Legislators prepare for 2019 session

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  • Heather Scott

  • 1

    Sage Dixon

  • 2

    Jim Woodward

  • Heather Scott

  • 1

    Sage Dixon

  • 2

    Jim Woodward

SANDPOINT — The Idaho Legislature will have many new faces as the 2019 session convenes this month, and with that turnover comes some new, as well as some familiar, committee assignments for District 1 lawmakers.

District 1 Idaho Rep. Sage Dixon has been selected to serve as chairman of the House Business Committee for the 2019 legislative session.

Dixon, who was recently re-elected to his position as state representative, was chosen to serve as chairman by the House leadership team and the Idaho Speaker of the House, Scott Bedke.

“I am thankful for the trust the speaker has in my leadership abilities,” Dixon said in a statement. “And I am excited for the opportunity to influence legislative procedure within the state of Idaho.”

The House Business Committee is an influential committee that affects the lives of many Idaho workers and families, Dixon said. It is responsible for handling all legislation dealing with real estate, insurance, banking, financial services, building codes and occupational licensing. Dixon said the chairmanship is “a chance to continue the strong voice District 1 has had in the Legislature.”

Seven committee chairmanships were open as membership was shuffled around after the 2018 general election. Dixon said he was offered the choice between two different chairmanships and opted for the Business Committee.

“I felt the Business Committee would be the best fit for me to serve District 1, because I have served on that committee for four years,” Dixon said. “This experience has allowed me to understand how it works and the important decisions that need to be made.”

Serving as a chairman of a committee is a “badge of honor” for legislators, he said, demonstrating the trust that the House leadership has in their ability to lead and make decisions. Dixon has served on several committees in the past and this coming session, in addition to chairing the Business Committee, will also serve on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee and the House Transportation and Defense Committee.

Rep. Heather Scott, who was also recently re-elected to the position of state representative, will serve on three committees — State Affairs; Judiciary, Rules and Administration; and Environment, Energy and Technology.

The State Affairs Committee includes statewide policy issues such as elections, gambling, e-cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol, Article 5 convention, abortion and firearms, among others, Scott said. Judiciary and Rules includes courts, prisons, probation and sentencing, attorney and judge issues, juvenile justice, criminal activities and more. Environment, Energy and Technology includes energy issues, proposed 5G network, hazardous waste, water and environmental quality, and recycling among other issues.

“I have served on all of these committees in the past and know that the issues discussed in them are critical to putting Idaho on the correct path for the future,” Scott said. “I will continue to push for all issues brought to these committees to be debated openly and not sequestered in a chairman’s drawer. I am very pleased with my committee assignments and hope to bring awareness to the Idaho Legislature about important District 1 issues, like the proposed smelter project in North Idaho, water adjudication and access to our natural resources.”

Sen. Jim Woodward, who was elected in November to replace retiring Sen. Shawn Keough, will serve on the Senate Finance Committee, which meets jointly with the House Appropriations committee to establish the state budget. Last year’s state budget was $8.3 billion, he said, which includes revenue from state taxes as well as federal funds. The budget typically grows based on inflation plus the increasing Idaho population, Woodward said. A few of the major items affecting the budget this year are Medicaid Expansion, the possibility of a school funding formula change based on three years of study by an interim committee, and the consideration of a new state prison. At the same time, we are facing revenue uncertainty because of changes made to federal tax law in 2017 and state tax law in 2018. I am looking forward to working on the state budget using my experience as a business owner and a Northern Lights board member,” Woodward said.

“I will work to bring funding to northern Idaho for essential transportation projects and to fund our rural schools,” he said.

Woodward will also serve on the Senate Education Committee, which he said will “hopefully” get through the school funding formula changes this year. In the longer term, Woodward said he is committed to stabilizing Idaho’s education system funding, as the state currently relies “heavily” on supplemental levies to fund a portion of the basic operations of schools. The local school district budgets are 25 to 30 percent funded through supplemental levies, he said, so there is always uncertainty whether a new supplemental levy will pass. For the people trying to manage an organization with hundreds of employees, multiple facilities, and a transportation fleet, Woodward said this uncertainty is an unnecessary and large distraction from the primary mission of educating Idaho children. When a supplemental levy does not pass, it forces a school district to make major choices about facilities closures and staffing layoffs, he said.

“As a state, we should commit to our educational system and take it off the roller coaster ride for the good of our children, Woodward said. “My campaign motto was ‘Asking to serve, ready to listen.’ I appreciate that the community has selected me to serve as your state senator. I am ready to honor the listening portion of that statement. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your ideas and input.”

District 1 legislators can be reached by email at sdixon@house.idaho.gov; hscott@house.idaho.gov; and jwoodward@senate.idaho.gov.

The Idaho Legislature will begin its 2019 session on Jan. 7.

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