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.

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