By Melissa Davlin
Take 105 people with different political ideologies from across the state and throw them together in one building for three months. What should you expect them to accomplish? And how do you measure success?
That depends on who you ask. But I have my own ideas.
We’ve heard from nearly everyone that Idahoans shouldn’t expect much change from the 2014 Legislature. In December, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter told the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho that the new years holds “more of the same,” and that he hoped to under-promise and over-deliver.
Does this mean we should lower our expectations of our elected officials? I don’t think so.
Beyond the obvious education and budget issues, here’s what I’m looking for this session:
A discussion about Medicaid expansion. I’m not saying the Legislature should go this route, but ignoring the issue of indigent health care is a disservice to the state. Whether they continue with the status quo, partner with charities and private enterprises to provide care, or find another solution, the conversation has to happen.
A discussion about judicial reinvestment. For Idaho Reports, we’re working on a segment about reducing recidivism in Idaho’s prisons by investing rehabilitation and therapy programs and thereby saving the state a lot of dough in the long run. We’re not sure if any decisions will be made this year, but I’d love to see some hearings on the agenda.
Public defenders: Here’s a sleeper issue that requires the Legislature’s attention. Every lobbyist we’ve talked to, regardless of their political ideology, agrees that Idaho’s public defenders are overworked, and as a result, the state isn’t fulfilling its constitutional requirement that everyone has an adequate defense in court. If left ignored, this could end up in the courts — and cost the state big time.
By no means are these the only important issues on the docket, but I hope they don’t get quietly ignored.