February 3, 2012
Note: Due to technical difficulties, some may have received this newsletter twice. BUDGET
This morning the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) heard approximately four hours of public testimony regarding budget-setting priorities. To those who came to testify and share their personal experiences, thank you. My colleagues and I appreciate the time and effort you give to testify. In case you missed this opportunity to share your personal experience as to how the budget would be best set to benefit you and your family, there is an opportunity to provide your input by submitting written testimony to JFAC testimony@lso.idaho.gov<mailto:testimony@lso.idaho.gov>. Last year public testimony impacted the way JFAC set the 2012 budget for the Medicaid portion specifically. If you have a testimony to offer, I encourage you to send in your testimony. HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE
In last week’s newsletter I discussed the Health Insurance Exchange, for which Idaho has been given funds from the federal government to set up in order to comply with President Obama’s "Affordable Care Act." I need to make a couple of clarifications regarding what I discussed in last week’s newsletter. One of my colleagues, Representative John Ruche, was kind enough to point out my error so that I may make the necessary corrections and keep the readers of my weekly newsletter accurately informed. Last week I wrote that, "Idahoans must buy healthcare and that it must be through the healthcare exchange." The fact is that Idahoans will not be required to buy health insurance through the exchange, although they will be required to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. This "individual mandate" is the current basis of the multistate suit (of which Idaho is a party) before the U.S. Supreme Court. I also wrote that this law "requires each state to create a health insurance ‘exchange[.]" While this is not technically correct, if the state does not create its own exchange by January 1st, 2013, the federal government will create an exchange on behalf of Idaho. With that being said, I still have some concerns with healthcare exchanges. If Idaho does not create an exchange, which it technically does not have to do, the state’s insurance companies will be potentially disadvantaged in a federally created and operated exchange. Under the federal healthcare law, if Idaho does create a healthcare exchange, the healthcare plans included in this state exchange must include certain basic services. I am concerned about what these ‘basic services’ will be and which ones would receive public funding. I will also be paying close attention to how such requirements in healthcare plans affect insurance costs for Idahoans. As you can see, this is a complicated piece of federal legislation which my colleagues and I are continuously combing through and working to understand the impact it will have upon Idahoans. I will keep you updated as I continue to learn more about this important issue. OCCUPY BOISE
On Monday morning the Senate State Affairs Committee heard the bill which proposes to remove the Occupy Boise Movement from taking residence at the Capitol Annex Building. A good discussion was had and the Committee ultimately sent it to the Senate Floor for amendments to be made to the bill. I maintain my position that Idaho’s citizens are benefited most by being able to protest within the boundaries of the law as they see fit during the day. However, it is in the best interest of the citizens of Idaho to prohibit staying overnight on all Capitol Mall Grounds. TRANSPORTATION
Thank you to all of you who responded to last week’s newsletter with your ideas about whether to increase the speed limit of tractor-trailers, ten-wheelers and semis to the current speed limit on all Idaho roads up to 75 miles per hour. I was happy to receive a great response and be informed about how my constituents feel about this issue when it came to a vote yesterday in the Senate Transportation Committee. After some thoughtful debate, the Committee voted to table the bill in Committee, effectually killing the bill. Several longstanding and ranking employees for trucking companies testified at this hearing and provided great insight. Once of the concerns raised was that trucks hauling freight actually get their most efficient gas mileage at about 65 miles per hour. Additionally, trucks hauling freight take more time to go up hills and slow to turn and cars don’t always know how to safely and most effectively maneuver around trucks. Therefore, increasing speeds for big trucks could create a safety hazard for all drivers. Third, it was argued that increasing the speed limit would, in one way or another, cause a faster rate of deterioration to Idaho’s roads. I ultimately voted against the bill as I had concerns that out of state commercial trucks would take advantage of the increase in speed limit and make Idaho’s citizens driving smaller vehicles uncomfortable. I hope that the Idaho Transportation Department will increase education and knowledge of how smaller cars and pick-ups can most safely maneuver around and share our roads with large trucks. AGRICULTURE ALL STAR AWARD
At the beginning of every year, Idaho Food Producers releases its list of Agriculture All Stars – legislators whose voting record reflects strong support for Idaho’s agricultural industry. I have been honored to represent my constituents and all Idahoans who represent Idaho’s strong agricultural industry and heritage. Pictured below is Travis Jones (right), Vice President of Idaho Food Producers of Idaho presenting me (left) with the 2011 Idaho Ag All Stars award.
As always, thank you for your letters and phone calls. I read every letter and take into account every comment and concern that I hear from my constituents and fellow Idahoans as I consider each piece of legislation that crosses my path. I am in the process of responding to several letters and e-mails and hope that you will continue to make me aware of how Idaho’s laws and pending legislation affect you. As always, your input helps me to be informed of how you feel about legislation and do my job as a legislator better. Please continue to contact me at http://www.CWinder@Senate.Idaho.Gov&lt;www.CWinder@Senate.Idaho.Gov>, www.ChuckWinder.com<www.ChuckWinder.com>, 208-332-1307, and find me on Facebook and Twitter. Sincerely,
Senator Chuck Winder
Assistant Majority Leader