BOISE, Idaho — After wrapping up the 2021 legislative session in November, the stage is set for Idaho lawmakers to kick off 2022. If you ask lawmakers about the unusually quick turnaround, they will tell you it is almost like they never left.
“It does have that feel to it, there is a lot of legislators coming into town here this weekend," House Speaker, Republican Scott Bedke said. "I saw many of them here just a little while ago. Everyone is excited."
Speaker Bedke said thinking back to last year’s longest session ever, he knows lawmakers are motivated to hit the ground running.
“Desire, to complete our work in a more expeditious way this year," Bedke said. "I can’t predict any outcomes because everything is by a vote but I think there is a general desire to get in and get out and be down by the end of March."
Bedke said for republican lawmakers, a major priority will be addressing the budget and major budget surplus, which sits at about $1.6 billion.
“We have real opportunities, just like you and your family budget if you come into some unexpected money, what do you do with it? You probably pay off debt, you probably fix stuff that you’ve been postponing, and I think is in a position to do that as well,” Bedke said.
The budget surplus could also be used to benefit Idaho taxpayers, Bedke said.
“Last year was the largest tax cut in state history and I think we are looking at something that is very similar to that,” Bedke said.
It is no secret that Idaho has been discovered, Bedke said. A major goal is making sure Idaho keeps up with its growth.
“There is going to be increased competition for road space, water, infrastructure type things, and we need to be about making prudent, timely and targeted investments on infrastructure,” Bedke said.
Through COVID-19, a major conversation remains focused on education and making sure Idaho students stay on track. Bedke said that will certainly be a priority for Republicans this session.
“Public school, there are starting to be reports coming out that we maybe slipped a little bit on some of our literacy programs and I think all Idahoans expect us to get on top of that and get our kids reading at grade level," Bedke said. "I also think there will be a spirit or a desire to include parents more to make sure they are an integral part of the curriculum choices and the education choices for the kids."
A major theme toward the end of the 2021 legislative session was lawmakers addressing the Biden administrations vaccine mandates. No action was taken in 2021, but Bedke said Republican lawmakers want to be clear on their stance as the federal courts take up the issue.
“We firmly believe that all medical decisions need to be made between you and your healthcare provider and when government intervenes in that, that’s bad,” Bedke said.
The elephant in the room at the statehouse this year is the looming primaries that will pit several lawmakers against each other in a variety of races. Bedke said he knows there are concerns about things like lawmakers campaigning on the house floor, but has this thought on the topic of playing politics.
“Good policy is good politics," Bedke said. "Everybody needs to settle down, do their job, and do it in a way we can be proud of and we can go home and defend our actions to our constituents."
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