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End of Year Letter

March 30, 2010

The 2010 legislative session has come to a close; I would like to take this opportunity to share some of what the Idaho legislature has accomplished this year.

To start with, State revenues have continued their unprecedented decline over the past year which had a major effect on the General Fund and the decisions we were forced to make. Not only is there no growth in state government, but we have reduced almost $700 million dollars from the General Fund. This has not been easy, but necessary. The original FY 2009 appropriation was set at $2.959 billion and the legislature set the FY 2011 target number at $2.29 billion. It was imperative that we set as realistic and conservative number for the FY 2011 budget as possible because after the budget is set, there is nearly no savings left in the state accounts.

The public education budget was one of the most difficult for most Legislators this year. Even though the public education budget was forced to take a significant reduction, I think the Legislature did everything it could to provide the local school districts with the flexibility that they need to set and control their budgets. It is important that we as a state continue to do everything that we can to provide flexibility and maximize all education spending. We expect the continued progress of our students even with the unfortunate and hopefully short-lived budget reductions. I specifically want to thank those in education for their excellence and service in these difficult times. We did continue to fund, with strict controls, the Idaho Education Network to provide better use of technology and online classes in our schools. We continued to promote dual concurrent enrollment where our high school students can take college courses while still in high school.

This year, Idaho made the national news as the first to pass a Health Care Freedom Act (HB 391), as a preemptive measurement that charges Idaho’s Attorney General to go to court against the federal government for any health care mandates. Given the recent events in Washington D.C., this legislation may prove to be invaluable. This bill is to help ensure Idaho citizens remain free of unconstitutionally based compulsion by their federal government.

The legislature has considered making a number of small changes to Idaho’s Constitution. This requires a referendum, meaning that the changes will be decided by you, as a voter and you can expect to see them on this year’s ballot. I would like to explain a couple of the changes briefly for your benefit.

The first two proposed changes to Idaho’s constitution are Senate Joint Resolution 102 & 103. They both deal with the sale of state land. SJR 103 deals specifically with the sale of university land. SJR 102 deals with the sale of public lands. Both are meant to increase revenues for the State by allowing more flexibility in the process. The changes would allow the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) to act more like a prudent investor when leasing and selling lands and could lead to the state making more money on the 2.6 million acres of State lands in Idaho. These resolutions may not be adopted. You can check their status by reading the website below.

There are three adopted proposed changes to Idaho’s Constitution: House Joint Resolutions 4, 5, and 7. They deal with airports, publically owned hospitals and power cities. With these referendums, an airport would be allowed to incur debt without voter approval as long as the debt is payable solely from airport revenues and not tax funding. HJR 4 deals with the debt incurred by medical facilities. It will allow hospitals that are owned by counties or districts to incur debt without vote, as long as no tax payer money is used to pay for the debt. The third, relates to cities such as Idaho Falls, that own their own municipal power systems to enter into long-term power supply, transmission and other agreements with suppliers without the need for an authorizing election.

Making changes to Idaho’s constitution is a serious matter and is nothing to be taken lightly. That is why the legislature feels it is important to give you, the voter, the chance to have your voice heard on these issues.

We heard the voice of the people on Public Television and reduced the budget and gave direction to become as self supporting as possible. Public Television provides two critical services. It provides coverage of the legislature and serves our rural areas. It also represents our State.

As a summary, I am satisfied with our efforts. We balanced the budget, we kept education as whole as possible, and we provided the minimum funding to maintain safety and corrections for our citizens. We reduced Health and Welfare spending and yet tried to protect crucial services. We maintained and hopefully focused the Parks and Recreation Department. We combined several functions and asked for efficiencies. I want to compliment those who serve us in State government for their willingness to make the changes necessary and still provide their services in a positive way.

I am very grateful for the opportunity I have been given to serve in the Idaho Legislature. I hope to hear your input, concerns, and suggestions. You can still contact me at dmortimer@senate.idaho.gov. For a complete review of bills and journals you can go to www.legislature.idaho.gov.

For Your Information:

Today is the 61st day in the 2010 Idaho State Legislature. The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee finished setting budgets this week. With the end in sight for the session it is satisfying to know that we, as a legislature, did our constitutionally obligated duty to balance the budget. All of the appropriations that have been made have been scrutinized, examined, and reviewed carefully. The current economic times have forced the State to carefully examine where the moneys are headed and who is receiving them. I look forward to a brighter future and strongly believe that the State of Idaho will come out of these tough economic times stronger than before.

