"For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself." - Galatians 5:14
We kicked off our legislative district tour last night in Ketchum and had a great turnout. I am always so pleased to see our community members engage on issues that matter most. We'll continue the tour through the rest of our district today (February 11). Please join us:
8:00 a.m. - Bellevue's Oak Street Café & Deli
10:30 a.m. - Shoshone Community Center
12:00 p.m. - Gooding's Lincoln Inn
2:00 p.m. - Wendell City Hall
4:00 p.m. - Hagerman City Hall
The invasive species bill which seeks to implement the recommendations of the working group was printed this week, and will be debated in committee before it heads to the floor for consideration. I am hopeful that this bipartisan effort to address the looming threat of Quagga and Zebra Mussels to Idaho will pass. An agribusiness state like Idaho cannot afford to suffer such a crippling impact to our economy.
The Senate passed a bill allowing Idaho Fish and Game to create hunting rules for grizzly bears before they are delisted from the Endangered Species Act. The last time we were faced with hunting a newly de-listed species was wolf management in Idaho. In that case, the state took years to study the wolf population and develop regulations long before they were delisted. The grizzly bear population in Idaho, on the other hand, hasn't been studied in 15 years! This practice of creating regulations before adequately studying the state's population is bad policy and I voted against it.
Senator Maryanne Jordan's (D-17) bipartisan legislation to expand Medicaid unfortunately will not have hearing in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The bill would have accepted federal funds to insure the 78,000 Idahoans who fall in the healthcare coverage gap, and included a sunset clause in the event that the federal government falls below 90% of its committed funding. No measures will be taken to cover Idahoans, including our veterans, who so desperately need and deserve healthcare.
Foster Care System
As a member of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee, my job is to review reports from the Office of Performance Evaluations. Last week we studied Idaho's child welfare system, which is overwhelmed with too few foster parents, too heavy caseloads for social workers, and not enough infrastructure to hold it together. The study from the Legislature's Office of Performance Evaluations found that the number of foster parents has decreased 8% since 2014 (From 1,062 in 2014 to 974). Additionally social workers are dealing with a more than 30% increase in the number of cases they can reasonably handle and Child and Family services would need between 57 and 77 additional full time employees. These issues need to be addressed if we are to maintain any semblance of livelihood for our most vulnerable populations: Idaho's children.