As my first update of the New Year, I hope to provide some valuable information that will keep my constituents informed on what's going on and relay what might be expected from me now that I will be in session.
I left Coeur d'Alene on January 4th to be in Boise in time to participate in the Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee and the various inaugural celebrations. As for the Committee work, in short – this is where assessments are made for multiple economic indicators to determine what the starting budget will represent, revenues, etc. This will determine how we proceed in our constitutional obligation to balance the Idaho State Budget: Article VII, Section XI of the Idaho Constitution provides that "No appropriation shall be made, nor any expenditure authorized by the legislature, whereby the expenditure of the state during any fiscal year shall exceed the total tax then provided by law…." This committee work takes place before six weeks of 108 agency budget presentations, which take place every day for the first three hours of each day, followed by six weeks of making motions and voting on the various budgets.
The committee tasked with this endeavor, the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (JFAC), is comprised of 10 members from House and ten from the senate, making up this joint committee. This committee is unique, as it is responsible for budget-related issues, approving and appropriating how the government is funded and has less to do with policy. I will be the vice chair to Senator Grow, the committee chairman, and will spend much of my time studying budgets and participating in sub-committees. Along with my work on JFAC, I will also be a member of the Health and Welfare Committee. This is also a very demanding committee; it comprises the most significant fund outlay of the state budget, Medicaid, etc. Between these two committees, I will spend much of my time researching. I hope it does not preclude me from moving a couple of bills forward that I have been working on; a 3-month session will go by much quicker than I could have anticipated. With that said, I don't want to misrepresent the effect of being new to this process. Although I am learning quite a bit, I will know what to expect once I have finished my first session.
Most people reading this will understand that there is much prep work in moving important legislation forward. The prep starts well before the first day of the session, sometimes on the last day, to be ready for next year's session. Thankfully, we have many bills waiting to be brought forward, and we hope they'll be voted through both houses and gain the governor's signature. My intent in initially running for senate has always been to make a difference, to bring a representative government back to Idaho citizens, and be led by my Christian values and principles. This intent will continue to guide me as I begin my first session.
Additionally, I want to be as responsive as possible to my constituent's concerns. My website will be a valuable portal for providing information and gathering names and information on those who want to continue supporting me in my efforts. With that said, please be patient if you have reached out with a concern – I will always endeavor to be responsive, but it will not be for diminishing current efforts. While I am in session; in committee or subcommittee; on the senate floor, or in a meeting, I will not be on my phone taking calls or looking at email. This is a personal battle I have been waging for some time now; to be present, respect the institution, and not let my efforts be watered down by the trappings of technology. In turn, I will, when the time comes, give my wholehearted attention to those who have so graciously put me into office.
We are in a battle where no one person can win the war; it will take everyone working in their niche, with their own talents, working in concert and complimenting the total effort. I will continue doing what I believe is my calling, and I ask for your continued prayers and support as I try to make the needed changes and make that difference.
Till next time – take care,