2020 Idaho legislative session has begun

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Woodward

The second regular session of the 65th Idaho Legislature has convened. For Legislative District 1, which is all of Boundary County and most of Bonner County, Representative Sage Dixon, Representative Heather Scott, and I are back in Boise working to express the combined will of more than 44,000 people. We are part of a body of 105 Idahoans who make up the legislative branch of state government.

Rule review takes up a significant portion of the first two to three weeks every session. When a bill is passed into law, the executive branch, under the governor, writes rules for implementing the law. Laws are typically written as intent, such that they are longer lasting, whereas rules are the details where the rubber meets the road. Normally, we review new rules resulting from legislation in the previous session.

This year is different. Because all 8,000 pages of rules were not re-authorized last session, we will now review not only new rules, but all existing rules. When the rules were not re-authorized last session, the executive branch looked upon the situation as a great way to do some spring cleaning. The Idaho Administrative Procedures Act rules will now have just over 6,000 pages. The intent is that they are easier to understand and that we have less regulation. (adminrules.idaho.gov)

Rule review is progressing smoothly with one exception. There is a proposal to change the rule review process. Currently, one chamber of the Legislature can approve a rule as presented by an agency. The proposal is to require that both the House and Senate must concur to approve a rule. The debate over this proposal was the reason existing rules were not re-authorized last session. Our current system of legislative rule review has been in place since 1969 and was even added to the Idaho Constitution in 2016. Legislative oversight of agency rules is important. The political debate is a struggle between the House and Senate. If the change were made though, the more significant result is a shift in the balance of power between the executive branch and the legislative branch.

I continue to serve on the Finance Committee and the Education Committee. The Finance Committee works jointly with the House Appropriations Committee to set the state budget. In the next few months we will settle on a budget somewhere around $9.4 billion for FY2021. Just over a quarter of that $9.4 billion will go toward our education system. In the proposed education budget is more money for teacher salaries for the purpose of taking some of the load off property taxes. The budget also funds Medicaid Expansion, primarily through savings in other parts of the budget. The savings are a result of insurance coverage through the expansion. We are also using money from the tobacco settlement as a big piece of Medicaid Expansion funding. https://dfm.idaho.gov/

The Clark Fork/Pend Oreille River Basin water adjudication is still in the works also. With funding authorization this session, we can expect to see the Idaho Department of Water Resources to start taking claims sometime in mid-2021. (https://idwr.idaho.gov)

Thank you for the opportunity to represent the community at the state level. I look forward to hearing concerns and input on legislative actions. The easiest way to track legislation is on the legislative website, found at legislature.idaho.gov. Email is the best way to reach me and my email is jwoodward@senate.idaho.gov .

Sen. Jim Woodward represents District 1, Bonner and Boundary counties, in the Idaho Senate. He can be reached at jwoodward@senate.idaho.gov .

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