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Super Monday at the Idaho Statehouse, lawmakers pitch collection of ideas

No hangover at the Idaho Capitol Monday, lawmakers setup major ideas and policy debates on hot topics.

BOISE, Idaho — No Super Bowl hangover on this Monday at the Idaho Capitol, lawmakers were up early at work for a long day of getting new legislation introduced.
Monday is the mark of a deadline to stop introducing legislation in most committees.

So yes, it was a mad rush of legislation looking to get in before it’s too late.

Some committees will still have new legislation heading into the rest of the session, but Monday is a real big deadline.

One topic Monday included a conversation Idaho has battled with for years, faith healing.

To summarize in short, Idaho has provisions in the law that allow parents to not seek medical care for their children if it violates their faith. Some communities in Idaho opt for prayer and faith over medicine and doctors. Simply, their faith does not allow the use of medicine, end of story. Lawmakers in recent years have argued that those families cannot just watch their kids die with no consequences.

They have not been successful in those arguments in terms of changing laws, but they are now looking at another section of law on the topic. Idaho code 18-401: Desertion and Nonsupport of Children or Spouse, in very basic terms the law says you need to take care of your spouse and children.
However, there is a provision for children in the law that says: “the practice of a parent or guardian who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to be a violation of the duty of care to such child.”

Boise Democrat John Gannon, who has worked on the topic for years, is looking to repeal the faith healing exception for children that is not there for spouses.

“Spouses have to take care of each other and provide medical attention,” Gannon said. “And for the child, it's a little less stringent. And so what I'm saying is, let's treat the parents like the kids. We bring kids into the world. We need to take care of them and nurture them. And if the law is going to require that the spouses nurture each other."

The bill was printed and is expected to receive a full committee meeting soon.

On another note, how about this for a big topic for a Monday: taking part of Eastern Oregon and adding it to the State of Idaho.

Yes, we've mentioned the idea of Greater Idaho before, there has been some conversations and informational meetings. Monday, the resolution in a House Committee "to authorize the Idaho and Oregon legislatures to begin official discussions on whether it is feasible to move the Idaho border into Eastern Oregon."

About a dozen counties in eastern Oregon have voted in favor of becoming part of Idaho. Arguments have been made by proponents that the people and land of eastern Oregon would be a better fit to the politics and culture of Idaho.

Idaho Rep. Barbra Ehardt highlighted some of the cultural and policy differences between the states, here are just two easy examples. 

"We have a little bit of a drug problem right on the side of our border. A lot of Idahoans are going there and getting drugs that will be pushed hundreds of miles away. We don't want the drugs of the people you're going to hear from. They voted against the drugs. They don't want them either. We also have, I think, given what the stance said it was, take an abortion clinic that is set up right on the border. Guess what? That's going to be pushed hundreds of miles away. So there's a lot of good things in this that are going to happen if we if this is something that continues. And I'll just say, as I mentioned, that, yes, the other states are watching this. Other states are looking and trying to do the same thing," Ehardt said.

The idea and reasoning goes far beyond those two topics, economic, political, and living habitat factors in big time. Lawmakers heard public testimony Monday in committee, everyone who testified is in favor of the idea. The committee voted after an extended feedback portion of the meeting.
The conversation passed, and now heads to the full Idaho house for conversation.

Again, this is just about kicking off the conversation between Idaho and Oregon. Greater Idaho advocates, like Spokesperson Matt McCaw, say they are pleased with the action Monday.

"We're pleased. This was a great result. You know, it shows that the Idaho legislature, the legislators, they understand this is a solution that makes sense. It's a solution that we need to have this conversation. And I think this result today, moving it forward to a full House vote is exactly what we wanted. And we are very confident that, you know, they understand why this makes sense,” McCaw said. “We're all about matching up people to government that matches their values and that they want. And if we let Eastern Oregon become part of Idaho, eastern Oregonians get government. They want Western Oregon, which is very like-minded and very similar, would have the government that they want. And if the political tension goes away because everybody has what they want that they need for their communities."

To be very clear, this is in the preliminary phases of even discussing the idea.
There is an incredible amount of work and agreement that this idea would need to clear.

But, long journeys need to begin with small steps.

Sticking with regular Idaho right now, how about new curriculum for school students?

Maybe this school content conversation is less controversial than others,
Freshman Representative James Petzke pitched including financial literacy courses for students, so they can learn very valuable skills.
The bill would make it a requirement for all high schools in the state of Idaho to teach a class in financial literacy. The class would fulfill a graduation requirement for financial literacy.

“A week ago, we had a really passionate debate, a really great debate on an education issue. And I think this is one that really, we can all rally behind. We all agree that it is the primary function of the education system to prepare students for the real world,” Petzke said.

The ideas passed unanimously on the House floor.

Finally, for you on an action-packed Monday, remember House Bill 666 last year?

It was better known as the ‘porn and obscene materials in libraries conversation.’ The legislation looked to prohibit the distribution of harmful material to minors in Idaho

Well, the conversation is back.

House Bill 139, The Children's School and Library Protection Act, aims to require public schools and community libraries to take reasonable steps to restrict children's access to material that is obscene or harmful to minors. Any minor child who accesses such material in violation of this policy would be entitled to bring a civil action against the school or library.
Bill Sponsor Rep. Jaron Crane had this to say:

"This piece of legislation seeks to protect minors against obscene or harmful material in public libraries and see how these public school and community libraries are funded by Idaho taxpayer dollars. It is in the best interest of our state that these institutions make a reasonable effort to restrict access to children when it comes to these materials in libraries,” Crane said.

So a major start to the week, setting up debates and policy discussion for the rest of the session, and deep into the future.

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