Idaho Democrats issue statement protesting ‘gerrymandering’ hearing.
Republicans held a hearing last Friday in State Affairs for a bill that would allow for gerrymandering in Idaho. This was extremely unusual because the bill was introduced on Wednesday. Usually, for a bill this impactful, the hearing would be scheduled several days in advance to give individuals the opportunity to travel to Boise to testify. Idaho Democrats protested the decision to hear the bill by walking out of committee.
Rep. John Gannon, a member of the committee, said: “Idahoans have the right to participate in legislation, especially a constitutional amendment. A constitutional amendment is a serious matter, especially when it concerns gerrymandering. Idahoans deserve to have a say in their future. This legislation would affect individuals all over the state. People from Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Moscow, and everywhere else should have the ability to come testify on this legislation. This is not fair to the people of Idaho, especially independent voters because it injects Washington DC style politics into an Idaho commission.”
Rep. Brooke Green said: “Our most important job is to represent the people of Idaho. The committee hearing for this bill was extremely suspect. A last-minute hearing on a Friday for a bill this impactful is irresponsible. The individuals who voted against the motion to hear the bill later next week are voting to silence the voices of Idahoans.”
Democrats said the legislation would allow gerrymandering in Idaho by changing voter districts to further favor Republican candidates. Currently, districts are drawn by the independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission. This commission is composed of six members; three Democrats and three Republicans, encouraging collaboration. The proposed change would add a seventh member decided by the governor, lieutenant governor, state controller, state treasurer, and superintendent of public instruction. The proposal would result in a Republican controlled commission eliminating the spirit of this voter passed initiative.
Rep. Mat Erpelding (D-Boise) expressed deep concern with the bill. “Put simply, this will gerrymander Idaho, and make Idaho even more partisan.” Erpelding explained. “Our current system ensures collaboration and fairness. All Idahoans have the right to free and fair elections. Gerrymandering is the scourge of U.S. politics and Idaho is heading that way.”
House Republicans say Democrats stalling the process, costing taxpayer money. Rep. Steve Harris introduced legislation in the House State Affairs Committee, to increase the number of appointees who serve on the redistricting commission. During his testimony Democrats in the committee walked out and threatened to force legislators to unnecessarily read bills to stall the process.
“This is absurd and a waste of time for the people of Idaho. This legislation is not something new, nor is it a surprise. The Republican caucus was hoping for a good collaborative discussion and some type of agreement on a way forward by initiating the legislative process. Instead, the Democrats continue to refuse to engage in the conversation. For the Democrats to cause a spectacle by attempting to stall the process is a waste of taxpayer dollars. We are looking for legislation that will prevent costly litigation in the future,” said Republican Caucus Chairwoman, Rep. Megan C Blanksma. “That’s just good policy.”
Earlier this week, Harris presented a plan to increase the number of redistricting commission members from six to seven. There are currently six members, three from each party, which has led to gridlock and ultimately lawsuits, costing taxpayers in legal fees. In 2002, two reapportionment plans were struck down by the Supreme Court, and finally a third was accepted and implemented. In 2012 the first commission was in a deadlock that ended up costing $300,000 in legal fees with no outcome. A second commission tried again but its plan was struck down by the Supreme Court. This proposed approach calls for a more reasonable process, ending gridlock with the addition of the seventh member.
The law currently allows each party executive director and the House and Senate leadership to pick three individuals from their respective parties. The new legislation would continue that process but allow for the Executive Branch to select the seventh person by a vote of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Controller, State Treasurer and Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“We need to be fiscally responsible, and this minor change to the current process helps to promote that,” said Harris. “We can’t continue to have a system that is automatically set up for litigation. An odd number of commissioners would eliminate that problem by serving as a tie breaking vote, if needed.”
Gov. Brad Little announces two appointments and an opening on the Idaho Board of Correction. The governor appointed Dodds Hayden to the Board of Correction. Hayden has served as the president of Hayden Beverage Company since 2006. Born and raised in Idaho, Hayden is a graduate of Bowdoin College and attended Babson Business School. He spent five years as a Marine Corps infantry officer.
Little also reappointed Dr. David McClusky to the Board of Correction. McClusky was first appointed to the board in January 2018 and was selected to serve as Chairman in January 2019.
After more than three years of service, board member and secretary Cindy Wilson has resigned. Wilson was appointed to the board on March 18, 2015. I“I want to thank Cindy Wilson for her service to the board and the State of Idaho,” Little said. “I thank her for her dedication to ensuring the safety of our citizens while promoting rehabilitation in the offender population during her time on the board.”
