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Issue: # 14Feb. 26, 2012 

We've expanded our newsletter to include perspectives from more Southern Idaho legislators, including Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, and Rep. Sharon Block, R-Twin Falls. This is the 14th issue covering issues affecting the region and our wonderful state of Idaho. Get events and updates on state policies, rules and legislation. We'll do our best to keep you informed. We welcome items for inclusion on this post. For all legislative bills referred to, go to the state Legislative page at Idaho Legislature.

Sen. Bert Brackett Says.....
 

The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee has finished the hearing process for the agencies and units of state government. We have heard the germane committee reports and we will soon consider some supplemental requests before we start setting budgets for the Fiscal Year 2013. On  Feb. 17, the Committee made some statewide budget decisions that will apply to all of the budgets we set this year. We agreed on $2.67 billion as the number we would use as a budget revenue target. This is the number that the Revenue Outlook Committee selected and it represents a 4.5% growth over the current year.

 

The next decision point was to approve a 2% increase change in employee compensation (CEC) that would be ongoing. It would provide funding for state agencies including higher education, community colleges and appointed officials in the tax commission, public utilities commission, and industrial commission. It also includes the judiciary branch, school for the deaf and blind, and classified employees in public schools who are not eligible for pay for performance. This applies to employees across the board.

 

One of the issues that has taken a lot of time and effort, and will in the coming months and years, is the petition to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The current effort by the state is driven by the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) decision in 2010 of "warranted but precluded." That decision was challenged by conservation groups which resulted in a settlement agreement on candidate species with FWS and FWS will make a decision on sage grouse in 2015. In the interim, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has an instruction memorandum for interim management while the BLM is amending their Resource Management Plans (RMP) and the Forest Service is amending their Land Management Plans (LMP) to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to meet the "adequate regulatory mechanism" standard under ESA. There is an effort to develop an Idaho plan to exempt the state from the instruction memorandum and be considered as the preferred alternative in the RMP and LMP revisions. This effort is known as the Governor's Sage Grouse Task Force and the goals are to draft a state plan for the greater sage grouse that could serve as an acceptable alternative to the federal planning effort. It would hopefully provide for a mechanism to preclude the need to list the species under ESA, but in the event of a listing, minimize the impact to and provide regulatory certainty for the permitted and lawful activities on public land. The plan would build on the 2006 State Sage Grouse Plan which utilized the efforts of the local working groups to implement conservation efforts. Some of the primary objectives are that the plan be biologically driven, legally defensible and politically palatable and be centered on conserving the species and its habitat while maintaining predictable levels of land use. The Governor's Sage Grouse Plan should be able to be incorporated into the BLM's RMP consistent with the requirements of NEPA and be calibrated to meet the "adequate regulatory mechanism" standard under ESA. I am helping write a concurrent resolution that would encourage and endorse moving forward with the Governor's Sage Grouse task force. I have been asked to represent the legislature from the Senate side on the task force in developing the Governor's Sage Grouse Plan.

 

One of the bills that is gaining traction this year is SB1274, which would ban texting while driving. We have considered texting ban bills for the past 3 or 4 years but none have passed. This bill is a simple narrowly drafted bill that makes texting while driving an infraction. It passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee and is awaiting action on the Senate floor.

 

One of the bills I have been working on is SB1303, which deals with animal cruelty. It is very narrow in scope and changes the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for any person convicted for the third time of committing cruelty to animals. I presented the bill in the Senate Agricultural Committee where it was approved and now awaits action in the Senate where I will carry it on the floor.

 

Normal and legal practices are not animal cruelty. This would include humane slaughter, docking, dehorning, branding, castration and other generally accepted agricultural practices. If we pass this legislation, the livestock industry will have a much better chance to defend against an initiative. Idaho is a rural agricultural state with a good image with the public but we cannot defend bad actions.

 

A bill I am co-sponsoring and carrying in the Senate is HB387 which clarifies the status of a resident home owner's homestead exemption for property tax while the owner is away from the primary dwelling place due to military, humanitarian or religious service. This legislation would clarify that the exemption continues during absence for such service and allows the home to be leased so long as the owner intends to return upon conclusion of the service or does not otherwise establish a different primary dwelling place. The absence for other than military service would be limited to 36 months. This would help people who volunteer service in the Peace Corps, church missions and military personnel while deployed. This bill has cleared the House and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate.

