House Highlights

Tom LoertscherBy State Representative Tom Loertscher

Things don’t always go as planned around this place. And sometimes it takes a bit of patience to see some things through.

It is rare for a budget bill to fail on the floor of the House but it happened with the budget for the arts last week. There were a variety of reasons all the way from funding the arts is not a role of government to spending too much to some drama in trying to make a point. No matter how you might feel about the state funding the arts, there is one thing someone reminded me of over the weekend. There is nothing quite as undead as a budget bill that fails to pass one of the houses of the legislature. It will be back and could be one of those going home bills. Patience is the operative word.

I have been receiving a lot of mail from folks who find themselves in the Obamacare gap. There is a common thread that weaves through these letters. Many of them are hard working people that find themselves unable to afford health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. How’s that for a contradiction in terms? A lot of them have chronic conditions and would benefit from improved access to primary health care. There are still ongoing talks to find enough support for block grants to health clinics for the gap. One of my colleagues asked me if I would rather spend $5 Million on this than to spend the $5 Million that has been set aside for a community college that does not yet exist. A fair question but not enough around here want to answer. This is one of those things where patience doesn’t seem to control the discussion.

Sort of along those lines, I had another thousand mile weekend. My cousin Paul Loertscher passed away and I attended the viewing in Salt Lake before returning to Boise Sunday evening. I couldn’t help but reflect on the family in which he grew up. There were 12 children in the family and they lived in what we today would call poverty but they did not seem to know it, or at least they didn’t act like it. They are a closely knit family. They have a family song they call “The Sewer Song.” One of them told me it is the only profession where you start at the top and work your way down. They had very little but they made do and somehow survived without government help. In those days there was not an earned income credit, or food stamps, or Medicaid, or WIC, or help with utilities, and on and on. But all members of the family worked hard and they made do and survived. I know that things have changed, oh, how they have changed.

I watched the news briefly Sunday Morning and the co-anchors were lamenting the change to daylight savings time. They cited a study that indicated it takes at least three weeks to recover from springing forward. I think I might have figured out what the “savings” part of daylight savings time is. You take the hour you surrender in the spring and put it in your “time account,” save it until fall and withdraw it to use then, all without interest of course. Are you buying that? I didn’t think so!

There are interesting things that take place that you don’t get a chance to hear much about at home. One example is a group of legislators that have been meeting in an effort to solve a problem we have encountered in our efforts to prevent invasive species, namely quagga muscles, from getting into our waterways. This is a serious matter because these tiny critters attach themselves to the walls of irrigation pipe and the internal workings of pumps and turbines which literally make them nonfunctional.

We are trying to find a way to step up the number of hours our inspection stations are open to inspect boats that are coming later in the evenings when our stations have been closed. Several ideas have been brought forward, one of which is to transfer the responsibility from the Department of Agriculture to a different agency. Representative Gibbs and Senator Harris and I along with several other legislators have been conversing regularly in an effort to come up with a solution.

I had a very interesting experience the other day when a gentleman dropped by wanting to visit with me. He had a young lady with him and he introduced her to me as a refugee that had come to the United States. She’s been here for some time and was very gracious and said how grateful she was to be in the United States. I asked her where she was from and she answered that she had come from Syria.

Her husband was a doctor and had been killed by the regime. After a lot of effort and a difficult process she was able to escape with her two children and come to the U.S. I asked her how she felt about our country. She said, “America is my mother.” Her children also love America and are doing well in school. She is happy to have them here where they can grow up in freedom. I asked her if she had a long-range goal of returning to Syria. Because her passport now has a stamp that says refugee, if she were to return  she would be killed. She will never be able to see her parents and family again.

Our second annual Idaho Day was celebrated on Friday and we had the privilege of having all of our living past and present governors speak to us. Governor Batt was unable to be there but we were told he was watching the proceedings via the internet. It was a rare moment to have them in the same place at the same time. They were asked to tell what made Idaho special to them.

I visited with Governor Andrus for a few moments prior to the presentation. I told him that if I were talking, I would tell about the unique landscapes of Idaho and of our wildlife and the renewing of the seasons. He told me that is what he was going to do for a couple of minutes and then “stick a stick in.” I told him that we would not know it was him if he didn’t stick a stick in. And that is exactly what he did.

A Platform Moment By Mark Fuller, Fourth Vice Chair Bonneville County Republicans

Mark Fuller

Idaho Republican Platform, Article I, Section 2, Taxation:

A. We support lower federal, state, and local taxes. High taxes are a burden on businesses, families, and individuals.

B. We believe that tax reductions can be achieved by cutting spending at every level: federal, state, and local. We believe that lower taxes will result in increased revenue to the government as the private sector will thrive.

C. We believe Idaho’s tax structure should be predictable, fair, and balanced, and that the combination of our income, sales, and property taxes will continue to provide a stable, dependable source of income for governmental needs.

D. We support true government transparency that allows the public to review all local, state, and federal government expenditures, contracts, and audits online. We support uniform accounting systems that allow taxpayers to compare and analyze government spending trends.

