Saturday, January 24, 2009

Week 2: Legislators' reports

Here are excerpts from some of the e-mail newsletters that Idaho Democratic lawmakers sent home to their constituents during Week 2 in the 2009 Idaho Legislature. If you would like to receive regular updates from your legislators - Democrat or Republican - be sure to let them know.

Rep. Liz Chavez (District 7) - Education is the backbone of our country ... and educators have seen lean times before. The difference this time is that the economy hasn't stopped falling yet, so it's hard to know what to expect or how to compensate for the loss of revenue. The school districts in Legislative District 7 have dedicated personnel who are working every day to meet the needs of our children and somehow find the money to keep the lights on. I'm doing everything I can do to convince the Governor and others that using more of the emergency funds now may hold off disaster for many small school districts. ... Transportation is taking a lot of energy, and while I know that funding creates jobs, raising registration fees right now when people have to have a vehicle to get to work seems counter -productive. This is especially true if we are cutting Medicaid therapy hours, education and other services needed by the most vulnerable of our citizens.

Rep. Wendy Jaquet (District 25) - The Office of Performance Evaluations via the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee released the long awaited Idaho Transportation Performance Audit on Monday. The consultants said our highway program situation is "untenable." They indicated that the Idaho Department of Transportation, ITD, funding is not enough to catch up and match the expected costs of maintaining and preserving state highways and bridges; our highways are deteriorating faster than resources are available and the costs to do road construction are rising faster than inflation; they said that $137 million dollars is merited and probably understated; they criticized the department because they believe ITD's programs are reactive in nature; that the department doesn't have a strategic vision and that there is no coordinated long term/infrastructure management plan.

Sen. Jon Thorson (District 25, sitting in for Clint Stennett, who is on medical leave) - Last year, Sen. Stennett introduced a bill to provide more oversight for the placement of major power plants throughout the state. Currently, merchant power plants can be built without state oversight, and it falls to the consent of two out of three county commissioners. I, along with my fellow Democratic Senators, have introduced this legislation again so that all stakeholders in energy plant development can be represented in the decision making.

Rep. James Ruchti (District 29) - As you are aware, Idaho families are being hit hard by the effects of the economic downturn. Just as Idaho families must tighten their belts, so too must Idaho government. Budgets must be cut; however, we must act carefully and with an eye towards the future. I will work to preserve government services that are necessary in your lives while finding ways to be more efficient with taxpayer money. Job creation must be our first priority. At the same time, we must continue to invest in economic development and education at all levels.

Rep. Elaine Smith (District 30) - On Thursday, the entire Idaho House of Representatives voted to reject the pay increase and per diem increase, which was the only correct thing to do since Idaho families are struggling. This House Concurrent Resolution now goes to the Senate side. I believe as a legislator that I should not have a pay increase in this turbulent time of our economy, especially when the Legislature is looking at budget cuts to agencies and universities.