I also wanted to take a moment and let everyone know that I have filed for re-election. I am proud and honored to serve the people of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County. Times are difficult now in Idaho, but I believe that during my time in the legislature I have consistently fought to make sure the concerns of my constituents, as well as all the people of Idaho, are heard. If re-elected, I will continue to work hard to balance our budget, fight for education, and ensure public safety. I am proud to serve the good people of Idaho and look forward to the possibility of two more years of service.

For questions, concerns, or comments email me at dmortimer@senate.idaho.gov. I also urge anyone that is interested in legislation to log on to www.legislature.idaho.gov. It is a great tool to connect with what is happening in this session.

For My Constituency:

The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) met this morning and voted on FY 2010 and FY 2011′s budget proposals. JFAC agreed to set FY 2010 at $2.28 billion and FY 2011 at $2.29 billion. These numbers are the exact same numbers that were proposed by the Joint Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee but below the Governor’s Proposal by $69 million. I supported these budget projections and hope that we are able to meet these revenue numbers.

Idaho is one of 11 finalists to bring the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to our state. Being selected could bring upwards of 3000 jobs to the state! The economic impact of being selected is immense and would guarantee the Air Forces continued existence in this state for the next 40 years. We have been the home of military aviation for over 60 years and we need to continue to show our support. We need to show our support through writing letters to the Air Force, filling out the “I support the F-35 in Idaho” postcards, and letting your local representatives know your thoughts. This is a joint effort between State, Congressional, and Business leaders alike and we need the support of the public as well.

With the never-ending talk about how bad the recession is and how many cuts are being made throughout the state I believe that many people lose sight of some of the great things our state is doing. Idaho compared to many other states is doing very well considering the current times. While some states are selling their public buildings in order to keep their heads above water Idaho has retained a very positive business climate. Even throughout this recession, we have not raised our taxes and we continue to be an attractive location to start, or run, a business. As well as a positive business atmosphere in the state we have been making strides in our Corrections Department also. We have decreased our overall incarcerated population over the last year. The Department of Correction Director, Brent Reinke, has been working closely with the legislature in order to improve efficiency and responsibility throughout his department.

You can monitor legislation on the web at www.legislature.idaho.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any ideas or concerns you may have. It is an honor to serve you and I will do my best to represent your suggestions. If you would like to be added to our contact list please email me at dmortimer@senate.idaho.gov.

2010 Session Underway!

Greetings from Boise!

I am writing because I would like to keep in contact with you during the legislative session. We are faced with issues and decisions that can only be enhanced by your involvement.

Renovations on the Capital building are finished! Since the dedication on Saturday, January 9th, the building has been open to showcase its splendor and citizens have been coming to enjoy it. I hope you will take the opportunity to visit. Remember, our legislative process is transparent and accessible to the public whether you come to Boise or stay at home. There is plenty of room to watch all of our committee meetings and floor action, as well as video and audio access online (http://www.idahoptv.org/leglive/) and on Idaho Public Television; web access is also available on www.legislature.idaho- we welcome you!

The legislature officially convened on Monday, January 11th and we are busier than ever. Most of my time is spent serving as the Vice Chair for the Education Committee, a member on the Judiciary and Rules Committee and the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. This week we discussed issues such as the Governor’s budget, deficiency warrants, supplemental budget requests, and new department budget requests. Much of our time has been spent on reviewing department rules as well. Idaho is one of the few states that reviews its rules which can easily take up the majority of our first few weeks of each session. These rules are very important as they help determine how the laws are implemented.

Our revenues are forecast to fall short again this year. Governor Otter has proposed efficiency measures to keep the budget balanced. Cutting education is not what we want to do, but the length and depth of this recession has left us no choice after spending $318 million from reserve accounts and stimulus funds over the past two years to keep our schools whole. As a member of the Finance Committee, I have voiced my concern with new fiscal requests to ensure they are essential. We know we are not dealing with the “government’s money”. This money comes from hard-working individuals, families and businesses who are struggling with their own budget.

We will see more legislation in the upcoming weeks which can be monitored on the web at www.legislature.idaho.gov. I look forward to sharing my legislative priorities with you soon. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me with any ideas or concerns you may have. It is an honor to serve you and I will do my best to represent your suggestions. If you would like to be added to our contact list please email me at dmortimer@senate.idaho.gov.

