[Vision2020] Legislative Newsletter V - February 6-10, 2012

Rep. Tom Trail ttrail at moscow.com
Sat Feb 11 09:03:20 PST 2012

There was a good piece of
news this week as the tax receipts for January came in at about $6.5
million over projections.  
This puts us about $113 million ahead for the fiscal year.    March and April are the
important months to watch for in terms of income taxes coming in to the
Tax Auditors hired  -  In the House Commerce and Human
Resources Committee we heard a budget request from the Idaho Department of
Labor.   The hiring of one
auditor for three years ($200,000) to track down false claims, etc.
connected with unemployment benefits will yield more than $3.5
million.  This is certainly a
good investment.
Gas Drilling (“Fracking”)  -   The House Resources and Conservation
Committee voted 16-0 giving the State oversight of gas drilling.    Carloads of residents
from Washington and Payette counties came in to protest the legislation
saying that counties and citizens should have more say on drilling
rules.  Many residents are
afraid of what will happen when oil companies drill for natural gas using
the “fracking” technique.   This occurs when a package of
“chemicals” is released coupled with explosives to fracture
the rock strata and release more of the oil and natural gas for
One of the problems is that
the companies will not disclose the contents of their “chemical
cocktail” because of so called trade secret protection. Several
Payette citizens have already complained about of gas getting into their
water system.  Fracking
techniques used in other states have contaminated wells and changed the
course of aquifers.  
Legislation is several states is aimed at outlawing the
technique.   One local
Republican who described himself as a standard issue Republican told the
committee he didn’t understand why lawmakers are so concerned with
the federal government usurping states” rights when they would
approve a law that did the same to local government.  Frankly, the legislation leaves
little opportunity for local people to meaningfully shape industry
plans.    Many land
use planning and local ordinances will be overridden if the legislation
passes.   Several months
ago Lt. Governor, Brad Little, said that our most precious resource is
water and that anything that might possible threaten to lower the quality
of this resource or potentially be a public health threat should not be
legitimized in Idaho.   I
asked several representatives from oil companies if they could provide a
100% guarantee that fracking would not contaminate domestic water supplies
or change the course or damage aquifers.   They told me that no one
could make that guarantee.    Frankly, I think unless
that guarantee can be made we must honor the General Welfare Clause of the
Idaho Constitution and protect our public’s health.
“8 in 6 Program” – early high school/college
graduation - The House approved a bill promoting early
college graduation.   The
bill called the “8 in 6 Program” would allow students to take
summer courses with the state picking up a large portion of the tab to
finish junior high and high school coursework early and get started on
college through dual enrollment courses.  Students could then complete junior
high, high school and two years of college in six year and not eight.  There would be a substantial
savings for the student and family (estimated at about $10,000) to enable
the student to complete two years of college courses through this
-  There appears to be a
great deal of support for the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission or IGEM
legislation proposed by Governor Otter.  He has proposed $2 million in state
funding for research projects that yield economic results.   IGEM would create working
partnerships between the public and private sectors to build up the
state’s knowledge base economy. 
It’s designed to increase the research capacity of
Idaho’s universities in strategic areas that can help Idaho’s
competitiveness in the global marketplace.  Both Utah and Virginia have used
this approach very successfully to promote research and economic
PERSI Retirement Program  -  I thought you might be interested
in a few facts about the PERSI retirement program in Idaho.  Last year $578 million was paid by
PERSI to retirees, and $515 million went to retirees living in Idaho.   About $23 million was paid
out to retirees in Latah County. 
There are 65,000 active PERSI members and 35,000 retired
members.  There are over 737
total employer units in the state.   PERSI continues to be rated as
one of the best State Pension plans in the country and is now approaching
some $12 billion in the portfolio.   A 1% COLA will be paid out to
retirees in March.
Education, SPI Tom Luna, and Teachers’
Salaries  -  On Monday and Tuesday I met with
SPI Tom Luna.    Luna
wants to put $19 million back into the teacher salary pool to offset a
2.38 percent salary cut planned for 2012-13.   Reinvesting in Idaho’s
talented and dedicated teachers is simply the right thing to do.  We also need to support a 3 percent
salary increase for our faculty and staff at our universities and colleges
and also state employees who have not had a salary increase for four
years.    Rep. Ringo
and I talked with the SPI about our legislative proposal to reinstate the
teachers National Board Certification program.   Last year funding for this
program was cut off.  
Teachers involved in the NBC program undergo extensive training,
and research results clearly show that the graduates of the program are
superior teachers.   SPI
Luna indicated that when he was on the Nampa School Board that he clearly
saw that teachers who had gone through the NBC program were superior
teachers.    He was
supportive of our efforts and we continue to work on the legislation.
We are in that period
between Ground Hog Day and April Fool’s Day and it well to remember
what Mark Twain said, “Once the Legislature is in session no
man’s life or property is safe.”     Please send me
your comments to:

ttrail at house.idaho.gov 
thomasftrail at gmail.com
My phone is 208-332-1184
Rep. Tom Trail
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