Idaho's three Democratic legislators met in Pocatello on Saturday to hold a community question and answer session. Many topics were addressed, but all circulated around money, and the lack thereof.
Starting off the discussion were many questions regarding the "Add the Words" campaign, focused on adding "gender identity and sexual orientation" to Idaho's Constitution. Also discussed was Idaho's new stance that it won't recognize any married same-sex couple filing for joint state taxes.
The legislators said that will likely be an ongoing struggle, but said they are making bipartisan progress - education is on everyone's minds on both sides of the aisle.
"The local people have stepped up when it's the state's responsibility," said District 29 Representative Elaine Smith. "We need to fund education, period."
There are other topics Idaho will likely not see addressed this year. The legislators said Governor Butch Otter said "no" to Medicaid expansion, but possibly in 2015. Legislators did say to expect guns to be addressed, especially in regards to lowering the hunting age and allowing trained students to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
"Everybody's afraid of the NRA and citizens that belong to it, and think we're affecting their second amendment rights," said Roy Lacey, District 29 Senator. "We're not affecting any second amendment rights."
The did say the Legislature was discussing creating three mental health facilities, one each in Boise, Couer d'Alene and Idaho Falls, hoping that will decrease prison overcrowding and increase mental health help for those who need it. But they said high inmate populations stem from other problems as well, like lacking wages and, again, lacking education funding.
"I think we have something like 60 million dollars in a public education slush fund that we've been holding there, even though our schools are going without," Lacey said. "So we're going to be looking some of that. We need to make this on a more level playing field and start doing things for our citizens."
The legislators also gave some websites you can go to for the latest on what's happening with the legislature. The suggested the blog of Betsy Russell, writer for the Spokesman Review. Her blog is here: www.spokesman.com/blogs/boise.
The legislators also said all their sessions are streamed online one the Idaho Public Television website here: www.idahoptv.org/insession.
Finally, the legislators all said to contact them and make your voice heard. You can contact your Democratic Legislators the following ways:
- Roy Lacey - firstname.lastname@example.org - 208-232-7053
- Caroline Meline - email@example.com - 233-3211
- Elaine Smith - firstname.lastname@example.org - 208-237-1462
You can find your Republican Legislators the following ways:
- Jim Guthrie - email@example.com - 208-254-3605
- Ken Andrus - firstname.lastname@example.org - 208-776-5380
- Kelly Packer - email@example.com - 208-241-3350