As of Tuesday, February 7, 2017
The first month of the Idaho legislature has ended and it’s clear that education continues to be the top concern amongst Idahoans. However, it remains unclear if it is a priority during this session. The majority party has either been distracted with their own internal quarreling or has focused on legislation that harms Idaho’s national reputation and damages our economy.
Education: Our children deserve the best teachers and best schools we can afford. Idaho Democrats put education at the top of our agenda. Our rural schools have seen drastic cuts in funding and many don’t have access to broadband Internet which leaves our children without access to the latest technology they need to succeed.
Representatives Paulette Jordan (D-Plummer), and Rep. Sally Toone (D-Gooding) introduced a bill to encourage qualified teachers to work in rural school districts through a student loan forgiveness program. The program offers teachers an incentive to work in eligible rural schools impacted by a shortage of quality educators. Teachers at these schools will be eligible for up to $12,000 in student loan forgiveness over four years of service. They are receiving bipartisan support for their bill and hope to have a hearing on its merits. The time for investment in schools is now.
Economy: Over the last five years, the majority party has forced working and middle class families to raise their property taxes just to keep the lights on at their schools. This is due to poor planning and funding at the state level, and we know that poor planning leads to poor outcomes.
Last week, the majority party passed a bill to help the wealthy and the powerful. As a result, middle class families will see almost nothing and will be forced to raise their local property taxes to fund their schools. All this while those who earn more than $400,000 will see a tax cut of $1,562 — or a nice vacation.
Quality of Life: Last week, a bill was introduced that would force local police officers to unfairly profile certain members of our communities. This bill threatens the safety of all Idahoans by weakening the trust residents have in our police force. Idaho is already recognized as one of the safest states in the nation and our local law enforcement does a superb job.
The bill threatens our agricultural industry, which is the backbone of many rural Idaho communities and would target Idahoans who work hard on our farms and dairies. This unnecessary regulation is opposed by the Food Producers of Idaho and many other organizations.
If you have any concerns about pending legislation, ideas for legislation, or if you need assistance dealing with a state agency, please feel free to call us at 208-332-1132.
-- Representative Mat Erpelding (D, Dist. 19, Boise) is the Idaho House Minority Leader. He is currently serving his third term.