 

HB517 is a bill I sponsored in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee to conform with the Federal Tax Code to allow elementary and secondary teachers to deduct up to $250 spent for classroom supplies. It would take effect for the 2012 tax year and is just a fair common sense adjustment to our state tax code. It passed out of the Revenue and Taxation Committee and awaits action on the House floor.

 

Senate Bill 1313 designates 5% of the money paid to the state under the Hazardous Waste Act from US Ecology will go to the Elmore County Highway District to help with the repair maintenance and construction of SIMCO Road. The road goes from the railroad tipping station out to Highway 67. The money is phased in over 5 years and will end up providing approximately $120,000 each year to the local highway district to help with the repair and maintenance of SIMCO Road. The bill also designates an equal amount to the State Transportation Department to be phased in over 5 years to be used for maintenance on Highway 67 and Highway 78 in Owyhee County on the route to the US Ecology Facility in Owyhee County. It is an example of a private-public partnership and recognition of how the state is trying to promote economic development by attracting new business, we must first take care of existing business to help keep them competitive. We may want to look at something along this line to help the local highway districts in Twin Falls County that have been impacted by the construction at the Chobani Yogurt plant. I presented this bill in the Senate Transportation Committee where it was approved and is now on the third reading calendar in the Senate.

 

Another bill I am co-sponsoring with Sen. Dean Cameron and several other Senators will backfill the $19 million reduction in salary based apportionment set to go into effect and will eliminate the reductions scheduled going forward. This bill is an RS and should get a print hearing this coming week.

 

There are many other bills in both the Senate and House that we will be considering in the next few weeks. We will start setting budgets on February 21st and should finish on March 9th, if we stay on schedule. The next several weeks will be very busy but if you have any questions or suggestions, please contact me.

 

 

 

 

Rep. Jim Patrick Says....

 

Jim Patrick
Jim Patrick

A lot has happened since the last newsletter. The redistricting requirement was resolved. Twin Falls County still was hacked up unnecessarily, but we will have more representation than the previous plan. I will run for Senate seat in District 25, Jerome and part of Twin Falls County. I was faced with the choice of running against Representative Sharon Block or Representative Maxine Bell or an open Senate seat. I chose the open Senate seat. I believe I can represent this area very well since it is still rural as Owyhee county was and very similar to Twin Falls County.

The Legislature faces new challenges every day, with the latest issues being the state insurance exchange. Insurance exchanges are a method of allowing insurance companies from across the country bid on the insurance business in Idaho or any other state. The problems are with the ties to Medicaid, and the process of coverage for the poor. The issue is involving the requirement from the federal government to have an exchange in place or they will put one in place for us. They have offered 20 million dollars to cover the cost of putting the plan in place with strings attached as to how the plan will look. There is a feeling the state can spend far less than the 20 million of state money without the strings and make a workable plan. I believe the worst case would to go forth without any plan. No plan puts the state at risk for a federally run plan and possibly higher cost to individuals and businesses in need of medical insurance. Implementation of a state insurance plan is very complicated and many legislators have worked hard to find a workable solution.

The budget process has reached a point where we will start finalizing the state agency budgets next week. If the budgeting process goes smooth, we will finish the session early. Each budget item has to pass the JFAC committee and then both houses along with the signature of the governor.  The revenues have been coming in better than last year's budget, which will possibly leave 100 million dollars to help fill holes in next year's budget. We used the economic outlook committee's recommendation for 2,667,000,000 dollars in revenues. The plan is to place 10 million dollars in reserve as well as any surplus available after the 2013 budget year. This proposed budget also allows for 33 million in tax relief. This number is lower than the governor's proposed budget but realistic. There are signs of strong economic activity in southern Idaho but the legislators from northern Idaho see no or very little improvement. Logging and tourism the two largest pieces of the economy have not improved leaving double digit unemployment. The Magic Valley is doing very well and the treasure Valley is seeing signs of recovery.

The business committee has seen some activity in tort reform for the improvement of the business climate. If no code or rules are in place, the courts through lawsuits make the law called tort action. I believe there is reason for some rules to clearly guide the courts providing clear direction for business activity. These changes are very difficult after cases have been decided in court

I have been working in a small change to the disabled American vet bill I carried last year to enable some out of state 501c organizations to participate.

The agriculture committee has not been very busy this year. We have heard one animal cruelty bill and will have another come to us on the house side soon.

