Below is my Newsletter from January 26th:
Happy 2016! We are off and running, down here at the capitol building. The legislative session started two weeks ago, and we are busy reviewing the rules created by the Administration (separate branch of government) to implement the new laws we, the Legislative branch, passed last session.
Did you know that Idaho is very unusual in our power, as legislators, to review the rules? Only a few state legislatures have the ability to accept or reject the rules which put new laws into action. Even our US Congress cannot reject a rule made by an administrative department to implement a law Congress passed, even if the rule does not align with the intent of Congress.
Rules are how Common Core came into Idaho, back several years ago. It was through a rule relating to education, and was not called common core, I’m told, and most say it was not explained well by the administration official who brought the rule. The House and Senate Education committees reviewed the rule, along with numerous other rules and allowed them to go forward. Then the whole House and Senate passed a huge “omnibus bill” of all the rules approved by all the committees. We can learn from that experience–taking time and care with the rules is essential.
My three committees are the same as last year: Education, Agriculture, Judiciary & Rules. Education is the most active right now, with some important decisions coming already through the rules. Surprisingly, the State Dept. of Ed asked us, this past week, to reject three of their rules because they found errors in them which will be corrected and brought back to us next year. There are also new Science Standards to approve or reject by rule. These are quite controversial and have many people emailing and phoning into our offices.
The language in some of the proposed science standards is problematic in that it depicts certain science as absolute. The scientific method is renown for its constant questioning and pursuit of new information, as well as being open to varying viewpoints. The proposed standards do not reflect that mindset and may need to be reworked.
On the Judiciary & Rules Committee, in addition to rules review, we have met the Magistrate Judges and enjoyed their presentation on the various specialty courts in Idaho. Did you know we have separate Drug Courts, Juvenile Courts, Family Courts, Domestic Violence Courts, Mental Health Courts and Problem-Solving Courts? These courts have a high rate of success in helping people effectively turn their lives around. We will hear from the District Court Judges this week, followed by the Supreme Court Judges soon.
The Agriculture Committee is starting out with some rule concerns about testing procedures for new types of bean seeds. Growing crops for seed is a big segment of Idaho agriculture, and they are shipped all over the world. Seed diseases can be devastating, so great care is given to when and how research seeds are handled.
In addition to the urban renewal interim committee legislation, I’m also working on three separate bills to make elections more open and accountable for voters. It’s very interesting to work with others on all sides to make our government responsive to citizens.