Japan-Idaho Economic Relations
I can tell the end of session is in sight. The Statehouse is abuzz as legislation makes its way through both governing bodies. This week the House rejected the State Board of Education budget which, I am told, was in part a protest brought on by some House members who were not included in the process to develop the State’s new Education Funding Formula. Regardless, JFAC will rework this budget starting early next week with high hopes to get it through the House, the Senate, and signed by Governor Little. Budgets aside, two topics that are getting a lot of conversation and will likely be our “going home” issues are… yep, you guessed it! Education Funding Formula as mentioned above and Medicaid.
This week I was the floor sponsor for Senate Bill 1171, Idaho’s Medicaid budget. The Medicaid budget is Idaho’s largest all-funds budget at just over $2.8 billion or nearly one-third of the state’s entire budget. SB 1171 included the $197.3 million estimated cost of Medicaid expansion for six months of fiscal year 2020. This large amount, the rising costs of healthcare and the overall funding of Medicaid has caused some considerable debate in the Senate. While the debate has been full of energy, it was thoughtful and members were well spoken. Unfortunately, resolving this complex issue and the escalating costs of healthcare is beyond the Senate’s authority. Ultimately, the debate concluded and passed the Senate with overwhelming support. SB 1171 is now headed to the House for a vote.
It is important to note that Medicaid expansion goes beyond funding. Hearings have started about the conditions placed upon Medicaid expansion. I don’t support adding any particular conditions, but I want to make it known that I would consider conditions that protect the integrity and future funding requirements of the program. What I mean is that we need the flexibility to reconsider this expansion if the federal government changes their participation in funding the program. This is important because if that were to happen it would ultimately jeopardize Idaho’s general funds budget. Conditions that include an implementation cost will require a benefit that exceeds the cost for my support. To sum it up, we must implement Medicaid in a fiscally responsible manner ensuring its longevity.
I think we can all agree that, as Idahoans, we recognize how our public schools are funded and that it is not only inadequate, but needs change. With that said, making a change that affects so many people is difficult. Many legislators and stakeholders have spent a large amount of time working on this funding revision over the last three years, which was made public last fall. As with any important change, it has received considerable input and scrutiny. Citizens' concerns were addressed by many legislators to revise the model, and as I write to you now, the new model is being reviewed again. In the end we hope to have a product that we can begin implementing this year. We’ll know soon.
I would like to encourage you to log onto legislature.idaho.gov where you will find bills, committee recordings and live stream videos of our House and Senate floor sessions.
I like hearing from you about important legislation, please continue to be involved so we can ensure good work is being completed by your legislature. Lastly, don't forget to connect with me on Facebook.
Japan-Idaho Economic Relations
On Monday, the Consul-General of Japan in Portland, Mr. Takashi Teraoka, joined Governor Little, Idaho Legislators, and leaders in the Idaho business community to discuss economic relations between Japan and Idaho. As one of our largest trade partners and export markets, Japan continues to seek partnerships with Idaho in business, foreign direct investments, research, and technology.
One commonality between the Gem State and Japan is the deep-rooted belief that relationships matter and that fostering these business ties strengthens Idaho. One example discussed during the meeting is the “sister city” relationship between Idaho Falls and Tokai-mura in Japan, which has led to companies, such as Sakae Casting, to expand their markets into the United States through direct investment in Idaho. Japan’s industry leaders not only realize the similar values and work ethics they share with Idahoans, they also appreciate how Idaho thrives on both small family businesses and large corporations.
Associated Students of Boise State University at the Capitol
The Associated Students of Boise State University held a reception in the Capitol rotunda this week. Students, campus administrators, lawmakers, and the Governor came together to celebrate Boise State University’s contributions in the community and Idaho at large. Student body officers from BSU organized the event, which fostered interactions between students and their respective legislators to discuss current and important issues in education. Governor Little also spoke at the reception, announcing his declaration of March 13, 2019 as Boise State University Day.
Reducing Government ‘Red Tape’ – Changes to Idaho’s Nonprofit Utility’s Law
This week the Senate unanimously passed legislation to reduce the ‘red tape’ and associated unnecessary costs for Idaho’s nonprofit utility cooperatives pertaining to unclaimed patronage capital credits.
Member-owned and member-managed nonprofit utility cooperative organizations, represented by groups like the Idaho Consumer-Owned Utilities Association and the Idaho Telecom Alliance, deliver electric power, telephone, broadband, and other services to hundreds of thousands of Idahoans in hundreds of communities throughout Idaho. Due to the companies’ nonprofit status, any excess revenues made by the companies are returned to their members as patronage capital credits. When these credits go unclaimed, existing law requires this unclaimed property be reported to the Idaho State Treasurer’s office and kept on the utility companies’ books forever - with no expiration date.
This current law requires extra work for the state and the utilities and costs Idaho rate payers additional money each year – driving up utility bills.
The new law would limit the time that Idaho utilities would be required to maintain records and report these unclaimed patronage capital credits. In short, the bill will help Idaho utilities reduce costs and thereby keep utility rates low. Click here to read this legislation.
Coalition of Idaho Charter Families at the Capitol
The Coalition of Idaho Charter Families met at the Capitol this Wednesday with legislators to showcase their virtual school. The coalition is an organization consisting of students, parents, grandparents and teachers who support the expansion of school choice in Idaho and the provision of equal funding. Online schools in Idaho aim to serve a wide spectrum of student needs, including those needing a customized instructional setting, those in an economically disadvantaged situation, and those students at high risk of not graduating high school.