The house and senate passed a bill disallowing camping on the grounds around the capital. The grass is dead and will need to be restored soon if we are to keep the capital a place to be proud of. The state is doing the same as the city of Boise, no camping on city property is allowed. People still have the right to protest and be heard but camping will not be allowed. I see this as needed change or we would have camps all year if for no other reason but to have a cheap place to live.

 I believe it is Important to acknowledge the poorest 5% of us citizens are better than 68% of the world We live in the best place on earth even with our problems and should appreciate our country.

 

 

Rep. Stephen Hartgen Says.... 
Stephen Hartgen
Stephen Hartgen

I'm working on several bills as the session goes along in Boise. One is a measure to lower Idaho's income tax rates for individuals and businesses. The Revenue & Taxation Committee is considering a proposal to reduce income tax rates about 3 percent, 7.8 percent to 7.4 percent. It's not as much as some of us would like, but it's a start. Idaho's current rates are too high compared to other states, and on the business side, there's evidence our rates are hindering growth and investment. Conservative principles show clearly that by lowering rates, business investment expands and government revenues then increase. That's why the states which are growing fastest now coming out of the Recession are the ones with the most competitively lower tax rates. While I don't expect rates to be driven to zero (although there is some merit to doing so, as New Hampshire and Texas have shown), I do think there will be a real effort this winter to reduce income tax rates substantially. The Wall Street Journal recently profiled several states where tax reductions are on the table. Idaho was on that list. See States Look to Tax Reductions.  A recent update of state's rankings shows Idaho as the sixth best state in the country for economic freedom and long-term prosperity. The report is available here at Rich States, Poor States.

 

The recent Idaho budget projections at the end of January show the state's budget is in better shape than in the past four or five years, with a gap of only $33 million between the revenue projection and the estimated costs of state government for the 2013 budget. Many of us conservatives are looking for ways to leave more money in your pockets. Rate reductions on taxes is one way to do that. Leave more money in your pockets? Now that's good government! 02/03/2012

 

 

A second issue of concern to me is the financial health of our judicial pension plan, which is separate from the state's pension plan, PERSI, and which covers district judges and appellate judges. The plan needs some fixes and over the summer, a few of us House members have been working with the judiciary to come up with a plan to make needed changes. We don't have all the details worked out, but we're close. We're working on a bill on this topic and hope to have it ready for review in early March. For more details, see Judicial Pension Plan  12/27/2011

 

A redistricting plan for the state emerged in late January when the Redistricting Commission issued a new plan, L-93, following a decision by the Idaho Supreme Court striking down the previous proposal. The court essentially adopted arguments by Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs that the county, and others, were being unfairly split multiple times. This, the court held, made the plan unconstitutional and thus invalid. Previously, the county had two districts. Now, with a court ruling in hand, the commission issued a revised plan which still splits Twin Falls County into three districts. Loebs offered an alternate plan but Commissioner Randy Hansen, Twin Falls, could not move Democrats to accept it. Loebs, by the way, is the unsung hero of this effort. He led a principled effort and won his case in court. For that, he deserves the appreciation of Twin Falls County residents. For the court's ruling, see Redistricting Plan Ruled Unconstitutional. On January 30, Twin Falls County officials announced they would let the L-93 plan stand unchallenged, leaving the county with three districts, but ones which are more fairly configured for the county than previously. 01/22/12

 

The redistricting moves left local districts reconfigured. Twin Falls city and the surrounding area of impact will be one district, #24, with me as the sole incumbent House member. Rep. Leon Smith and Rep. Sharon Block have both announced their retirements. Sen. Lee Heider is running for reelection . I'll run in District 24B. District 24A seat is now open. That represents a good opportunity for a conservative GOP candidate to step forward to provide additional emphasis on fiscal responsibility, a  prudent approach to spending and a focus on limited government.

 

In the new District 25, part of the county will be combined with Jerome County, with Rep. Maxine Bell as the sole incumbent. Filer area farmer Clark Kauffman has announced he will run for the seat being vacated by Rep. Block. Rep. Jim Patrick has announced for the Senate seat. In district 23, the two incumbent House members are Reps. Rich Wills and Pete Nielsen of Elmore County. Sen. Bert Brackett, Owyhee County, will challenge Sen. Tim Corder for the senate seat.

You can see the statewide plan, L93, at Legislative Redistricting Plan. How this will work out in the years ahead is uncertain. Twin Falls' representation has clearly been maintained, and we could additionally benefit from District 23 legislators who will continue represent the western side of the county. 