Another Session Begins

It is officially 2010 and the legislative work has been going on for some time. It started with the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee updates in September, then meetings with constituents and organizations that wanted to bring us up to date with issues of concern. October, November and the first of December were filled with dinners and meetings to give us updates on what legislative issues they might bring to the legislature in January. The announcements of meetings during the upcoming session started coming early this year.
I found my time this fall, busier than ever with possible legislative changes brought forth from constituents. Some of those issues are, pornography, school district consolidation, property tax relief for non owner occupied properties, concurrent enrollment for high school students, and child support in new separated couples with children to name just a few.
The discussion of the state budget shortfalls has also been a major topic. It is of grave concern to the legislators about how to balance the budget with shortfalls projected at from 7-9 percent or more.
The legislature convenes on January 12th, but the week before is filled with economic outlook meetings, the open house for the newly remodeled state capital and pre-legislature budget meetings.
I want to invite you to become involved again this session in the process of self government. You can do that by e-mailing me any issues that need to be addressed this year or just your feelings about state government to me at dmortimer@senate.idaho.gov. You can also watch what is happening online live by clicking on the state legislative page and view the Senate, House or JFAC live when they are in session each day. As a reminder I serve on the Joint Finance and Appropriations, Education and Judiciary and Rules Committees.
It is always an opportunity to serve the citizens of this great state. I again pledge my best efforts to represent the constituents of District 32 to the best of my ability.

The 2009 Legislative Session Finally Ends

Dear Friends and Neighbors:
This has been a tough session.  It was long and arduous. We have worked very diligently to make necessary budget cuts and yet maintain programs and services that are necessary for state government.  We had to look at filling the budget’s shortfalls in the current fiscal year 2009, provide budget projections and budgets for a balanced budget in the upcoming fiscal year of 2010, and still look forward enough into 2011 to make sure that we didn’t create a major hole to fill or have to make additional major cuts in 2011.  As a legislature this session, we have done a reasonable job of looking at all three years of budgets and trying to provide for today and plan for the future.  As a past legislative body, we did some good planning in creating savings accounts that have helped us in the current economic crisis.  We are not out of the woods by any stretch, but we should make it through the next fiscal year without having to further cut government services.  The Governor complimented the legislature and said, “Not the least of those achievements, in my view, is your crafting of a budget that recognizes the proper role of government in people’s lives, and endeavors to meet our constitutional and statutory responsibilities within the means of Idaho taxpayers.”
The major accomplishments of this session can be characterized as balancing the budget, making minor changes to existing law, comprehensive aquifer management, and not raising taxes.  The Senate introduced approximately 250 pieces of legislation and the House introduced just over 370 bills.  There were also memorials, resolutions and proclamations.  The topics were wide and deep, but a continuous theme was transportation, firearm legislation, crime victims, water, and education.  Some major issues that did not pass were liquor license reform, transportation fuel taxes, beer and wine taxes, and public utility assistance to low income customers.
There were weeks of direct discussion about the federal stimulus funds, how they were to be used, and how they affected each of the agencies and departments.  This process alone added two to three weeks to the legislative session.  Having sat through all of the budget appropriation process, I can tell you that the stimulus dollars were spent as wisely as possible, knowing they were one- and two-year monies only.  These funds kept budget cuts in Education and Health and Welfare to a minimum.   They also provided additional funding for transportation projects across the state.  I wish they had been used for more economic stimulus programs but, with the strings attached, we made good use of your federal stimulus tax dollars or borrowings, as the case may be.  

We also laid the foundation for real advances in education policy and technology by approving a sweeping reorganization of education governance from kindergarten through college, and by funding the Idaho Education network initiative to bring the best and most cost-effective learning experience to every student.  Our water resources future is more secure as well, with the approval of the landmark Swan Falls water rights agreement with Idaho Power Company, and with the funding of the Comprehensive Aquifer Management Plan process.
The Senate passed a $5.6 million plan to limit most elections to two days a year.  The measure has cleared the House and now goes to Governor Otter.  The bill would limit most elections to May and November.  However, public schools could schedule levy and bond elections in March and August.  Voters will not see any changes until 2011.  The state will provide $4.1 million annually to pay for elections, with counties getting another $1.5 million to buy new election equipment.
I want to personally thank those of you who have communicated with me during this session.  It is always helpful to know what my constituents are thinking and feeling.  If you haven’t yet contacted me, please call, write or e-mail me at dmortimer@senate.idaho.gov and I will add you to my communication list.  I want to remind you that the sessions can be viewed live on the internet and also via public television during the session. There is a great summary of the session called the “Sine Die” report you can get it at www.legislature.idaho.gov on the state legislative web page. This report is a written synopsis of the key legislation.  I have worked hard in trying to serve my constituents and continue to learn and become more effective.  Thanks for allowing me this opportunity.

