Wednesday, February 18, 2009

House Bill 26 - Permanent Absentee Voting

The next legislation I'd like to talk about is something I've worked on for all three years I've been elected, permanent absentee voting (H0026).

The bill is pretty self-explanatory. Currently, Idahoans are permitted to vote absentee with no restrictions. That is a good thing, I believe. However, Idaho law requires that a voter request an absentee ballot for every election in which they would like to participate. That, it seems to me, is inefficient and unnecessary. To correct this issue, I have proposed that voters be given the option to simply check a box that indicates that they would like to vote absentee from then on. (or until they don't want to anymore).

So what about potential voter fraud? There are several safeguards such as:
  • In the case that a voter moves the absentee ballots will stop,
  • A signature on the submitted ballot is compared with signature used to register,
  • If a voter becomes ineligible (dies, commits a felony, etc.) the absentee ballots will stop.

Given the clear demand for absentee voting (over 70,000 absentee voters in Ada County alone in the last general election) government should be responsive and assist citizens. Oh and I should also mention that this legislation is supported by the Idaho Association of Commissioners and Clerks as well as the Secretary of State.

You can check out the legislation here.

So what do you think?

Monday, February 16, 2009

HCR 11 - Faith Based and Community Organizations Partnership Act

The first piece of legislation I'd like to talk about is HCR 11 - Faith Based and Community Organizations (FBCO) Partnership Act.

This concurrent resolution does essentially four things:
  1. Ask Idaho State Government to identify barriers to partnerships with FBCOs
  2. Ask Idaho State Government to identify current partnerships with FBCOs
  3. Ask Idaho State Government to report findings to the Legislature and Governor
  4. Ask Idaho State Government to convene a conference with FBCOs to discuss ways to partnership

My rationale for this legislation is fairly straightforward. Times are tough. The State's social service infrastructure is being pressed to the max (and beyond). FBCOs offer fantastic alternatives for deploying services to the public. Put two and two together and we get more efficient government and more people served. Win-win.

If you've got feedback on this one, I'd love to hear it.

UPDATE - HCR 11 will be heard on Wednesday, February 18 at 9:30 AM in the House State Affairs Committee (room 145).

UPDATE 2 - HCR 11 was passed out of the House State Affairs Committee today with only one dissention. A vote of the full house should be forthcoming within the next few days.

This weeks series

This week (and potentially part of next week) I am going to be blogging about the legislation that I have introduced for consideration. I'd really like your feedback if you are inclined to share it!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stimulate this...

So, first sorry for the long delay in posts. Actually, I have written several posts, but decided against publishing them because I was waiting on information each time. Okay, so on to the post...

I have consistently and ardently advocated for the Idaho Legislature to position itself as well as possible to take advantage of any economic stimulus package that could potentially be approved by Congress. My position has never been one based upon the politics of the stimulus, but rather the reality of what it could mean for Idaho. Said another way, the Idaho Legislature isn't going to keep the bill from passing, but we sure do benefit if it does and need to be prepared when it comes our way.

Now to be fair the co-chairs of JFAC, Representative Maxine Bell and Senator Dean Cameron, have also been consistent. They have stated, repeatedly, that they will act as if the stimulus package is the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Due to their claim of an absence of any leprechauns sightings, no gold was to be found. What I don't understand, however, is if they are watching the same news that I do how they could come to this conclusion.

It seems to me that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made it pretty clear last week that the Senate wasn't going home until the stimulus package was signed by President Obama. While I understand that none of us have known exactly what was going to be in the package, it has been pretty clear, at least to me, that the package would do a lot to hold-off our budget crisis.

This gets me back to my original point. As a state lawmaker, what I care about is helping Idahoans and putting the Idaho Legislature in the best position to deliver the services that they expect while fulfilling our constitutionally required obligation of balancing the budget. I am totally perplexed by the philosophy that rejects out of hand the assistance from the federal government because its coming from the federal government. Furthermore, do we not understand that those dollars are Idahoans money too? Why wouldn't we want to be as strategic as possible and use the money in such a way to alleviate the headaches and problems that can come from budget cuts, especially more unemployment?

To continue to ignore the leprechaun and call him a puppet with strings attached is both unwise and unnecessary. The stimulus package may be a fluid thing, but so is our economy. We must be more agile and less rigid. We must be ready take what we can get and maximize its use.