 

Birds gotta fly. Fish gotta swim. It looks like there will be another effort in 2012 to raise your sales taxes at the local level through an initiative which would circumvent the Legislature. Local option taxation supporters, including current Twin Falls councilman and former mayor Lance Clow, want a measure on the ballot to allow cities to raise additional sales tax money on a vote of the people. Calling the measure a "local authority" action, the group hopes to collect some 47,000 signatures this spring to place the initiative on the ballot in 2012. The House Revenue & Taxation Committee has not voted a bill to do this to the floor, so the group is trying what amounts to an end run. I doubt it will succeed. The 2012 election in Idaho (and perhaps the nation) is likely to be resounding vote for limited government and lower taxes; in the current economic climate, it is hard to see how people would vote to add yet more taxes to their payments to the cities and state. See Local Option Tax Authority Proposed.  

 

I'm posting regular updates, sometimes almost daily, on my Facebook page during the legislative session. Go to Stephen Hartgen on Facebook . I'm also on KMVT television every week with a regular "legislative update." These usually run on the Friday evening news, and sometimes on other evenings during the week as well.  I try to cover two or three issues in 30 second spots each. Despite my long years in the news business, I've found it quite a challenge to condense important issues down to a short report! You can  follow these by going to www.kmvt.com and searching for "Stephen Hartgen." KMVT, by the way, asked me if I would do these weekly updates; it's been a pleasure to work with their "newsies" and help communicate issues with Magic Valley citizens.  

 

Voting Patterns. A 2011 report on the Idaho Conservative website, shows how we District 23 and 24 legislators held a strong conservative voting pattern in the just completed session. On the House side, I voted "right" on 15 of 16 issues tracked by the website. Jim was at 88 percent, 14 of 16 tracked votes, as was Bert, also 88 percent. In District 24, Lee was at 88 percent and Sharon at 81 percent. You can also see how other legislators scored around the state. The issues tracked included such issues as education reform, medcaid funding, fetal pain, Garvee highway bonding, food stamp fraud and union contract subsidies.  We are proud of our voting records and would welcome discussion from anyone on why we voted as we did on any given issue. To see the vote scores, go to Idaho Conservative Scorecard.  Another good site is IdahoVotes.org which tracks every floor vote on every bill by every Senator and Representative. For committee votes, you still need to go to the committee minutes, but these two sites provide more transparency to the legislative process than we've seen previously. You can also go to a new tracking index this year, from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which tracks various votes on selected issues. See this site for more detail: Idaho Freedom Foundation .

 

  

Sen. Lee Heider Says...
Lee Heider 

 

Things continue to move slowly in the Senate. We seem to get hung up on procedures rather than move forward on substance. We are nearly through the rules that we must amend as a result of previous legislation from last year, a necessary step so that rules may be implemented according to the law. It is very important that all the agency rules coincide with the laws that actually dictate their existence. 

 

JFAC also appears to be nearing the end of department reports and we will soon begin to set 2013 budgets. It appears as though we will have approximately113.8 million more than last year. January's figures improved $6.3 million ahead of forecast and up 13.2 million or 5.2% from last January. So things are looking positive at present, and JFAC should be able to adjust budgets upward slightly.

 

On the Senate floor recently, we passed HB 404 with amendments. The bill does not allow camping on state owned property not dedicated to camping activities. When the House passes HB 404, those who are camped on the Capitol Annex property will have to leave. They still have all their rights to freedom of speech and expression; they just won't be able to camp on the statehouse lawn.  I don't know of a state that actually allows for more access to government than we do. Our statehouse is open, people come and go, there are no metal detectors, we hold very open debates in all of our committees. People can view the Senate and House in session and we carry legislation presented by the people for the people.

 

We had a wonderful Lincoln Day Celebration in Twin Falls on Saturday the 11th. It was great to see everyone and hear Scott Rasmussen speak. A special thank you to Republican Women and Central Committee for all the efforts they went to, to make it such a success.

 

You may have thought about the upcoming caucus in Idaho. What is a caucus and why go? You may be asking yourself, why move to a caucus system? There are so many reasons, but I'll supply two for now. First, moving to the caucus allows conservatives the chance at casting their vote early. In our case, that means March 6, 2012. By moving our date up, we ensure Idaho has the chance to be heard and influence who becomes the GOP nominee. Second, the caucus allows communities to come together, to enjoy an evening of entertainment coupled with civic opportunity. This is Idaho's chance to make a difference in the presidential nomination process. Where before Iowa and New Hampshire have carried the weight, it's time for our voice to be heard!

