Idaho House of Representatives
Democratic Leadership State Capitol P.O. Box 83720 Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
For immediate release – Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Democrats Continue to Fight for Hearings on Key “Going-Home Bills” Republicans Unwilling to Have Debate on Critical Issues of Public Concern
(BOISE)—House Democrats are continuing to press for bill hearings on two pieces of legislation that citizens are clamoring for. These bills pertain to the Legislature’s two largest responsibilities: public education and health and human services.
“We are making devastating cuts to vital healthcare services for the citizens of Idaho,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche. “We are cutting our public schools, raising class sizes, and laying off teachers in school districts all over the state. This entire session has been about slash-and-burn budgeting and the weakening or elimination of the public structures that protect our communities and stimulate prosperity. Many people in Idaho believe there’s a better way to approach our budget challenges and our education policies—we are standing up for all of those people.”
When the sponsor of H319 asked unanimous consent that the bill not be read prior to debate, Democrats objected to the request, requiring that the bill be read in full according to House rules.
“All we’re asking is that the Republican leadership team simply give a hearing to two pieces of legislation that many voters throughout Idaho have contacted us about,” stated House Assistant Minority Leader Elfreda Higgins. “Any blame for extending the session can be assumed by Republican leadership, who are abusing the legislative process by refusing to give legislation that has substantial public support a hearing in committee. They can free up this logjam quickly and easily by introducing the bills and putting them on a committee meeting agenda.”
The two bills in question are a tobacco tax bill that has at least some bi-partisan support in the Legislature and strong public support, with a poll suggesting that 70% of Idahoans are in favor of such a policy change. The bill would raise a pack of cigarettes $1.25 and is expected to generate over $50 million in revenue. It’s estimated that Idaho spends $300 million per year on tobacco-related illness—a tobacco tax hike would significantly reduce smoking and those costs. The second bill is an advisory ballot
bill that would place the Otter-Luna Plan education bills (S1108, S1110 and S1184) on the 2012 general election ballot for voter approval.
“If Republicans want to suggest that standing up for good policy and the integrity of the legislative process is a waste of money, I suggest taxpayers question the time Republicans have consumed with frivolous, sometimes unconstitutional, and even meaningless legislation,” said House Minority Caucus Chairman Brian Cronin. “Several weeks were spent hearing and debating the original “Nullification” bill, two other nullification bills (once the original bill failed), a bill to usurp the authority of the Attorney General’s office, a guns on campus bill, and many others. House Democrats are simply asking for hearings on two substantive bills that have overwhelming public support. Are we here to debate ideas and policy or simply to ratify ideological wedge issues?”
To refute the claim that their protest tactics are extending the session or that Republicans are serious about adjourning quickly, Democrats point out that 30 new bills have been introduced in House committees this past week and a half alone. In addition, the Republicans’ closed primary bill was introduced today in the Senate and will likely require several days to move through the process. The court case leading to this bill will cost taxpayers $100,000, which will go toward reimbursing the Idaho Republican Party’s lawyers.
For more information, contact: Representative John Rusche: (208) 750-6048, firstname.lastname@example.org Representative Brian Cronin: (208) 332-1134, email@example.com Representative Elfreda Higgins: (208) 332-1135, firstname.lastname@example.org