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2012 Legislative Session

The 2012 Legislative Session has recently ended and what a session it has been! It wasn’t the normal budget issues that dominated the discussion. It was a session filled with personal feelings, from ethics to hunting and everything in between.

Budget:
The Legislature’s first and foremost priority is fulfilling its constitutional duty of balancing the state’s budget. As a member of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC), I was intimately involved with this process from day one. This year’s revenues have been slightly higher than expected as the economy is showing a slow, yet steady, recovery. I am proud to say that this year’s budget includes no cuts to any major state departments. In fact:
• FY 2013 has an overall budget of $2.701 billion, an increase of 4.5 percent from FY 2012.
• Public schools were given an increase in general fund revenues of 4.6 percent, offsetting cuts that were made during previous legislative sessions.
• Medicaid saw an 8.7 percent increase over last year, providing relief to some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens and yet still trying to keep this budget conservative.
• State employees received a 2 percent on-going pay raise, the first of any pay raise in over four years.
• $80 million put back into savings accounts for budget stabilization, public education, and other savings.

Education:
Education has been somewhat quiet this year, mostly correction bills to make minor changes to the Students Come First legislation from the past year. A few other points:
• 5.8 percent increase in teacher compensation, this includes merit pay
• Eight in Six Program implemented; Incentivizes students to complete high school early and take college courses during high school.
• Idaho’s teacher’s pay will increase by an average of $2,082 this year; this will be dependent on how they participate in the merit pay program.
• An estimated $39 million set aside to implement statewide pay-for-performance plan; at least 85 percent of teachers will earn some form of performance bonus this next year.
• Public School Facilities, Coop Funding to protect against decreasing enrollment-HB633
• Retired Administrators have the ability to continue to serve-HB579.
• Charter School Cap Removed-HB481.

The education of our children is of the utmost importance and I look forward to my continued work in the education system in Idaho.

Corrections:
The corrections budget has an overall increase of 3.5 percent from last year. This increase includes a 3 percent increase in per-inmate payments to Correction Corporation of America, which operates the Idaho Correction Center just south of Boise for the state. DNA testing of all felons was debated and passed and this measure should help enhance the safety of our state. The state has seen an increase in the prison population recently which raises major concerns. We will continue to monitor this very closely.

Legislation:
There were approximately 525 pieces of legislation considered this year. Some particular pieces you might find interesting are:
• Fish and Game-Auction Tags – SB 1256aa
• Texting while Driving – SB1274a
• Animal Cruelty – SB1303a
• All Excess Revenue to Budget Savings – HB702
You can review all of them at www.legislature.idaho.gov and also a short summary in the Sine Die report on this same web page.

Redistricting:
Redistricting, which happens every ten years to create equity in representation, was contentious but finally was wrapped up in January. Our district shrank in size and also changed numbers to District 30. The redistricting process will dramatically change the makeup of the legislature next year. There are in excess of 23 House members and 9 Senators that will not be returning. There should be some interesting campaigns around the state and I invite you to stay informed.

Constitutional Amendment:
An amendment to the Constitution of the State of Idaho will come before you, as citizens, in the November ballot. This amendment guarantees the citizens of Idaho the right to hunt, fish and trap within the rules and regulations set forth by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Please take a moment to inform yourself on this issue.

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to serve. I work hard to represent you well. I am always available for any questions, comments or concerns. Please feel free to email me at dmortimer@senate.idaho.gov.

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