The nonstop news constantly reports on every aspect of our national presidential election.
Viewers know about each move the candidates make and nearly every comment they utter. Yes, the office of the president does have a significant impact on our country, but I would argue that local and state positions also play an important role in the actual day-to-day lives of Idahoans.
We, in the Legislature, determine state tax rates on gas, food, businesses and income. We set policy for education, health care, all kinds of business, use of natural resources and much more. We pass new laws and update major aspects of existing state law, which I'll address below. Now you might not like the laws or policies, and I might not either, but at the state level we can push for our desired changes. Things may not move quickly in the Idaho statehouse but they can, and do, move.
In our Boise Capitol, as a civics refresher and comparison, we have 35 state senators and 70 representatives. We represent the needs and culture of only one very western and independent state. In Washington DC, Congress has 100 senators and 435 representatives. That's five times more people to vote on an idea or change. And those Congress members represent massively different cultures across all 50 states. It's a wonder Congress ever gets anything done!
So I'm asking you to keep an eye on Idaho elections as we work toward the Nov. 8 vote. Every single member of the Idaho legislature is up for re-election every two years, both in the Senate and the House.
My "part-time" job as your State Senator from Coeur d'Alene is very challenging and rewarding. The actual legislative session is every year for three months: January, February and March. Those three months are full-time in Boise, with intense 12-14 hour days. After the session is over, we come home to lots of community meetings, ceremonies and speaking requests. It's critical to connect with and listen to the people of our districts! We also attend conferences to learn about other states and improve our abilities as legislators.
Then there are the Interim Committees. The interim is the time between sessions, and there are usually about 10 topics chosen for close study, each by its own appointed joint House & Senate committee. Ten legislators, five from each the House & Senate, gather for all day meetings in Boise, usually once or twice a month for several months during the interim. Last year I was appointed to the Interim Committee to study Urban Renewal Law. We were able to craft some significant changes and get the bill all the way through the Legislature during the session.
This interim, I was asked by leadership to be on two committees. The first is the more intense of the two, Foster Care Reform. We're meeting twice a month, all day. I get up at 4am to catch the 6am flight to Boise, we meet from 9 - 4, then I catch the evening plane back, usually getting home to CdA about 8pm. It's a highly emotional but incredibly important topic which impacts every single child and family involved in that system. It also has deep effects on the justice system, education, healthcare and welfare. I could go on but that's a conversation for another newsletter.
My second interim committee is much less time-intense but important nonetheless. It's looking at the role of Administrative Hearing Officers appointed in governmental conflicts. That committee will have its first gathering next week and may only need a few meetings, I'm told.
So, dear readers, my point is that I'm dedicated to working for all the people of Coeur d'Alene, at my "part time" job. The $17,000 per year we earn in the legislature is not my reason for running. It is YOU. It is the children. It is the safety of our community. And it is our ability to maintain a strong voice in state decisions.
Again, thank you so much for your continued support over the years. It is truly an honor to represent Coeur d'Alene in the Idaho Senate.
Mary Souza represents District 4 in the Idaho State Senate.