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Legislative Update: February 17, 2020

This week started off by having breakfast with Magic Valley 4-H participants. What I learned was that 4-H’ers are nearly 5X more likely to graduate college, 4X more likely to give back to their communities, and 2X more likely to participate in STEM activities. In Idaho there are 73,478 youth in 4-H with 66% between the ages of 8-13. In 4-H projects, youth learn by doing.

Projects are designed to provide progressive learning for the 4-H member offering many experiences for the beginner as well as the advanced member. There are over 170 project offerings statewide to Idaho youth. The young folks at my table had projects that included swine, Dairy Heifer, Archery, Cake Decorating, Beef Cattle and Know Your Government (KYG).  4-H youth have a 62.5 go on rate in education.

Property tax is an issue that is being discussed continually. Old and new ideas are being discussed and are being molded into a solution that all can agree to support. No one gets all they want, but everyone gets something they want. I will watch that changes don’t just shift taxes from one segment to another. We will keep working toward a solution.

I met with staff from the Council of State Governments (CSG) West.  Idaho is a member of CSG West which also includes the states of Alaska, Washington, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa.  CSG West convenes a variety of programs and events designed to enable collaborative learning aimed at addressing regional concerns. This includes policy committees, policy academies, professional development training programs and international relations opportunities designed to strengthen legislative institutions.  I am currently serving as the Vice Chair of CSG West.

We had our Memorial Program on Monday to honor the past House Members who died this past year.  There were 10 members this year. We were reminded that by being a Legislator, we will one day be part of the program…….hopefully not too soon.

Some agriculture facts that were highlighted in conversations with the Idaho Grain Producers:  there are about 4,500 wheat and Barley farmers in Idaho. The state has nearly 25,000 farms and ranches that produce more than 185 different commodities.  Idaho ranks in the top 10 in the nation in 30 of those commodities. About ½ of the 100 million bushels of wheat produced each year in Idaho are exported and the top recipients are Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Korea, China and Taiwan.  The other 50% of Idaho’s wheat crop stays in the U.S. and is used in many food products.

U.S. Senators Crapo and Risch addressed the House with an update on issues they are working on in Washington D.C.

This week Governor Brad Little, all five Idaho Supreme Court Justices, and legislators gathered to sign documents establishing and supporting the Idaho Behavioral Health Council, a new three-branch approach to improve care for Idahoans with mental health and substance use disorders.

A significant amount of time, money, and resources are spent responding to the needs of Idahoans with mental health and substance use disorders. Behavioral health issues continue to impact the corrections system, the judicial system, hospitals, schools, and communities and they contribute to a growing prison population, drug overdose deaths, and a high suicide rate.

The signing of the Governor’s executive order, the Supreme Court Proclamation and Order, and the legislative Concurrent Resolution today creates a 13-member council that will work collaboratively with local government, educators, and community partners to develop a statewide strategic plan with action-oriented, time-bound recommendations that improve access to care. The Idaho Behavioral Health Council will include representatives from all three branches of state government.

The strategic plan will identify silos in Idaho’s behavioral health system and create a more coordinated model of care to improve lives and offer a better return on the investment of public resources.

The vision statement for the council reads, “It is our vision that adults, children, and their families who live with mental illness and addiction receive the behavioral health care services they need when they need them. We believe if this vision is realized, then people in Idaho will have a better quality of life, reduced risk of involvement with the criminal justice system, and make our communities healthier, safer places to live,”.

I attended the Boys & Girls Club Idaho State Youth of the Year lunch.  The five finalists spent the day being interviewed and at the lunch each gave a speech on their life experience and how the Boys & Girls Club had been a positive influence in their lives.  Each received a scholarship to further their education. The winner of the Youth of the Year was Sariah Standlee from the Magic Valley Boys & Girls Club. She will go on to compete in the National Contest.  Congratulations Sariah.

A constitutional amendment to ensure your representation in the Statehouse and keep legislative districts smaller passed the House on Tuesday with a 65-3 vote. House Joint Resolution 4 would freeze the number of legislative districts at 35. There have been 35 legislative districts in Idaho for more than three decades, but the State Constitution allows as few as 30. If there were fewer Districts the rural districts would become even larger, making it tougher for people to connect with their legislators.

Legislation to maintain and promote Idaho public shooting ranges passed the full House on Thursday. House Bill 396 would establish public shooting ranges as an appropriate use for Idaho Department of Fish and Game lands and direct it to work with local agencies, clubs, and associations to develop new ranges or move existing ranges.

House Bill 411 would provide timely notification to lienholders when a vehicle has been towed, stored or impounded, and not recovered by the owner within 72 hours. This will allow the lienholder to work proactively with the owner to resolve payment to get their car back quickly and avoid overly burdensome fees. The legislation received unanimous support from the full House on Monday and is now in the Senate.

It is a pleasure representing you in the Idaho House of Representatives.  Thank you.

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