Sunday, March 04, 2007

Idaho Legislature at its finest...

Spring is the time of year where we in Idaho are constantly amazed at who can get elected in our state. With the legislature in session, there is daily news about the future laws of our state. If I didn't live here, I would never believe what gets discussed in the halls of our statehouse.

With Idaho ranked 50th out of 50 states in child care standards, our legislature voted down a measure to require minimum safety standards and criminal history check for Idaho day-care centers, ensuring that Idaho will stay at the bottom of the list. Was it the expense? The Bureaucracy? No, it was voted down to try and influence mothers to stay at home! “What can we do to keep mom at home?” Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona or Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, said, “Being separate from your mother … there’s reason to believe this could be harmful.” (Source: Spokesman Review) What planet do these guys live on?

The legislature voted down any hike in minimum wage. They are so against a minimum wage bill that they actually introduced one to say that the minimum wage will not be above what is federally mandated. Basically, they wasted time considering a bill which would make the law exactly what the current policy is. We know from the Idaho Foodbank that 16.3% of all Idahoans live in food-insecure households. That is, about 198,000 Idahoans – 88,000 of them children. The people in the Statehouse don't seem to care about these people.

In consideration of a community college bill, the legislature once again voted along predicable lines by voting down an option to make it easier to establish. The city of Boise ranks as the largest metropolitan area in the US that does not have a community college. The surprise came in some of the comments - Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, said she didn’t think much of arguments that the state needs more workforce training, like that provided by community colleges. “I really find it a little offensive to imply that we’ve got a bunch of dummies out there in the workforce,” she said. (Source: Spokesman Review)

In August, our temporary Governor called a special session to provide property tax relief by raising the sales tax. It passed of course. Idaho being one of the few states with a sales tax on groceries, essentially passed on a 20% tax increase on groceries for those that don't own property. At the time it was mentioned that grocery sales tax options would be considered in the regular session. Well, here we are. True grocery tax relief (lowering tax on groceries) was never seriously considered. What was considered is a grocery tax credit. This tax credit applies to your annual tax return. The governor proposed a scaled plan to provide more credit to lower incomes and seniors. Specifically - Senate Tax Chairman Brent Hill, R-Rexburg - “I was not happy with the governor’s proposal – I felt like it was taking a tax rebate and turning it into a welfare program.” (Source: Spokesman Review) The result is that everyone is expected to get a tax credit on their tax return with a little more for seniors. I am not sure how this helps people living paycheck to paycheck.

The legislature looks poised to pass a third parental consent abortion bill after their first two were overturned in the courts at huge expense to the state. This particular bill doesn't look any more likely to stand up.

The Idaho Fish and Game proposed a hunting tag fee of $27 for killing a wolf should management of wolves be handed over to the state. The legislature thought that was too unreasonable and lowered the fee to $9. Of course, our anti-wolf governor gets his tag for free. This makes the process of offering the tags a huge money loser for the state. Basically tax payer subsidized hunting. In an anti-tax state such as our, I am not sure how this can be justified.

So what does all of this mean? Take a single mother as a test case. Working in a minimum wage job she is already below the national poverty line. Her children are probably hungry. In August the legislature increased her grocery taxes by 20%, while giving her landlord a nice bonus on their property taxes. Her children are in a day-care environment where they are at the highest risk in the nation for physical abuse. What is her path out? Education in our non-existent system? This legislature doesn't give a damn about people like this. At least she won't have to pay too much for a wolf tag. Disgusting.

Tags: , , , , , ,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do not see any surprise in Rep. Barrett's negative education posturing.

ICARE members are protesting her refusal to bring SB1056 out for hearing in the Local Government Committee, which she chairs, and therefore, controls.

Rep. Barrett's arbitrary stance, is a slap in the face of democracy. Angry citizens all across the state are flooding the legislature with emails and phone calls blasting her obstinate abuse of legislative power. She refuses to listen to reason from anyone, including her peers in the House and give way for the voice of the people to be heard.

House Speaker Lawrence Denney is also guilty of trying to subvert this bill, who by lack of action, refuses to move this bill from Local Government to a committee willing to provide a hearing for its message.

ICARE, joining with others named by the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation (whom I and other ICARE members intend to boycott because of their support to defeat this bill) are fighting to get this legislation to the House floor for a vote before the end of the legislative session.

This bill deserves to be heard and allowed to pass or fail on its own merits.

Legislative Contact Information:

Local Government Committee phone # (208) 332-1147

Lenore Barrett
Lawerence Denney

Alma Hasse, Executive Director
ICARE (Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment)
An Idaho Non-Profit Corporation
P O Box 922
Fruitland, Idaho 83619