 

Interestingly enough, we are not alone in the movement. Many states are changing their primaries or caucuses to earlier dates. With a large majority of states casting their votes early in the process, the nominee will more than likely be decided by late February or March.

 

The Great State of Idaho has 32 delegates to send to the Republican National Convention. That is more than Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Idaho will be a big prize for the Republican presidential candidate, and we have already seen candidates paying more attention to Idaho Republican voters as we lead up to the Idaho Caucus.

 

Advocacy and provider representatives are continuing to make progress in drafting legislation to restore cuts from HB 260 and change some of the more harmful language from the legislation.  I have been working with the Department of Health and Welfare and the providers to confirm the fiscal impact of each of the bills and to agree on language that will have support of all parties. The Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee wil hear ard presentations from the Chairs of the House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees. Rep. Janice McGeachin has indicated that she will present some of the HB 260 follow up bills that we have been working on with her and request the committee's support. JFAC anticipates funds to be available to restore some of the cuts from last year. The fiscal impact for each of these bills is relatively small in comparison to the entire state budget and the surplus projected by the Governor's budget director.

 

 

Rep. Sharon Block Says...

Sharon Block 

 

 

The Second Regular Session of the 61st Idaho Legislature is off to a good beginning as we have already worked our way through the first half of the session.  The tone this year is more optimistic than last. We are hopeful that the more promising revenue projections will sustain our optimism. Governor Otter's focus on jobs and education is foremost on our minds as we concentrate on our work.  It is my pleasure to be in the midst of that focus with my three committees of Commerce and Human Resources, of which I serve as chairman;  Education; and Energy, Environment and Technology.

Our Commerce Committee works with the Department of Commerce and Department of Labor as we find solutions to putting unemployed Idahoans back to work with more job creation and economic opportunity. We also address the Industrial Commission, the Public Employees Retirement System, and the Division of Veteran's Services. Our Committee oversees the Department of Health and Welfare Division of Welfare, Division of Child Welfare, Child Protection, Domestic Violence, Vocational Rehabilitation, the Commission for the Blind, and the Commission on Aging.  In this regard, we have been very busy with many agency rules.  Some of the more prominent rules we reviewed were: new restrictions on eligibility for unemployment insurance in regard to corporate officers; job preference for disabled veterans; expansion of coverage of dependents of state employees to age 26; and improvement of adoption services in Idaho. It was satisfying to have Day Care rules that we could approve this year.  For as long as the twelve years I have served in the Legislature, we have been working on Day Care Rules that would be in the best interest of children's safety and also appropriate for both rural and urban areas of the state.  This session we got it right and the rules were passed. That was a good feeling of accomplishment.

Now our Committee is focusing in on jobs and business development. This week, the Governor's Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (iGem) Legislation was unanimously introduced passed last week. This initiative is to recruit world-class researchers in Idaho's key industries creating new companies and helping grow the economy.  Public and private resources would be leveraged across the state.  Jeff Sayer, Idaho's new Director of the Department of Commerce, was involved in the private sector during the formation of a similar initiative in Utah and has seen how it has grown the economy in our neighboring state. We have had, also, among a number of pieces of legislation, a bill that improves the PERSI program by excluding travel and subsistence expense reimbursement when determining "salary" for PERSI benefits. We had, as well, a bill prohibiting certain uses for public assistance funds from the Department of Health and Welfare.  Persons may not purchase with state funds, such items as pari-mutual betting, lottery tickets, tattoos, cigarettes, adult entertainment, etc.

 

Last week our Commerce Committee worked hard on researching, discussing and voting for Budget Recommendations. Last Thursday, Rep. Stephen Hartgen, Vice Chairman of the Committee, and I presented our Committee budget recommendations to the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. We presented the recommendations of programs and grants to help with business and job creation, along with the Governor's IGEM proposal and the Division of Human Resources state employee I-Perform Management System.   The Committee recommended, also, a Health and Welfare proposal of upgrading the computer system to meet requirements for Medicaid eligibility.  We recommended funding for improvements in the Child Support program, the Adoption program, and an increase in Foster Care payments if enough funds are available.

