[Vision2020] Legislative Report from Rep. Ringo

Donovan Arnold donovanjarnold2005 at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 8 19:23:22 PDT 2008

Well, me and my wallet certainly feel safer now that the Idaho State Legislature has adjourned. I wish we had a legislature that would pass legislation to improve the lives of people instead of always trying to steal from them or to limit their personal liberties. 
  Best Regards,

Shirley Ringo <ringoshirl at moscow.com> wrote:
  2008 Legislative Report for Constituents
  (This is a review of some of the issues of the session.  Please let me know if you have questions.)
  1.                  Community achievement:  House Bill 501, address protection for victims of domestic violence, resulted from the efforts of District 6 residents.  After a series of meetings involving interested parties, Professor Elizabeth Brandt crafted legislation modeled after Washington state law.  Professor Brandt testified in House and Senate Judiciary Committees, responding to technical questions regarding the legislation.  Fran Halstead (Kendrick) and Carl Hulquist also testified.  The bill, sponsored by Representatives Trail and Ringo, passed unanimously in both committees, and in the House and Senate.  It is a great contribution to Idaho law which will provide an important protection tool for victims of domestic violence.
  2.                  Much work remains to be done concerning early childhood issues.  I shall continue work with others to protect young children by enacting minimal safety standards and requiring background checks in the child day care centers that are currently unregulated.
  I am pleased that I had the opportunity to work through the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee to maintain funding for Headstart programs.  Cuts in positions for families to participate in Headstart were avoided.
  I will continue my work with Representative John Rusche (Lewiston) and others to establish an office of early childhood to deal with issues related to childcare and pre-K education.
  3.                  With Senator Joyce Broadsword, I co-sponsored legislation to keep children safe in moving vehicles.  The legislation was crafted to eliminate exceptions allowing children to be removed from safety seats.  I heard from a number of individuals who were prepared to testify in favor of this legislation, but House leadership blocked a public hearing on the bill.
  4.                  Funding for repair of bridges and roads was a critical issue for this legislature.  The fact that no resolution was reached regarding increased funding constitutes a huge legislative failure.  
  Governor Otter indicates a need of $200 million per year to address a huge backlog in work required for repair of roads and bridges.  There are a number of bridges over fifty years old that need maintenance and repair.
  I believe people in leadership lacked the political will, in an election year, to propose funding solutions.  Governor Otter was critical of this failure, but frankly he didn’t have much of a plan either.
  38% of funding in the Highway Distribution Account goes to local units of government, where support is also needed for important projects.  It is sad that this must wait for another legislative session.
  5.                  Because of Governor Otter’s veto of the appropriation for substance abuse treatment, a revised budget at 90% of the original appropriation was passed.  The result of the veto is that approximately 640 county inmates who would have gotten help will not receive treatment.
  6.                  Sometimes a victory comes in the form of prevention.
  a.       iSTARS – considerable time was consumed in stopping adoption of this plan.  The iSTARS plan for compensating teachers was politically motivated, and thin on promoting educational excellence.  Prior to the session, I began efforts by writing editorials that explained the deficiencies of the plan and I participated in a panel sponsored by the associated press, where the plan was discussed.  Many teachers testified against the plan in the Senate Education Committee.
  Efforts will continue to establish a sound pay for performance plan for teachers.  I hope teachers will be allowed greater participation in these discussions.  
  The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee appropriated $50,000 for a Teacher Evaluation Task Force.  It is recognized that in order to have a successful pay for performance plan, there must be effective teacher evaluation to assist in professional growth.
  The Superintendent of Public Instruction (Tom Luna) is directed to assemble the task force with members to include:  three superintendents, principals, or public charter school directors; three members of school district boards of trustees of public charter school boards of directors; and three classroom teachers (at least two of whom must be members of teacher associations).
  b.      The proposal to completely remove the tax on personal property was greatly problematic when combined with the increased grocery tax credit that was adopted.  The combined cost to state revenues would build out to over $240 million in the future, and is simply not affordable.  A deficit in needed revenue to the state would likely result by 2012.
  My colleagues proposed that the first $50,000 of personal property be exempted from taxation.  This is an affordable proposal that would exempt all personal property taxation for small businesses.
  Finally, a compromise was reached that exempts the first $100,000 of personal property tax.  This covers approximately 88% of small businesses and protects tax payers.  Most businesses not covered by this exemption realized significant tax relief when the 0.3% local property tax for schools was shifted to sales tax for the source of funds. (special session 2006)
  c.       I will continue to support the local option tax.  This is an important tool that local governments should have, and they want to have it.  However, it was unnecessary and inappropriate to attempt to use the Idaho Constitution to address the local option tax.  Among the reasons the I opposed the amendment to the constitution:
  1.                  It required 66% local voter approval, even thought some local governments can now approve a sales tax on a 60% margin;
  2.                  It required that all counties within a transportation region or other regional planning area meet the 66% requirement.  This would have meant that 34% of the voters in one county could prevent local transportation funding from being approved in an entire region.
  3.                  It proposed limiting approval of local option funding to one date per year, meaning that once a measure would fail, even in one county, it would take an entire year before voters could try again.
  4.                  It is unnecessary to address this issue in the Constitution.  It can be successfully addressed in statute.
  Although this proposed amendment to the Idaho Constitution received the 2/3 favorable vote required in the House, the Senate declined to give it approval.

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