BOISE -- Gov. Butch Otter set the tone Friday for the upcoming legislative session, speaking in front of a large group of assembled media. During the Associated Press legislative preview, the governor talked about what he wants to see lawmakers accomplish in the session, and also hinted at some major themes of the State of the State Address he'll deliver next week.
As always, the budget will be one of the major issues in the Statehouse.
"I've proposed a budget which does not anticipate any increases in taxation, or any increases in revenues," said Otter.
Not an increase, but a possible decrease in taxation will be another big issue this winter.
The governor and many lawmakers want to repeal the personal property tax. It's levied on business property. However, Otter says county and city leaders have told him they need that revenue to perform state-mandated public services. But Otter believes the state can take on some of those responsibilities. "I said, 'Make me a list of the mandates you want to get rid of, and I'll exhaust myself in trying to relieve you from that responsibility, if we can."
Also, while the governor's plan for a state-run health exchange has conditional federal approval, the legislature will still need to make the final decision on whether or not that's how the state complies with the Affordable Care Act.
Education will again be a major issue. Otter believes the repeal of the Students Come First laws taught government leaders valuable lessons about the need to involve more stakeholders in crafting new reforms. "The process seemed to not be transparent and open and have robust public involvement enough."
The governor also reasserted his desire not to accept nuclear waste from the federal government for disposal in Idaho.
He also announced that Idaho's top cop will analyze security in Idaho schools. Otter says that Col. Jerry Russell has agreed to take on the task of assessing and recommending possible safety and security improvements to our schools. Russell is retiring as Idaho State Police director this month and will meet with Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna in a few weeks.
"He is willing to sit down with Tom and go through an analysis of what it would take in our public schools in Idaho in order to make them safer, in order to control access and those sorts of things," said Otter. "I really appreciate our top cop being willing to do that."
The governor and legislative leaders also admitted that there are probably going to be some surprise issues that turn out to be some of the biggest of the session.
The 2013 session starts on Monday with the governor's State of the State Address. You can watch his speech live on NewsChannel 7 and KTVB.com.