Education is always a priority focus of the Idaho Legislature and is again this session.  The Education Committee, of which I am a member, is mindful and sensitive of the school districts' abilities to implement the Students Come First Legislation passed last session.  We are discussing legislation that will help implement the new programs as smoothly as possible.  We are considering the comments from the school districts and from the Technology and On-Line Credit Committees who met last summer. There will be a bill to make it easier for students to meet the requirements of the state funded dual-credit classes.  A bill will require that the content of on-line classes meet the same standards as met by text books and must be approved by the State Department of Education. A bill will change the facility plan reports to help lighten school districts' work load.  The reports will be required every five years rather than every year.  Some additional bills are: a Memorial to Congress to repeal the No Child Left Behind Act; a bill to allow those serving in the armed forces to keep their Idaho residency status for tuition purposes; and management improvements for incentivizing Idaho medical students to return to Idaho to practice medicine in rural areas of our state.  

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna presented his Education Budget Proposal to our Education Committee last week. Because of the difficulty of the recession, this would be the first Public School Budget increase in a number of years. His request is for a 4.7% funding increase.

Thank you for your interest in the work we are doing in the Legislature. It is my honor and privilege to serve as your state representative. Best wishes, and please let me know your views on the issues.  

  

Trends and Ideas....

 

Idaho's state revenue projections came in a bit above plan in January, giving the state some additional leeway inn crafting a 2013 budget. January receipts were $267 million, up 2.7 percent from bduget and 10.2 percent from a yeqar ago. That puts Year to date revenue at $1.524B, up about $85 million from last year and slightly ahead of budget for the first seven months of the budget year. The improving numbers should give legislators a bit of cushion to work with; plans for both increased budgets and renewed replenishment of savings accounts, as well as for some tax relief, are not looking better. For the monthly report, see January Idaho Revenue. 02/08/2012.

 

Idaho's Farm cash receipts from crops and livestock jumped almost 30 percent in 2011, to a record $7.4 billion, with net farm increase up almost 90 percent from 2010, the University of Idaho reports. Virtually every major crop was up in the state, with dairy products leading the way at $2.44 billion, a 28 percent change from 2010. Wheat, potatoes, hay and barley led the crops side. Catle and calves added $1.47 billion. It has been common knowledge across Suthern Idaho that 2011 was a good year for farmers, but a look at the stats crop by crop and sector by sector shows just how good it was. For the details, go to Idaho Farm Income Jumps in 2011. 1/5/2012.

 

Here's a good overview of how the state's various industries are looking out into the future. The Legislature's Idaho Economic Projections Committee hears form a wide array of industries, from agriculture to auto dealers, retaining to technology, as it gathers information to help form the basis for the state's 2013 year budget, which begins July 1. You can see the industry estimates the committee's website  Economic Projections. 1/06/2012.

 

Idaho;s budget process in january zeroed in on a revenue projection for 2013 of $2.655 billion, some $110 million over 2012 ($2.553b), or about 5.8 percent. The figure is a bit below the governor's estimate, but not much ($33m), close enough so that minor adjusdtments will allow us to close the gap. This is the best budget projection in five years, when revenue peaked at $2.909 billion. We're still well below that peak, but growing. All in all, the recession has left Idaho with a leaner and more efficient government, what the governor calls the "new normal." You can see the budget projections back  to 2006 at Budget Projections. 1/30/2012

 

 

The Bureau of Land Management Twin Falls office is looking for people to serve on the  agency's Resource Advisory Council, which advises the agency about land use practices, multiple use and long-range planning. The councils aren't often in the news, but the BLM relies on them for "on the ground" comment to assess the federal lands planning process. For many years, most of the volunteers came from the ranching community, but now the agency is trying to cast a wider net to include energy development, tourism, archeological concerns and the environment. Recognizing the potential impact, radical environmental groups have sometimes tried to "pack" these councils with the long-range objective of limiting ranching on public lands. Serving on a committee like this is honorable work and helps preserve Idaho's public lands heritage and multiple uses. For more information, see the website at BLM Resource Advisory Council . 02/03/2012

 

 

On the energy front, legislators will examine a new 2012 state energy plan, now in draft form. The plan, updated every five years, serves as a guide and policy document, dependent on specific actions by other bodies, including the Public Utilities Commission and the Legislature. Much has changed in the energy landscape since the latest report in 2007. The new draft report's recommendations section includes assessing the "opportunities and risks" of additional nuclear power development, as well as new statutes to allow local entities of government to get technical support for decisions on how to best locate tranmission corridors and lines. See the report at Idaho Draft Energy Plan as well as a good summary in the Idaho Statesman energy plan report. You can also see the plan summaries, comments and background reports on such topics as natural gas resources in Idaho by going to the state legislative page for the interim energy committee at Idaho Interim Committee on Energy.

