Greetings from our state capitol! The state legislative session for 2018 is underway and has just completed its first week as I write this. The session will run through to the end of March and the 105 legislators from all corners of the state are busily working on the issues from their constituents and their areas.
On the opening day of the session we listened to Gov. Butch Otter provide his “State of the State” address. Gov. Otter outlined what he believes to be priorities for the state for this year which is also his final year as our governor. Gov. Otter’s priorities included funding for K-12 public education, work to provide health insurance access for more Idaho citizens, and, providing a reduction in taxes that Idahoans and Idaho businesses pay.
The state economists are telling us that Idaho’s economy has rebounded from the historic downturn that began almost 10 years ago now and lasted for several years. The Idaho Dept. of Commerce tells us that analysis of data shows Idaho is the number one top performing economy in the United States, third for business friendliness, fourth for finding a job, and the fastest growing state in the nation. These are all very good indicators that Idahoans are doing better economically. But we have a way to go, especially in our rural areas — like ours — that are not seeing as quick a rebound as the more populated areas of the state.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and co-chair of the Joint Finance and Appropria-tions Committee, much of my time is spent reviewing the state’s budget for this year and determining what the state budget will be for our next fiscal year that begins July 1. I also serve on the Senate Transportation Committee.
I’ll also be working on several issues that constituents at home have asked for me to tackle including updating our Lakes Commission statue and providing additional money so that the commission has adequate resources to be sure we are represented in matters like the Columbia River Treaty negotiations, Albeni Falls mitigation work group, and other proceedings regarding the federal Columbia River Power System Operations and the Idaho Invasive Species Council. It is important for our water quality and water quantity issues that the Lakes Commission has the tools its needs to represent our area’s concerns during these important decision-making deliberations. I will be working on other items as well and will write about them in future columns.
I’m about out of space and there is so much more activity occurring at your state legislature. With the internet, the miles between us and the Capitol can be shrunk, and you can keep tabs on the work being done at the Legislature’s web site: www.legislature.idaho.gov
You can see all the bills, the meeting agendas, listen to committee hearings, watch the work on the Senate and House floors, email your legislators — or every legislator if you wish to — and even construct your own list of bills you’d like to keep track of if you are not interested in every one of them on the list! I encourage you to stay tuned and to stay in touch! I can be contacted via our Information Center by phone: Toll free 1-800-626-0471. I can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 represents Bonner and Boundary counties in the Idaho Senate, District 1.