"In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute."
-Thurgood Marshall, first African American U.S. Supreme Court member
We are taking action in the education arena by implementing the career-ladder model, and fighting to ensure that education standards are in the best interest of Idaho's children. On Thursday afternoon, the Senate Education Committee heard two hours of testimony from concerned constituents across Idaho on the removal of five paragraphs discussing climate change and human impact. The committee will vote on whether or not to accept the House's changes on Monday.
In a presentation from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the Senate Education Committee heard the results of a two-year study conducted on international comparisons in education. Findings indicated that most U.S. state education systems are falling dangerously behind the world in a multitude of international comparisons, rendering U.S. students ill-prepared to succeed in the 21st century economy. The report from the study quoted Representative Mary Stuart Gile, D-New Hampshire, "In several of the countries studied, teaching is regarded as an honorable and respected profession, comparable to medicine and law, and not a burden on the local property tax." It is imperative that we honor and pay our teachers appropriately. They shape not only our children's futures, but also the future of our communities, the state and the world.
Senate Memorial Service
On President's Day, the Senate paid tribute to former Senators who passed away in 2016. I had the honor of memorializing Kenneth L. Robison who served in the Senate in 1979 and 1980. He later served in the House from 1987-2004. He was remembered as an outstanding legislator, a formidable opponent in debate, and a champion for conservation, education funding and programs to prevent alcohol, drug and tobacco use by Idaho's youth.
This week, Representative Chaney introduced revised legislation regarding sanctuary cities. The bill prohibits cities and counties from obstructing federal immigration enforcement or adopting a policy against notifying federal authorities when a person with an immigration warrant or detainee is in their custody. HB 198 would take away 50% of sales tax distributions to any city that acts as a sanctuary city. Further, the new legislation no longer requires police officers to check the immigration status of people they arrest. While some states have sanctuary policies in place, Idaho has none. The bill was printed and referred to House State Affairs committee for a hearing. Should this bill make it to the Senate, I will vote in opposition.
Our constitution allows for revision by means of a convention of states, which happens only if 34 states (2/3) agree to meet. Currently 28 states that have passed resolutions calling for a convention to pass a balanced budget amendment, and there is pressure for Idaho to follow suit. Convening an Article V Constitutional Convention has serious implications. The scope would not be limited to a single topic, but rather, everything in the document would be "fair game" for amendment or deletion. SCR 108 made it out of Senate State Affairs Committee this morning by a 5-4 vote and will be heard on the floor. Thank you to everyone for your phone calls, emails, and coming out to testify. Please stay tuned for more information as the resolution progresses.
Health Care for Idahoans
A recent study released by Idaho Public Policy Survey showed that 70.8% of Idahoans prefer the governor and the legislature find a healthcare solution for the 78,000 Idahoans who fall in the health care gap. Yet the most recent solution is from Representative Wood, which recommends taking $10 million out of the Millennium fund to provide primary care services. The money would be allocated on a first come, first-served basis and would provide approximately $125 per individual who falls in the gap which is not enough to cover recommended screenings and an annual exam, or even one month's worth of insulin. For only an additional $2 million, we could fully expand Medicaid to cover the hard-working Idahoans who cannot afford healthcare.
Advocacy Days at the Capitol
I had a great time meeting with members of local organizations from across Idaho for Advocacy Days this week. The National Association of Social Workers held a conference at the Capitol that drew over 300 attendees. I was especially honored to speak to the group and I salute the organization for their on-going commitment to personal and profession growth, development and achievement.
Tribute to Gene Harris
Senator Chuck Winder and I sponsored a concurrent resolution honoring the life's work and achievements of jazz artist Gene Harris. I had the joy of singing and recording with Gene for a number of years and it was my pleasure to honor his life, work and contributions to Idaho. The 20th annual Gene Harris Jazz Festival will be held April 5-7, 2017. This year's festival will again include a club night in downtown Boise. Mark your calendars!
In response to a number of questions from folks planning international travel this spring:
The Real ID Act of 2005 is an act of Congress pertaining to security, authentication, and issuance of state driver's licenses. The implementation of the Federal Real ID Act in Idaho was approved in 2016 and the Senate Transportation Committee heard SB 1069 last week. This bill assures the citizens of Idaho that they will be offered the option of a Real ID compliant or noncompliant driver's license or identification card, and be well-informed of the different purposes of a compliant and noncompliant license. Idaho's identification cards and driver's licenses are currently not in compliance with federal law, however we have been granted an extension until January, 2018. Currently the extension allows Idahoans to air travel domestically with just their driver's licenses, as well as enter federal buildings and military bases. For more information, please visit the Department of Homeland Security's website.
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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.