Press Release - Democrats Outline Legislative Agenda
For Immediate Release - Monday, January 9, 2017
BOISE – Idaho’s Democratic lawmakers gave their annual address to Idaho today in the Capitol. Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett and House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding delivered the following address to the Capitol Press Corps:
Welcome, members of the press.
We want to impress the importance of this upcoming year and legislative session, and we also want to assure you that we intend to at least try to keep this brief. It has been a busy day, and I am sure many of us here are anxious to get home before the roads are completely impassable.
Today’s state of the state made it clear to us that Governor Otter has heard how important education is to the future of Idaho. We do appreciate the governor’s constructive approach toward adopting much of our education plan. The progressive values within his proposals to tackle some of Idaho’s largest educational concerns are efforts that we are happy to continue to support. We have taken the lead on many of these ideals for the past several sessions. We hope to continue working together to address early childhood education as well as the continued rise in tuition rates which directly impact educational access.
As a caucus, we are united in our position that Idaho’s future is dependent upon a quality education, a vibrant economy, and by maintaining our quality of life. Unfortunately, it is apparent that our economic growth will become increasingly constrained by the lack of strategic vision and leadership from the majority party.
We agree that the governor has set a strategic vision by shooting for 60% post high school educational attainment, but we doubt the governor can influence the majority party to accomplish his vision. Additionally, we have great civil servants who want what is best for all of the people of Idaho. And we ask that the legislature address their lagging wages by improving their compensation.
These economic issues have serious impacts on the quality of life for communities across Idaho. There are Idaho families that continue to be squeezed, even when the overall economy is growing, due to issues of structural unemployment. The majority has not addressed the needs of these regional communities that continue to face high unemployment due to fundamental shifts in their local economy.
Every time the majority party toys with access to our public lands, it sounds attractive, but we always come back to the catastrophic economic impacts and the damage to our quality of life that will surely follow.
And while we are talking about the damage to quality of life, let’s not forget the 78 thousand Idahoans, over 10 thousand of which are veterans, that go without medical insurance because the majority party has failed to act. Not to mention we have one of the most successful exchanges in the country and these constituents must not have the rug pulled out from under them. What are the solutions for those thousands of Idahoans? At the same time, leadership has pledged to sine die by March 24th, which means that they are not prepared or willing to find solutions despite the fact that the governor has called out timid representation that seems to be more concerned with the next election than the next generation.
Much of what the legislature is responsible for can’t wait. Without strong intervention, Quagga Mussels will cost our tax payers millions of dollars in infrastructure reparations, will destroy tourism in places like Sandpoint and Bear Lake, and will irreparably impact our treasured resources. The outcome would be devastating. This last year we saw the introduction of Quagga Mussels in Montana. We are fortunate that they are not in Idaho yet. Once introduced they will be impossible to eradicate.
We have seen that our state faces some very real issues regarding cyber security. The governor was absolutely correct in his statement that we got off lucky last time. We have expressed concern about cyber security and are pleased that the governor is addressing our concerns. We look forward to working with our colleagues to build a solution that protects Idahoans, their private information, and critical state infrastructure.
If anything, what we have discussed today shows that Idahoans are not afraid to work hard. We have endured economic recession, we have seen concerned citizens fighting for civil rights and workers fighting for a fair shake. We have witnessed the government’s call for teacher accountability while firing whistle-blowers. The governor just said that our operations are more efficient and transparent than ever. Now we look to the legislature to be accountable and uphold that spirit. To that end, we will introduce legislation that creates an Office of the Inspector General. We can make change work for us. Idaho, as the governor kindly reminded us, can be a shining example of what America should be.
As former Governor Cecil Andrus said, “It is better to be for something than against something”. We are for Idaho. We are for Idahoans. We will do everything in our power to uphold our values and to ensure that we stand united. We will do the job that we were elected to do—fighting for that which is fair for all Idahoans.