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Viewpoint: The Idaho 2023 legislative session so far

Lawmakers still have big issues of education, the economy and property tax relief to tackle

IDAHO, USA — The first session of the 67th Idaho Legislature enters its ninth week on Monday March 6. It started Monday January 9 with Governor Brad Little's State of the State Address, in which he laid out his legislative and budget priorities. Education is once again his top priority, including providing $8,500 grants to qualifying Idaho high school seniors to go on to higher education.

At a recent Idaho Press Club event, the governor said his priorities of increasing teacher pay and property tax relief, have not been addressed. He said the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee is likely to take up education funding bills at the end of the session.

The Legislature’s goal is to adjourn on March 24. So, they have a lot of work to do. As of Wednesday morning March 1, only 15 bills had come across the governor's desk, and he has signed 11 of them.

So far the legislature has focused a lot on social issues. Those include a bill to penalize abortion “sanctuary cities”, and another that would criminalize doctors who perform gender-affirming care. The House also passed a resolution to allow for talks to begin with the Oregon Legislature about the potential for “Greater Idaho” by moving the Idaho state line to include some conservative, eastern Oregon counties .

The governor also said the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee got off to a slow start working on budgets, but they seem to be catching back up.

During the taping of this Sunday's Viewpoint, Boise State Political Science Professor Jaclyn Kettler and KTVB reporter Andrew Baertlein discussed the relatively slow start to the session.

This edition of Viewpoint focuses on what the Idaho Legislature has accomplished so far, and the big issues our lawmakers still have to tackle.

Here is an excerpt from the program.

Prof. Jaclyn Kettler: "It's been a fascinating session so far. We knew it was going to be interesting because of so much turnover coming in, so many new legislators, new leaders, a lot of new committee chairs. There's a lot of interest in what issues would be the top priorities. It seems like some things have been moving a little slow as they've kind of figured some things out, but we have had so much attention on some of these social issues in particular. So I think there's a lot of other issues to still get to in a very short amount of time. So it might be a fast and furious next few weeks."

Doug Petcash: It seems like it's heading in that direction. How about for you Andrew, you've been down there so many days this session?

Andrew Baertlein: "Yeah, and I would echo a lot of what she said to where it does feel slow at times. But on another note, trying to stay away from my analysts hat and just having a reporter hat on, you're not questioning a lot of things in terms of where people stand. I think it's been very straight forward, which I appreciate as a reporter. When you talk to lawmakers about this bill or that bill and what their priorities are, it's been very straightforward. There hasn't been a lot of guessing or strawman arguments, and that's something I've appreciated a lot. But again, I would like to echo Dr. Kettler. It does feel a little slow considering that March 24 date and what we've seen actually happen up until this point so far."

Viewpoint airs Sunday mornings at 9 o'clock on KTVB Idaho's NewsChannel 7.

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