GRANGEVILLE In polling the group on what they thought mattered the most to them, Rep. Melissa Wintrow shared what she learned at her mother’s deathbed five years ago: What matters is who I am and how I show up.
“My mother was a Sunday school teacher, and she said the best gift God gave us is choice,” Wintrow said. “You don’t drag anybody kicking and screaming toward you, right? You create a presence around you that people want to approach. That day she taught me, you choose how you show up every day.”
Wintrow, D-Boise, representing Dist. 19, was the evening speaker for last Friday’s Feb. 16 Pizza and Politics event, held at The Gallery in Grangeville, which drew nearly 50 participants.
Wintrow said she may disagree with her colleagues on issues, their beliefs and votes for issues that go against reason, but Wintrow said what she can control is the ambassador she will be — of her family and her district — to those around her. Every interaction matters, she said.
“No matter how I feel as a Democrat outnumbered in the statehouse every day I go into work,” she said, “I think about how I choose to show up and I think about my mother.”
Along with food and socializing, the evening featured an hourlong discussion on state politics, directed by audience questions.
“Overall, the go-on rate is not very good and we’re working to improve that,” Wintrow continued, concerning a question on high school graduates – particularly in rural Idaho – furthering education at college. Helping with this are mentoring programs and recruiting good teachers, and nurturing better connections between high schools and colleges and the education programs they offer. Schools also need to be better funded, noting the state is “still digging out of that hole,” of funding cuts during the Great Recession.
Speaking later on schools, Wintrow said they are working hard to fund the career ladder, “treating teachers with respect, and paying them what they need to be paid,” and on pushing early learning and front-loaded education.
“Ages 0-4 is the best time to invest in kids. There’s a direct correlation between the lack of early learning and incarceration and we see that in the data,” Wintrow said. “We’re spending more on corrections in the state than we ever have.”
Wintrow summarized her work on legislation, H429, to close the loophole in Idaho law on how sexual assault kids are paid for, which currently requires the victim’s personal insurance can be billed for processing.
“We’re charging people’s insurance? What? Yeah, we’re doing that,” she said, to a surprised reaction in the crowd. Last week, the bill passed the House Judiciary, Rules & Administration Committee. She also discussed her legislation that for a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, a person would lose the right to possess firearms for two years.
“This isn’t about gun rights. It’s about reducing the lethality of domestic violence,” she said, “because we know, when a gun is present in a domestic violence situation it is five times more likely to be lethal.”
Wintrow touched on legislative efforts to address issues with affordable housing – “The rent stock is so low, and the rents are so high…. I don’t know how people are achieving the American dream under these conditions,” she said – and highlighted Rep. Mat Erpelding’s bill on wage theft.
“I was shocked about how many millions of dollars are being stolen from employees each year,” Wintrow said. “Wages get stolen all kinds of ways, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally.” Currently the law allows employees to go back six months to collect lost wages, but the proposal is to raise this to one year and for the Idaho Department of Labor to make the process easier.
Among the discussion questions included Dist. 7A Rep. Paul Shepherd’s bill to nullify federal law, proposed changes in state health care and Medicaid expansion, and efforts to repeal the sales tax on groceries.
“We’re in this together,” Wintrow said, noting that every legislator is representing Idaho residents, and encouraged to crowd to contact her on issues, and as well their District 7 representatives.