 

Greek yougert maker Chobani broke ground in December on its multi-million dollar new plant for Twin Falls, which the company hopes to have up and running by mid-summer. Already, Chobani is laying the ground work for employee applications later in 2012. An estimated 400 jobs are expected to be available in the initial phase to run the 940,000-square foot facility. How big is that? Think 6 or 7 Fred Meyer stores in size! 

 

Chobani is the market share leader in the Greek yogurt industry, and prides itself as making the best there is. The privately-held upstate New York company has been one of the really bright spots in the dairy industry and is building the Twin Falls plant as a new production facility to serve the West and Northwest. For more information see the company's website, Chobani Yogurt.  The construction phase has already resulted in dozens of new construction jobs as contractors work round the clock to prepare the ground. See Chobani Groundbreaking. How many communities in the United States would like to have a plant like this, with these jobs, opening up in 2012? These kinds of developments show why we continue to be long-term optimists about the continuing growth of Idaho and the Magic Valley. 12/20/2011

 

 

2010 County and City Population Statistics for Idaho tell the story of uneven growth and in some cases declines, across the state, as well as in Southern Idaho. While some communities grew nicely (Twin Falls city, 28 percent; Filer, 54.8 percent; Marsing, 15.8 percent), others showed smaller growth (Buhl, 3.4 percent; Homedale, 4.2 percent) and a couple showed declines (Castleford, - 18.4 percent; Grand View, - 3.8 percent).

Generally, the communities closest to bigger cities showed the most growth (Filer, Marsing), while more remote towns showed the least. You can see the numbers at City, County Populations 2010  

 

We all know America is a changing nation, but recent demographic reports show some interesting trends. The country is dividing, say the experts, into regions of growth, wealth and higher education, and areas of poverty, low incomes and limited educational skills. Underlying trends also show that lower-income workers and families are also going to church less, having children out of wedlock more often, and participating less in civic affairs, patterns which suggest a fraying of the values base which unites us as Americans. Reversing these patterns won't be easy, as they stem from both cultural changes beginning in the 1960s ("do your own thing") and

changes in the law, such as affirmative action and the movement away from merit-based decisions in companies and universities. But if the country is to remain whole in a values sense, a return to so-called "traditional" values is certainly a needed element. These observations come from a new, challenging book by demographer Charles Murray, called Coming Apart. The book has received much comment for its thoughtful analysis and conclusions. For more see Loss of Traditional Values is Dividing the Nation. 01/22/12.

 

Here are two recent surveys, one by Gallup and the other from Pew, which suggest Republicans are gaining ground in how they are viewed by voters who hold traditional values. The Pew Center report finds the share of voters who identify with the GOP is growing in every major religions group. Evangelicals support the GOP by 65 percent; Mormons, by 80 percent, mainline Protestants by 56 percent, and white non-Hispanic Catholics by 54 percent. Even among Jewish voters, the Democratic share has shrunk. Only black Protestants and  the "religiously nonaffiliated" now strongly support the Dems. See Religion-Voter Trends Move Toward GOP. The Gallup report finds that Democrats have lost their political party affiliation advantage in 18 states since 2008, while the GOP has gained in 6 states. A total of 17 states are now solid or leaning GOP in 2011, up from 10 in 2010 and only 5 in 2008. Idaho is the third most GOP state (after Utah and Wyoming), with a 30 percent GOP margin. Idaho was one of the four "solidly GOP" states in 2005. For more detail, see Gallup's report at More States Leaning GOPThese reports suggest that GOP traditional values and good candidates reflecting those values are driving the trends. Dems are losing ground because their espoused positions on many issues don't reflect Americans' views. No surprise there. 02/05/2012.

 

 

 

Upcoming Events....

 

Because there are so many events, committee meetings and such in Boise, we'll suspend the calendar section of our calendar until after the legislative session.

 

 

Sen. Bert Brackett Blue Book Profile
 
Bert Brackett District 23 

Republican Term: 2. (Served 2 terms in the House, 2005-2008). Address: Flat Creek Ranch, Rogerson 83302; born 10/17/1944 at Twin Falls; 1962 graduate of Hagerman High School; B.S. in Agriculture from University of Idaho; 116 Armored Calv., Idaho National Guard; rancher; President, Idaho Cattle Association; Chairman, Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission; 1996 Cattleman of the Year; Family: wife, Paula; children: Lori Blattner, Ira Brackett, Jani Revier, Gus Brackett, Jake Brackett. Committees: Vice-Chair, Transportation; Finance (JFAC); Resources & Environment.