E. We believe that Idaho citizens should not and or shall not be taxed for federally mandated health care.

F. We believe the approval of the voter should be required prior to approval of debt – financed city projects. Municipal laws that allow public dollars to be converted to private use and government entities to compete against the private sector or divert public money to special projects without support of the taxpayer, must be repealed.

G. We support the total abolition of inheritance taxes.

H. We support a comprehensive overhaul of the federal tax system requiring universal participation.

This bylaw carefully examines Federal, state and local taxes. It condemns high taxes as a burden upon our families and ourselves. This bylaw cries out for the reduction of taxes at every level: federal, state and local. This Bylaw strongly condemns taxation for federally mandated health care and seeks the abolition of all inheritance taxes. We believe that everyone should pay something to support the purposes of government- no one should get a free ride.

Our discretionary income represents one of our greatest freedoms, the freedom to do what we wish with our own money. Every dollar extracted from taxpayers at any government level, reduces our freedom to support our families, charitable organizations, and to assist the poor. Think of the great freedom you would enjoy if you could be charitable with even 20% of the money you pay in taxes each year. As Republicans we must insist on greater economy at every level of government and take action at the ballot box to require a balanced budget. It is your money – require that it be used wisely.

Eastern Idaho Legislative Updates By Lindsay Russell Dexter

Eastern Idaho Legislative Updates

Lindsey Russell

Dear fellow liberty lovers,

I would like to sincerely thank everyone who came to the Eastern Idaho Legislative Update last week. It was a pleasure seeing everyone’s smiling faces. A special thank you to Rep. Ron Nate and his wife for their participation and support.

Today marks the end of another legislative week and while I genuinely wish I had better news to report, it saddens me to tell you the Idaho Legislature continues to introduce liberal policies and massively high budgets.

I have included Eastern Idaho lawmakers’ Freedom Index scores for your reference. If you click on the image, you can see a more in-depth breakdown of those scores.

We did have a handful of wins this week, including a victory to help counties deal with fire threats on public lands. We also learned this week that ISP pulled its bill asking for unmarked patrol cars. We were the only group opposing this bad idea and we consider this a huge victory for Idahoans.

Sadly, this week was wrought with lies, half-truths and distortions from Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon.

While the Idaho Freedom Foundation does not make it a habit of playing around in the muck, we decided this week that we’ve had enough of Packer’s lies. On Thursday, IFF President Wayne Hoffman held a press conference to explain that Packer had not only disseminated mistruths about IFF on several occasions, but had also misled her constituents regarding her liberal voting record.

It’s unfortunate that her demonstrably false allegations forced us to correct the record, but we had to take a few moments from our important work to respond. When Packer smears us, she’s also smearing people like you who care about limited government and honesty in politics.

Click here to listen to Wayne correct the record. 

Until next week,

Lindsay Russell Dexter
Senior Policy Director
Eastern Idaho Field Officer



House Highlights By State Representative Tom Loertscher

Tom Loertscher

The season of the Lincoln Day celebrations is in full swing and our part of the world is not an exception. It is what I have referred to in the past as my thousand mile weekend. For me it was a journey well worth taking and it was great to get back home and visit with folks. I can’t remember one of these events that I enjoyed more.

I have been asked to help with a working group to try and find a way forward with the discussions that are going on about Medicaid. One of the issues is about our current Medicaid plan. Since Idaho first began participating, the major effort has always been on finding the resources to pay the bills instead of developing a healthcare system in a managed care model. For that to happen Idaho must apply for a waiver to change to managed care, which would direct those on the program to less expensive primary care. It has been demonstrated in other states to reduce costs as well as provide better care.

The other element that will be looked into will be what to do with the “gap” population that the Affordable Care Act created. Governor Otter has proposed a way forward that has to this point been a hard sell. How that will all turn out is impossible to predict. This next week will be a busy one on this subject.

Many are excited about the announcement of a public-private partnership to establish a medical school in Idaho. Currently we are investing a lot of money in out of state schools for seats for medical students from Idaho. The school would be an extension of Idaho State University which currently has the mission of providing medical related education and it would be located in the Boise area. The effort would be one that would provide an incentive for our medical students to remain in Idaho. It is thought that the state funding we do in other states now could be re-directed to this effort. More details will follow shortly.

I had a representative of the new Catholic Bishop of Idaho in my office last week wanting to discuss some of the changes of emphasis they are making at this time. It was a very enjoyable meeting and he told me that they are feeling the most important thing we can all do, no matter what your religion, is to strengthen our families. I could not agree more. They would like to help along the way with any issues concerning families.

We are working our way through legislation and soon will be voting on budgets on the floor of the House. If all goes well we are on track for a shorter than normal session. That is a very big “if” knowing that the Governor may not be pleased with some items we may have to trim to keep the budget balanced as the constitution requires. Meanwhile we will soon see February revenue numbers and we are keeping our fingers crossed.