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Capital Report: District 7 legislators weigh in on 2015 issues from education to lands



BOISE – With the 2015 Idaho Legislative Session under way, District 7 legislators are weighing in on the issues they would like to see addressed this year.

For Senator Sheryl Nuxoll, education, Common Core and parental rights sit near the top of the list.

“The biggest issue in the Common Core program,” said Nuxoll, “is not only the federal intrusion into our states and children’s lives and taking away parental control… but the fact that, from what I have studied of Common Core, it does not take into account the psychological stages of children and the curriculum does not coincide with their stages of development.”

According to Nuxoll, Common Core is too abstract for younger children up to the sixth grade, whose mental capability, Nuxoll said, is more geared to memorization than understanding. Nuxoll also took issue with how English and language arts are handled in the current system.

“There is definitely a prejudice or push,” said Nuxoll, “leaning toward values that I don’t value or Christians don’t value. And the tests reflect that and the teachers have to teach to the tests.”

Representative Paul Shepherd also feels that education is an issue that needs to be addressed this year. For Shepherd funding is the priority. “When the recession set in we cut its pay scheme quite a bit,” said Shepherd, “and we’re trying to restore that back.”

Shepherd, who is vice-chair of the Transportation and Defense committee, also said funding transportation in order to maintain and repair Idaho’s roads and bridges should be a topic of discussion.

“1998 was the last time we raised transportation [funding] and the inflation has been pretty severe, so they do definitely have a problem.”

Shepherd believes growing the economy rather than further taxation is the best way to cover the gap between transportation funding and need. However, he indicated he would be more receptive to a proposed fuel tax increase than higher vehicle registration fees, which he characterized as unfair.

“Somebody may drive their pickup to get their firewood two or three times a year,” said Shepherd, “and then another guy like me may be traveling all over the state, to see my constituents, and so your rate should be based on the fuel tax, because that’s the most fair way. It covers the bigger vehicles and the more miles.”

Representative Shannon McMillan agrees that transportation funding is an issue that requires attention. Citing poor conditions on highways in Shoshone County, McMillan said repairing and maintaining the roads is even more critical than education funding.

“There are more things that need to be done to the roads, than there is to education.” McMillan said that there are no transportation funding measures that she supports but will wait to see what options are available as the session continues. “I don’t believe in a gas tax. Finally the gas is down to where it’s at a reasonable level, I don’t think we should put a tax on it to hit the person who’s at the pumps.” said McMillan, ”Registration I think is high enough, but we’ll see.”

Important to both Nuxoll and Shepherd is the legal transfer of federal lands in Idaho to Idaho.

“I believe the state can do a better job of managing the land than the federal government,” said Nuxoll, “and we’re closer to the land so we know better what the land needs.”

Representative Shepherd believes that Idaho could come out ahead financially from assuming control of the lands despite reports from the Idaho Conservation League indicating the action would cost Idaho more than $2 billion during the next 20 years.

“I don’t think that was a very reasonable report at all, very deceptive.” said Shepherd, “We have the facts on the ground, the state’s been managing that land for almost 100 years and we know what the revenue will be. It’s not a guess. It’s not somebody’s opinion. It’s an actual fact and when you take 16 times more land you should get somewhere near 16 times more revenue.” Shepherd estimates Idaho stands to gain almost $1 billion from raw materials alone and 5-6 times that in economic growth if the lands are transferred to the state.

Representative Shepherd expressed an interest in continuing his efforts from last year to form an interim committee to review the present form of government.

“There’s so many things now that are happening with the interpretation of commerce laws, the gay rights issues, all of that come under state’s rights and the 10th Amendment and I think we’ve pretty much left the 10th Amendment now.” said Shepherd, “That’s why I want to review to see. If we have, and I turn out right that we have left the 10th Amendment, it’s very important we get back to it because so many issues are involved with that.”

Shepherd also said that he will attempt to bring a concurrent resolution calling for the impeachment of Supreme Court judges who are “not going by their oath of office any longer.”

“I totally disagree,” said Shepherd, “that the Supreme Court can change anything. They can only uphold the law. So if this is a change to allow gay marriage then that’s a change to the definition of marriage and I think we need some justices to be impeached. If we’re going to change a law that major and a definition that major, there’s only one way that can be done and that’s through constitutional amendment.”

Senator Nuxoll also suggested action in the judicial system, but in the form of term limits for judges.

“I would like to see our constitutional rights to liberty, freedom of religion, parental rights, morals, that the courts would stand up for those rights. So I would like to see term limits for judges,” she said.

Nuxoll also said she is opposed to Medicaid expansion. “We have actually added 25,000 more people to Medicaid without Medicaid expansion,” said Nuxoll, “We’re not gaining anything by medical expansion to help the people. The costs are just going to go up for people to pay taxes, the cost for doctors are going go up because they don’t make money, and the people themselves are not going to get very good care because doctors are already overloaded.”

-- Jeff Myers is a University of Idaho student working on a journalism internship through the McClure Center. He will be covering this year’s legislative session on District 7 issues for the Idaho County Free Press.



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