Legislators start work Monday
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Blaine County Democrats Wendy Jaquet and
Clint Stennett are gearing up for the opening of Idaho’s legislative
session on Monday.
Jaquet, House minority leader,
characterized last year’s session as "strident" and
"uncomfortable." Things this year may not be much better, she
"People were angry because they couldn’t
come to agreement on the [budget] surplus, and it’s going to happen
again this year," she said.
Idaho has already received nearly $100
million from the settlement of a federal tobacco lawsuit, and by the end
of the fiscal year, the state could be in receipt of nearly $200 million
Idaho’s Republican-dominated Legislature
has indicated interest in putting that money into reducing income taxes
and corporate taxes. Jaquet said that while the state’s Democrats would
like to help with property-tax relief and "focused" corporate
tax relief, ailing educational facilities should take center stage.
"Education is an investment in the
economic development of the state," she said.
She also would like to give 50 percent of
the surplus back to Idahoans in the form of school facilities improvements
and sales tax reductions, but said the other 50 percent should be spent on
increasing teacher salaries, improving college and university facilities,
and on investing in alcohol and drug treatment and prevention.
Senate minority leader Stennett also said
he was displeased with last year’s session, but is "cautiously
optimistic" about the coming months.
"Because there’s such a large
surplus of money, we will take real and positive steps toward school
facilities and getting ahead of education, and keeping people from
smoking, and going down the road toward substance abuse. We will actually
increase teachers’ salaries, and we will provide some real tax
Following are highlights of legislation
Blaine County’s lawmakers are planning to introduce.
· Transit tax. Jaquet is
working with the city of Boise and the Association of Idaho Cities to
allow citizens living in a regional transit authority (RTA) to vote a .5
percent levy on themselves for funding public transportation.
Jaquet said similar local control taxation
bills have been unsuccessfully proposed about five previous times.
· Agricultural land preservation.
Jaquet and Stennett are working together on a bill that would collect a
percentage of sales from subdivided or developed agricultural land. The
money collected would then be used to preserve other agricultural lands.
· Upper Big Wood preservation. If
enacted into law, a bill Stennett plans to draft this session would
preserve water quality in the Big Wood and North Fork Big Wood rivers. The
"outstanding resource water" designation could prohibit mining
and logging in the watershed, he said.
Stennett said he wants to find out what the
public and some of his colleagues think of the idea. Designation would not
occur until at least 2002.
· Noxious weed legislation.
Stennett said he plans to introduce a bill that would require anyone who
subdivides land to also provide a noxious weed management plan. A clause
in the bill would also require those selling land to disclose if noxious
weeds are growing on the property.