Newsletter: January 26, 2015

January 28, 2015

Rules Review
The Senate and House Health and Welfare Committee (and all committees) found themselves neck deep in rule review. The H&W committees each wade through two 4 inch loose-leaf binders full of proposed agency rule changes. It will take those legislators about 3 weeks to read and vote to accept or reject each rule. It is a herculean effort of hours of reading to understand the complicated rules. Yet it is arguably one of the most important tasks the legislature performs each session. Rules review provides a critical check and balance on agencies to ensure the agencies follow the intent of law.

Gambling
In 2013, the legislature passed a bill that allowed historical video horse race betting. When first hearing the proposal, I thought, how could anyone want to bet on a race that had been run months or years ago? The machines contain a library of past races. Bits of horse information are given, and the bet is placed. The last few seconds of the horse race video is played on the machine, and the horses can be seen crossing the finish line. Bets can be placed, races run, winners or losers declared in less than 15 seconds. The machines look like slot machines and play like slot machines. Due to a question of Constitutionality, legislation was introduced this week in Senate State Affairs to repeal historical video horse racing. I voted against the original legislation, and will support repealing this type of gambling.

Education
Two legislators introduced legislation proposing to increase Idaho’s national rank in education through a strengthening of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program. The objective is to see Idaho’s K-12 education excel, partly by focusing in the fields of agriculture technology, computer science and energy, engineering, and math, which will equip students to pursue STEM degrees beyond high school and be able to compete in a global workforce. Reinforcing STEM education will lead students to higher paying jobs when their education is completed.

The education committees are holding hearings on some of the Governor’s education task force recommendations. The rules concerning teacher licensure and pay increases are being discussed. State testing standards and the state tests are also being reviewed. One concern is that the testing is perhaps too extensive and takes students from the classroom for too many hours during the school year. There may be ways to streamline testing.

President visit to Boise
The President met with Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Boise christain Pastor Saad Abendini, who is illegally held in prison in Iran. Senate and House leadership, at the request of the legislature, sent letters requesting that the President make Pastor Abedini’s release a top priority. Lt. Governor Little delivered the letters to the President and encouraged him to do more to ensure the Pastor’s release.

Please feel free to contact me at sbair@senate.idaho.gov and issues of concern to you.

Senator Steve Bair
Chairman, Senate Resources and Environment Committee

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