The Idaho Legislature has been in session for four weeks and the pace is picking up. As co-chair of the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee, I have spent three hours each morning reviewing the work and budgets of Idaho’s state agencies from last year. The agencies also provide requests for the upcoming fiscal year that starts July 1. JFAC will take all that information into consideration when setting the state’s budget which we will begin to do in mid-February.
Earlier this week we heard from the Idaho Health and Welfare Department, who shared some sad information regarding suicide in Idaho. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children in Idaho. Idaho is 10th in the nation for suicide by adults. The Health & Welfare Department has requested additional funding to expand suicide prevention efforts and I support their request.
On Wednesday afternoon, I represented the interests of our area during an introductory hearing for a bill that amends the law that established our Lakes Commission. Formally known as the Priest Lake, Pend Oreille Lake, Priest River and Pend Oreille River Commission, this commission provides our area a seat at the table with the federal and state governmental agencies on issues impacting water quality and quantity in these water bodies.
Next week — the week of Feb. 5 — the Senate Resources and Environ-ment Committee will hold a full hearing for the bill. This bill will expand the Lakes Commis-sion’s authority to include being involved in issues such as the Columbia River Treaty negotiations and operations of the Albeni Falls Dam.
Wednes-day’s introductory hearing also included another bill I’m sponsoring which, if passed, would allow for flexibility of the management of the Priest Lake level. Currently, Idaho law requires the water surface level to be 3 feet at the Priest Lake Outlet Dam. This legislation would allow the lake level to range between 3 feet and 3.5 feet during the spring run off period as needed. Both bills are co-sponsored by Rep. Sage Dixon who has also spent quite a bit of time on these issues over the last two years.
You may be interested to know that the State Legislature is working on a new pilot program for remote testimony. This will allow Idahoans who do not reside in Boise area to impact the legislative process and provide testimony. Currently, the program is being tested in the House Education Committee. The closest remote testimony location for us is in Coeur d’ Alene at the North Idaho College Workforce Training Center. If you would like to provide remote testify at an upcoming House Education Committee hearing, you can find more information at this website: https://legislature.idaho.gov/sessioninfo/2018/standingcommittees/HEDU/#hcode-tab-style2remote-testimony-registration
If you don’t want to type that web address into your web browser go to legislature.idaho.gov where you will see a line that says: Let Your Voice Be Heard — Remote Testimony Pilot Project — Sign Up. Click on the words: Sign Up and you will be redirected to the page that is all about the first two hearings in this pilot effort to allow Idahoans outside of the Boise area testify to the Legislature. If the web site causes difficulties contact our Legislative Services Office at 1-208-334-2475 for assistance.
Remember you can keep tabs on the work being done at the Legislature’s website: www.legislature.idaho.gov where 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 email@example.com
Sen. Shawn Keough represents Bonner and Boundary counties in the Idaho Senate, District 1.