Legislative Update: Learning curve

By Rep. Mark Sauter, R-Sagle
Reader Contributor

Idaho legislative activity is trending up. Standing committees are increasing the frequency of their meetings and the number of new bills are beginning to stack up. 

Our only vote on the floor of the House was to sync the 2022 changes to the IRS tax code with the Idaho tax code. This matter was not without objection, as it was noted there are conflicts between the federal code and the Idaho Constitution. These conflicts were noted several years ago as well and are ongoing. 

Rep. Mark Sauter. File photo.

There is always a question for those who look at details. The “80/20 rule” is real: 80% of our work often gets done with the first 20% of our efforts. Fine tuning and digging into the details often takes that last 80%. Sometimes the limits of time creep into our priorities, too. I voted with the majority of the House, we approved the motion. This action clears the way for all Idahoans to begin their 2022 tax preparations now.  

For me, the learning continues. However, many of the learning opportunities here are optional. Almost daily there are “meet and greets” for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some speak pejoratively of legislators who attend these events. One way to serve our district is by attending and applying oneself by listening and/or asking appropriate questions. I’m doing my best to watch my weight!

I am involved in another learning option with fewer calories involved. I’ve been invited to sit in on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) lunch sessions. Attendees bring their own food, so it’s all business. I’m there as a silent volunteer with interests in how our education system is funded. 

The phrase used here is that learning is like “drinking from a firehouse.” I don’t completely agree, but there is some truth to it. I’m buying a new iPad this week for notetaking in hopes of making this old guy better/faster with his learning efforts. I bought a new iPhone just before the session started. I still miss the keyboard on my Blackberry. 

I also had lunch with the Sandpoint, Priest River and Bonners Ferry city leaders and talked about property taxes, local option taxes and the challenges of providing important public services to an area with a fast-growing population. Getting growth to pay for growth is a challenge. 

At one of the Education Committee meetings we heard from the Idaho Osteopathic School of Medicine. They shared their views and findings relative to the availability of health care for Idahoans. Their message was insightful and sobering. They opined that our state had a need for more physicians and medical providers, yet the training system wasn’t producing as many professionals as we need. They also shared the need for more training opportunities in our rural areas. 

The presidents of all eight colleges and universities all made presentations, too.

Last Monday was Emergency Medical Services (EMS) day at the Capitol. Many of the EMS providers from across our state spent several hours speaking with interested visitors (and legislators) about the status of our EMS system. Currently, the system does not provide complete coverage statewide and the service that is provided in some areas is performed by volunteer groups with limited capacity. Our own EMS Chief Lindsey attended. It’s a system that we all rely on that needs improvement and more support. 

Next week the bill introduction process starts in earnest.

Rep. Mark Sauter is a first-term Republican legislator from District 1A. He serves on the Agricultural Affairs; Education; and Judiciary, Rules and Administration committees. Contact him at [email protected].

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