Idaho Democrats & Republicans working to improve public school funding formula. The Public School Funding Formula was unveiled in committee last Thursday. Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking and Rep. John McCrostie were on the subcommittee formed in November to draft legislation to implement a new funding formula for K-12 education. However, after two meetings in December they were not informed of additional meetings. They are hoping to be included in the next round of rewrites.
Sen. Ward-Engelking expressed her enthusiasm. “Everyone agrees the current, decades-old funding formula is antiquated. Rep. McCrostie and I are excited to collaborate with all the stakeholders to ensure we have a new student-centered formula that works for all students in Idaho.” She explained. “Just moving from Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding to enrollment-based funding is going to require an additional $60 million. The key is to fund the new formula so there are not winners and losers.”
Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke said the funding formula legislation creates an updated, streamlined, effective, and student-centered model for Idaho’s schools. “Idaho’s current school funding model is out-of-date. This new model will increase both flexibility and transparency for school funding.”
Each school will get a set amount of money for each student, but they will get more funding for each student who needs more resources. That includes students in special education, those who are economically disadvantaged, English language learners, gifted and talented, and grades K‐3 and 9‐12. More funding will also be considered for especially small school districts and remote schools.
This formula is the result of three years of work from the bipartisan Public-School Funding Formula Interim Committee. The plan includes input from district leaders around the state and the Education Commission of the States. The Committee unanimously recommended the funding model.
This new model focuses on enrollment instead of attendance. So, the funding follows the students, if they change schools or districts. In fact, a “hold positive” provision also ensures all districts and charter schools will receive a funding increase of at least two-percent per year for that period.
Idaho Democrats express appreciation for Medicaid expansion advocates. Last week, Medicaid expansion advocates from all over the state came to the Capitol in Boise. They met with legislators, held a rally, and presented their case for implementing Medicaid expansion without sideboards. After a grassroots campaign by Idaho citizens, Medicaid expansion was put on the ballot and passed with over 60% of the vote. Now it is up to the legislature to make sure the program is funded. Unfortunately, several legislators have indicated their desire to add conditions or barriers to the existing proposition. Sen. Maryanne Jordan (D-Boise) expressed her gratitude for the Idahoans defending Medicaid expansion.
“Idahoans have waited so long to have access to quality healthcare.” Sen. Jordan said. “They have shown us that they want their family, friends, and neighbors to stop suffering. And they have not asked that we do it with unnecessary barriers. They know that conditions to coverage will be costly and may deny individuals access to healthcare.”
In Sen. Jordan’s district, over 80% of voters wanted to pass Medicaid Expansion. Advocates from the area came to support the ongoing effort to ensure there are no conditions or barriers. They argue that most of the individuals who are currently in the Medicaid “gap” are working Idahoans. They have promised to continue to fight against sideboards. Sen. Jordan has committed to do the same.
Bill introduced to test all sexual assault kits. Last Thursday, Rep. Melissa Wintrow introduced legislation to “test all” sexual assault evidence kits with only rare exceptions.
In the past, there have been several legal exceptions to testing kits, which resulted in a growing number of kits not being tested. “Thankfully, we established a first of its kind tracking system in 2016, which led us to identify issues and address them, which we are doing in this legislation.” she said.
“This is very important public safety policy. Because the more kits we can enter into the national database, the greater chance we have to identify a ‘serial’ rapist and hold them accountable.”
Nominate leaders in energy efficiency. The Governor’s Office of Energy and Mineral Resources (OEMR) has announced it is now accepting applications through April for the 2019 Idaho Awards for Leadership in Energy Efficiency. These awards acknowledge Idaho companies that exhibit leadership in implementing energy efficiency measures at their local facilities/buildings.
OEMR invites organizations that have made significant strides in reducing their energy consumption through upgrades and programming efforts completed in 2018 to apply. There are two types of awards available. One award is for organizations engaged in Idaho industry like manufacturing, agriculture or community maintenance at the local government level. The other award is for buildings that are used for commercial, educational, local government affairs or multi-family purposes.
For further qualifications, a list of potential eligible organizations, a link to the application, and for questions about the award process please visit the OEMR’s website atoemr.idaho.gov or call 208-332-1664. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 26, 2019.
Governor Little’s schedule
MONDAY, February 11, 2019 Governor Little will issue a proclamation of Type 1 Diabetes Awareness Day in Idaho in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at 11 a.m.
WEDNESDAY, February 13, 2019 Governor Little will sign House Bill 1 in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at 9 a.m.