Week ten brings Daylight Savings Time so it was still light out on Wednesday when the House passed HO248 after seven hours of debate. This amended bill to establish a state-based insurance exchange must come back to the Senate which passed a similar measure three weeks ago.
There were some problems accessing the link to the 129,000 pound truck route map in last week's newsletter so I'm sending it again because this is an important issue and citizens should know which routes these extra-heavy trucks will be travelling throughout Idaho.
I was also remiss in not addressing the Idaho Sesquicentennial celebrated at the Capitol last week; this was a tremendous event and worthy of mention. The state is celebrating the 150-year anniversary of the Idaho Territory, created through an act signed by President Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1863. The Idaho State Historical Society organized the Statehouse event which was hosted by former Lt. Governor and Lincoln expert David Leroy and opened with my colleague Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb's extraordinary rendition of America. An exhibit at the state historical museum runs through the year called Essential Idaho: 150 Things that Make the Gem State Unique and I urge anyone visiting Boise to attend. Each of Idaho's 44 counties nominated a panel for inclusion in the exhibit and these are the topics representing District 26:
Lincoln County: The Sage Brush Hair Tonic Company (a favorite with Society staff)
Gooding County: Frank Gooding
Camas County: The Camas Meadows Battle of the Nez Perce War
Blaine County: A recovered time capsule recounting Blaine's mining history
Beyond a slew of appropriations bills, here are some highlights of legislation we've addressed this week in the Senate:
SB1108, the initiative/referendum restricting legislation, passed on a vote of 25 to 10. I've already gone on at length about my opposition to 1108 so I'll close this matter with a final comment: our mission should be to expand participation in every aspect of public policy and this bill represents a critical mission failure.
SB1079 passed unanimously. 1079 would expand the Crimes Against Children Task Force within the Attorney General's office initially using money collected through consumer protection lawsuits.
HJM 1, which declares the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area a natural disaster, passed on a voice vote. When designating this wilderness, Congress declared that trails "shall be maintained to the extent practical," and with declining budgets and recent wildfires, many trails are in disrepair. As a memorial, this has no force of law but I'm concerned that a public message declaring it a disaster could harm businesses dependent on tourism in the Frank Church.
HB55 lifts restrictions that prevented only telecommunications companies from calling existing customers about products and services even if they are on the "Do Not Call" list. The bill passed on a 26-6 vote and, while I voted no in committee, I voted yes on the floor because I see this ultimately as a fairness issue. I do not believe that telephone companies should be held to a different standard than other types of businesses already allowed to solicit existing customers. I also want to highlight the "opt out" provision that empowers consumers to notify businesses of all types that they do not want any further telephone solicitations. Violations of this provision carry a $500.00 fine for the company.
In Senate State Affairs today, we addressed two issues regarding weapons, both of which are fairly benign. HO223 would expand the definition of implements exempted from those requiring a concealed weapons license. HO192 defines enhanced concealed carry license standards that would enjoy reciprocity with other states, most of which have stricter concealed carry gun laws than Idaho.
In Senate Resources & Environment, we've been hearing a lot of bills related to irrigation and water issues. On the water front (sorry), a last-minute effort to weaken the 2012 State Water Plan was rejected by the House Resources and Conservation Committee. The plan, which was thoughtfully crafted by stakeholders over several years, went into effect on March 8th. This article does a good job of covering the issue for those of you who follow water policy closely.
We continue working in Boise and you know how to reach me if you have any questions or concerns.