Pace beginning to quicken at state capitol

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Greetings from cold and snowy Boise. The weather in Boise has been very similar to the weather at home this winter. This is unusual for Boise citizens and has made for challenging driving and walking in town here as they are not used to it as we are at home.

In spite of the weather, our state legislative session has just wrapped up week number three and the pace is picking up. So far there have been 267 pieces of legislation drafted, of which 103 have been introduced. This is down from last year at this time (361) but up from the previous year’s total of 246 at this same time in 2015. This is leading to speculation that the freshmen legislators are hitting the ground running so to speak and that the volume of legislation to consider in what remains of our roughly 13-week session will be high.

As co-chair of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Senate Finance Committee I have spent much of these first three weeks in the budget committee listening to financial data from the governor’s staff as well as the state agencies. The governor has proposed a budget for our next fiscal year which begins July 1 that is about a 5.9-percent increase from last year. Roughly half of that increase is to maintain current state operations and the next step in establishment of the ‘career ladder’ for teachers within our public K-12 schools. This career ladder is designed to move our salary system for teachers into this century and to increase salaries in order to retain and attract highly qualified individuals to teach in our schools. The remainder of the governor’s proposed increase includes some growth including in our schools where the number of kids in our public schools has grown statewide.

The budget committee will listen to presentations by all of the state agencies and then begin to set budgets around the middle of February.

I also serve on the Senate Transportation Committee. One issue that has been brought to us from constituents at home is a re-naming of the Highway 95 Long Bridge across the Pend Oreille River in Sandpoint to the Veterans’ Memorial Long Bridge. Representatives of several veterans groups approached the three legislators in legislative District 1 with this idea late last session when it was too late to consider it. They have re-contacted us this session and we are interested to hear from you whether you support this idea or not. We can be contacted via our Information Center as follows: Toll free 1-800-626-0471 or via email at idleginfo@lso.idaho.gov. I can be reached directly at skeough@senate.idaho.gov

As noted at the start of this article, hundreds of bills will be presented this session and you can keep track of them via the internet at this address: www.legislature.idaho.gov where you can also watch the proceedings if you have a strong internet connection. Please let me know your thoughts, concerns, and positions on the bills of interest to you as the session moves forward. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, represents District 1 in the Idaho Senate.

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