Two candidates are running for District 26’s seat in the Idaho State Senate. They are incumbent Democrat Michelle Stennett of Ketchum and Republican Eric Parker of Hailey. Here are the candidates in their own words.
Public service experience: Founder of a statewide not-for-profit that focuses on community preparedness at a local level and constitutional advocacy at the state level. Our legislative team voluntarily spend hours going through proposed legislation looking for vague language that could expose Idahoans to violations of their constitutional rights.
Education: Trade school
Reason for running: First, I don’t believe incumbents should run unopposed, but more than that I feel that our district is very diverse and we need bipartisan representation at the Statehouse. I think we need someone in the majority party making it easier to address key issues that affect our district.
How has your background prepared you to serve in the Legislature? As a father of four I’m very familiar with the challenges of raising a family, paying the bills and working every day to keep a roof over their heads, especially in these uncertain times. I will use that experience to work for the average Idaho family.
If elected, what is the first bill you would author? I would like to give our veterans property tax relief similar to the state of Texas.
What was the most important bill—successful or unsuccessful—of the 2020 legislative session? Partisanship killed criminal justice reform because neither side can have a meaningful discussion on the issues. I believe this is very important and I will make it one of my priorities to reduce mandatory minimums for nonviolent crimes.
What specific steps should the Legislature take to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact in the 2021 session? I feel the priority should be making sure our representation is present and part of the decision-making process. We need all three branches of government working during an emergency. I would like to see a bill that addresses spending of federal money during an executive emergency. I think if that spending hits a certain predetermined amount it should automatically call our representatives into session as it is their delegated responsibility to decide spending.
Public service experience: State senator, minority caucus chair and Senate minority leader since 2010. Serve on Senate State Affairs and the Resources and Environment committees. Council of State Governments-West, co-chair of CSG-West Canada Relations Committee, Pacific Northwest Economic Region, co-chair of PNWER Tourism Committee, PNWER Energy and Environment Working Group, chair of Legislative Council on River Governance and chair of the Pacific Fisheries Legislative Task Force.
Education: B.A. in international relations-environmental studies, B.A. in Latin languages and a minor in business from the University of Oregon. Certificat d’Etudes from the Université de Poitiers, France. Legislative Energy Horizon Institute certificate from the University of Idaho. Certificate from the Council of State Governments’ Western Legislative Academy.
Reason for running: Agriculture, high tech and tourism are the top three economic drivers in the state, and I work to address the needs of these sectors, all of which are integral to the economy of our district, including a rapidly increasing demand for adequate labor, wages, housing, infrastructure, health care and education systems.
How has your background prepared you to serve in the Legislature? My education and training in natural resources include water issues, fisheries, wildlife management and habitat restoration. As a Workforce Development Council member, we address industry’s growing need for a skilled workforce fund programs that provide employment and boost to rural economies. Other committees: Senate Commerce/Human Resources and Local Government/Taxation.
If elected, what is the first bill you would author? Our legislative district regularly struggles with water needs and priority rights delivery. Currently, I am working with district water users to craft legislation for a local water bank program.
What was the most important bill—successful or unsuccessful—of the 2020 legislative session? Idahoans demanded property tax relief last session. Twenty-three bills came before the Legislature, none passed. Some sought to raise the homeowner’s exemption, provide relief for senior citizens and reevaluate sales tax exemptions. Residential property has been more impacted than commercial and is carrying the added burden for new infrastructure/local services.
What specific steps should the Legislature take to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact in the 2021 session? Gov. Little handed COVID-19 responsibilities to local government and regional public health boards. The Legislature has withheld an 11.5 percent internet sales tax that is owed to local governments, which need this revenue to manage emergency services. The state’s woefully inadequate broadband needs immediate improvements for telehealth, remote education and business.