Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My legislative update #1

At the beginning of the session I gave you all a preview of the legislation I was going to be working on this year. We are five weeks into the session so I thought now was as good of a time as any to let you know where things were at. Without any further delay, here we go:

SB1404 - Purpose of this legislation is to provide that children of four years or older may attend prekindergarten in the public schools and to provide that Idaho public schools may offer prekindergarten programs if a majority of voters approve such a program in an election and to provide that the voters may approve a levy to pay for the program.

STATUS - I am very happy to be a co-sponsor of this important legislation. The bill is currently in the Senate Education Committee. Read the bill here.

RS17860 - The purpose of this legislation is to establish and implement a voluntary child-care rating system designed to provide assistance to parents and promote high quality family centered child care. Ratings will be based upon national health and safety standards (environment), parental involvement, staff-to-child ratios, planned curriculum, and professional development. By offering rating information to parents, they will be better equipped to make an informed child-care choice. Participating providers will be assisted in developing plans and practices that increase their ratings. The goal is to improve early childhood learning and increase school readiness. This legislation requires that those administering the program measure, analyze, and report outcomes to the legislature annually over a three year period for the purpose of evaluating its effectiveness. At the end of this time period, results and recommendations will be made as to the continuation, modification, or termination of the Idaho STARS Quality Rating System.

STATUS - This legislation has been "put in the drawer" by Senate Health and Welfare Chairwoman Patti Anne Lodge prior to a print hearing despite its bipartisan support. Unfortunately, no further action is expected this session.

HB413 - The purpose of this legislation is to give absentee voters the option of applying for status as a permanent absentee voter in all elections for which they are qualified. The current procedure for making application as an absentee voter will not be altered, except for an additional box on the application that can be marked indicating the voter's desire to seek permanent absentee voting status. The county clerk will inform all applicable taxing districts as to the voter's status to ensure they receive the proper ballots. All returned ballots will be processed in the same manner as absentee ballots are today. The voter loses his status as a permanent absentee voter upon his request, death, disqualification, cancellation of voter registration, or when a ballot is returned as undeliverable. In addition, the legislation also codifies access to absentee ballots by military servicemen and women. Exercising this option is voter driven and initiated. The voter request an application and return it to the county clerk before receiving any ballots. This measure will better serve those voters who must or choose to always vote absentee.

STATUS - The bill was printed with near unanimous support in the House State Affairs Committee, but has not yet had a full hearing. Updates will be provided as the become available. Read the bill here.

HCR35 - Directs the Legislative Council to create an interim committee to study and recommend solutions to assist small business owners pay for health insurance for themselves and their employees.

STATUS - The House Business Committee will begin hearing printed bills in the upcoming weeks. Details to come. Read the bill here.

HB497 - This legislation amends the public works contractor licensing requirements to include contractor provided comprehensive health insurance as an additional condition.

STATUS - The House Commerce and Human Resources voted unanimously to print this bill and is expected to have a hearing in the upcoming weeks. Read the bill here.

SB1380 - The purpose of this bill is to allow consumers to "freeze" access to their credit reports, as a means to help prevent fraud and identity theft. A "freeze" means that anyone attempting to obtain a credit report on a consumer will be unable to get one, and will simply be told that the credit report is frozen. Because most creditors and merchants won't extend significant credit without reviewing the consumer's credit report first, it will be more difficult for fraudsters to obtain credit using someone else's stolen identity. If, having frozen his credit report, the consumer himself needs to obtain credit, he can temporarily lift, or permanently remove, the freeze on his own account. The bill specifies how a consumer can place a freeze with a credit reporting agency, how the consumer can temporarily lift the freeze so that the consumer may engage in a credit transaction, and how a consumer can permanently remove a freeze. It also sets out a number of exceptions to the freeze, to allow creditors to use credit reports to monitor, service and collect their existing credit accounts, to allow the credit reporting agency to comply with subpoenas and court orders, to allow screening by potential landlords and employers, and to allow other legitimate non-credit related uses of credit reports. In order to defray the costs associated with placing and lifting a freeze, the bill allows a credit reporting agency to charge a fee of up to $6 to place a freeze or to temporarily lift a freeze. No fee may be charged for permanently removing a freeze. A consumer who has been a victim of identity theft may not be charged a fee for placing or removing a freeze. Credit reporting agencies who fail to comply with this bill's requirements are subject to suit for damages, punitive damages and injunctive relief by consumers and by the Attorney General.

STATUS - It was determined by Senator Bart Davis that this legislation should not be sponsored by any legislators and simply run as a neutral bill under the guide of the organizations that assisted in its composition. Provided that the bill makes it to the House Business Committee I will be in full support and hope to be able to carry it on the floor.

HB485 - This legislation will make, "Milk: the Official Drink of Idaho!" This is a step in symbolizing Idaho's position in favor of healthy decision making especially given the alarming rise of obesity rates amongst our school-aged children.

STATUS - The bill will be heard next Monday in the House Agricultural Affairs Committee. Read the bill here.

If you have any questions about any of these pieces of legislation please let me know!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Durst,

Very fine line no doubt; to afford the “majority” of children the opportunity to access the “living wage” market currently engulfing this globalized United States of America. The obvious critique, that is, increasing scope of government mandated education (regulation), is a myopic view of competitive advantage. My dear sir, frame the issue in competitive terms.

This inherently clear policy; is one of necessity, in which, you must leverage the ideological fine print. In short, a major swath of America is incapable of funding and navigating the complex realm of pre-kindergarten education. Anecdotally, if we fail to fall behind in this complex, increasingly global and competitive environment; retrospect will prescribe pre-k education. Consider this my young friend, India and China mandate pre-school education; while we debate the merits of increasingly younger mandated education. We must strengthen our innovative spirit. If we falter in manufacturing “dream-makers”; we falter in the very "real" global game of talented minds. I understand the parochial views of men rule, but this policy is a necessity in an environment of shrinking incomes, rising prices, and falling real estate prices; in sum, an era necessitating double incomes. Mr. Durst, this environment is one of "winners take all,” therefore you must expand your debate horizons.