2013 Legislative Report, Week 1

Greetings!

The 2013 legislative session has begun and I look forward to serving District 29. I am honored to represent you in the Idaho House of Representatives.  The District 29 legislators will be having a town hall meeting the morning of Saturday, Jan. 26th, at Pocatello City Hall Council Chamber.  The time will be announced at a later date.

I have been assigned to the same three committees during this session—State Affairs, Business, and Environment, Energy & Technology.  Also, I have been reappointed to JLOC (Joint Legislative Oversight Committee) and the Health Care Task Force.

This week JLOC held a meeting for the evaluation report by the Office of Performance Evaluations on “Workforce Issues Affecting Public School Teachers”.  The key considerations in this study were class size is a concern, turnover is not as bad as reported, compensation is a concern, and there is a strong undercurrent of despair among teachers.  The most common hard to fill positions are special education, math, and science teachers.  The recruitment challenge cited by administrators is teacher compensation.  Idaho’s average teacher salary ranks fifth out of seven among our neighboring states.  For more information on this report, check the Idaho legislative website.

When listening to the Governor’s speech at the beginning of the week I was pleased to see he had some money to help local governments in transition, if the personal property tax is repealed.  I also liked that the Hire One Act will be updated and will have an incentive to employers on hiring veterans.  However there is no increase in salary for state workers, while their average age among employees is increasing because younger workers are not being retained by the state.

The Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee, of which I am a member, met two days in pre-session meetings.  We heard from a wide array of businesses and state agencies.  On Jan. 10th the committee voted 14 – 4 to support the Governor’s recommendation on revenue forecast because it was reasonable.   The estimate by the Governor and the committee median for the rest of FY2013 was 2.7%, while my prediction was 2.9%.  The estimate by the Governor for FY2014 was 5.3%, committee median at 3.1%, and mine was 3.6%.  The estimate by the Governor for FY2015 was 6.2%, committee median at 3.3%, and mine was 4%.  It was interesting to note that the most optimistic on the forecasts were the Democrats and the Governor .

During the first two to three weeks of the legislature, legislators review rules of the state agencies and state boards.  I will be hearing the rules of DEQ, Dept. of Administration, Homeland Security, Board of Accountancy, Dept. of Finance, and the Bureau of Occupational Licenses.

Already the first week has brought people from Bannock County to the Legislature.  I have met with some parents and staff of Head Start, saw Matt Hunter from the Chamber, Arlen Wittrock from Idaho Economic Advisory Council, former Representative Pete Black, and the news anchors from Channel 8 and Channel 3.  Our weekly phone call with the Chamber will begin this coming week.

The Legislature will work on many challenging issues this year that will affect every Idahoan. Healthcare exchange implementation, personal property tax and education reform are just a few of the tough bills where votes will occur.   I will be looking forward to your opinion on these issues.

The way to contact me is by e-mail at esmith@house.idaho.gov , the website www.legislature.idaho.gov, toll free number is 1-800-626-0471, my office number is 208-332-1031 or my home number is 237-1462.

Elaine Smith – District 29 State Representative