 

 Rep. Jim Patrick Blue Book Profile
 
Jim Patrick
Jim Patrick

Jim Patrick District 23 

Republican Term: 3. Address: 2231 E 3200 N, Twin Falls 83301; born 7/1/1945 in Twin Falls; 1963 graduate of Filer High School, B.S. in Agricultural Economics and Business Management from University of Idaho; 116th National Guard; farmer; Director, Salmon River Canal Company; President-IBC; Director-IMCB; Secretary Treasurer-NDBC; associate member, Owyhee Cattlemens Association, West End Mens Club, Owyhee County Historical Society, Twin Falls County Farm Bureau, Twin Falls Rural Appraisers and Farm Managers, Twin Falls County Planning & Zoning Advisory Board, U of I and CSI Department of Agriculture, Advisory Board Department of Agrculture Seed Indemnity Fund; Eagle Scout, Farm Bureau Member of the Year, Outstanding Water Quality Irrigator; spouse: Afton; children: David and Andrew. Committees: Appropriations (JFAC); Agricultural Affairs; Business.

Rep. Stephen Hartgen Blue Book Profile

Stephen Hartgen
Stephen Hartgen

Stephen Hartgen District 23

Republican Term: 2 Address: 1681 Wildflower Lane, Twin Falls 83301; business consultant/economic development; editor/publisher of The Times News, 1982-2004; Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.; master's degree, Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.; bachelor's degree, Amherst College, Amherst, Mass.; member since 1998 and former acting chairman, Idaho Capitol Commission; founding board member, Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization; executive director, Business Plus; board member, Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce; vice-chairman, Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry; family: wife Linda, five children; hobbies: fly-fishing, historical reading. Committees: Vice-Chair, Commerce & Human Resources; Education; Environment, Energy & Technology.

 
Sen. Lee Heider Blue Book Profile

Lee Heider Lee Heider District 24

 

Republican Term 1. Address: 1631 Richmond Dr., Twin Falls 83301. Born 2/17/1947. Contractor/broker; graduate, Twin Falls High School, bachelor's degree, Brigham Young University, major youth leadership & minor, Aerospace Studies; master's degree, Public Administration, Ball State University; military service, Pilot, United States Air Force, 1971-1977; LDS, former Twin Falls City Council, vice mayor, 2008-2010; 56-year member of Boy Scouts of America; Magic Valley Republican Women, associate member; member, Republican Central Committee; board of directors, Association of Idaho Cities; president, Twin Falls Board of Realtors; built Murtaugh Lake Scout Camp, wood badge course director. Family: wife Jan; children: Jenni, Chad, Ryan, Bret, Kirk, Justin, 21 grandchildren. Committees: Finance (JFAC); Health & Welfare; Resources & Environment.

 
Rep. Sharon Block Blue Book Profile

Sharon Block 

Sharon Block District 24

 

Republican. Term 6. Address: 1093 Lakewood Dr., Twin Falls 83301. Born 4/15/1941. Property Manager/Former Teacher. graduate, Aberdeen High School, BS, Education, University of Idaho; Lutheran; community volunteer, former president, Twin Falls County Republican Women; nominated to Idaho Republican Party Hall of Fame for Outstanding Republican Worker; Idaho Federation of Republican Women, tribute to women award; Idaho state planning council on mental health award. Family: Husband, D.W. "Bill;" children: Brian and Rachelle. Committees: Chair, Commerce and Human Resources; Education; Environment, Energy & Technology.

 

 
Email or call us: 
Sen. Bert Brackett email: bbrackett@senate.idaho.gov 208-857-2217
Rep. Jim Patrick email: jpatrick@house.idaho.gov  208-733-6897
Rep. Stephen Hartgen email: shartgen@house.idaho.gov  208-733-5790
Sen. Lee Heider email: lheider@senate.idaho.gov 208-734-8864
Rep. Sharon Block email: sblock@house.idaho.gov 208-734-6360
 
Sincerely,
 
Senator Bert Brackett, Representatives Jim Patrick & Stephen Hartgen.
Senator Lee Heider, Representative Sharon Block.
State of Idaho Legislators
Districts 23 and 24, Twin Falls & Owyhee Counties

(This newsletter is not paid for at taxpayers' expense.)