February 2016 as Black History Month. I am gratified that the resolution passed the Senate by a unanimous vote. The bill sends a powerful message that Idaho not only honors the contributions of its black citizens, but also recognizes the enormous odds that blacks have overcome. The closing words of the resolution:

"NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the members of the Second Regular Session of the Sixty-Third Idaho Legislature, the Senate and the House of Representatives concurring therein, that we do hereby commemorate and recognize the month of February 2016 as Black History Month in Idaho and encourage Idaho citizens to reflect on the complex history of minorities in Idaho and the United States, and to look to the future and strive to continue to improve society so that we live up to the ideals of freedom, equality and justice for all."

That is, indeed, my prayer: "freedom, equality and justice for all."

Upcoming Townhall Forums

You are cordially invited to meet with my District 19 colleagues, Representatives Mat Erpelding and Melissa Wintrow and me for our town hall meetings during the legislative session. We will be taking your questions and sharing our perspectives on the issues confronting the State Legislature. I encourage all to attend. Here are the details on the upcoming meetings:

February 17, 2016 - Hidden Springs Club House

5892 W Hidden Springs Dr, Boise, ID 83714

March 2, 2016 - Quail Hollow Golf Course Club House

4520 36th St, Boise, ID 83703

As always, it is both a pleasure and an honor to represent you in the Idaho State Senate. Let's stay connected.

 

Your Senator,

Cherie Buckner-Webb

District 19

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Cherie Buckner-Webb
Senate D-19 Campaign
P.O. Box 9813
Boise, ID 83707

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