The Session Continues

The last few weeks at the State Legislature have been a lot of work and I seem to learn new things daily. The work in the committees at times feels endless but Joint Appropriations and Finance Committee (JFAC) is just wrapping up hearing reports from all the state departments and we are listening to discussion on the stimulus package. We are preparing to set the state budgets for 2009 and as I am sure everyone knows the decisions this year are not easy ones. As a representative of the people, one must make decisions at times that people do not agree with, but I strive daily to make sure that all my constituents are in the best possible situation in these tough economic times.

Through all the trouble and strife that everyone keeps talking about I still have a firm belief in the “light at the end of the tunnel.” We WILL get through this recession and we WILL come out stronger then before due to the resiliency and hard work of the Idaho citizens.

We have considered some important issues thus far in this session and I would like to
make you aware of some of them. Here are a few examples:

HJM-002: Regarding the 60th anniversary of the Idaho National Laboratory.

S1011: Regarding moving the Idaho State Historical Society from under the State
Board of Education to the Department of Self- Governing Agencies.

S1013: Moved the Commission for Libraries within the Department of Self- Governing
Agencies.

If you want to see how I voted on an issue go to the state’s webpage at: www.legislature.idaho.gov. I encourage you to look and please send me your thoughts,
comments, concerns to my email at dmortimer@senate.idaho.gov or feel free to write
me a letter at Dean Mortimer, Capitol Annex, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, Idaho
83720-0081. I value your input and will always keep it in mind while voting for you.

As always I want to thank you for the opportunity to represent you in the
legislative process. I recognize the responsibilty and take it seriously. I pledge
my best efforts and time.

Session Underway

The 2009 Legislative session is well underway and I have officially begun my work as your state senator.  I was pleased to have been assigned to the Joint Appropriations and Finance Committee (JFAC), the Education Committee, and Judiciary and Rules Committee. These committees are a lot of work, but also a huge learning opportunity for me.  I am also pleased to announce that I was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Education Committee. I consider myself fortunate to have served Idaho’s youth while I was a Representative in the House and consider it an honor to be able to continue working for them now as Senator.

I attended the State of the State address by Governor Butch Otter on January 12th. The situation the Governor described for Idaho was somber, yet it only strengthened my resolve to work even harder to do whatever is possible to get all Idahoans back on their feet.  Together, I know we will get over this financial situation.

In order to serve my constituents better, I would like to take a moment and get to know your opinion on a few critical items.  Please take the time to respond to the following questions as I value your opinion and am always open for suggestions. 1) What do you feel is the one thing that state government is not addressing that it should be?
2) What do you believe is the most important action for me to take during this
 legislative session?
3) In this legislative session, what do you feel is the most important issue facing District 32?

My primary concern is addressing the issues that you, my constituents, believe are important. Would you please e-mail me your thoughts to dmortimer@senate.idaho.gov

I am only allowed this great opportunity because of your support.  I would like to let you know how much I appreciate and respect the responsibility you have given me.  I pledge my best efforts and time.

 

Officially a Senator

On December 1st an organizational week of the 60th Idaho Legislative session was held.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were training days for the new legislators.  Being a new senator, I attended.  It was great training, even though I went as a new representative.  It was great reinforcement and definitely worth it.  Wednesday night was the organization dinner where leadership is elected.  The Senate leadership stayed the same.  This may have to occur again however if one of the senate members is choosen for the vacancy in the Lt. Governor position.  Thursday, was the official swearing in and committee selection.  In the Senate this is done by senority for the first two committee selections.  After a long morning and afternoon, the selection process was complete and the Senate reconvened and made the committees official.  My committees are:  Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, Education Committee and Judiciary and Rules Committee.  These are great committees and I feel very fortunate to have them as a freshman senator.  They will be a lot of work, and that is something I try to do.

The Summer Has Been Busy.

This summer has been very active politically.  There have been meetings all summer long.  It started with legislative reports to the constituents, the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Realtors, Builders, School Boards, and Bonneville County Republicans to just name a few. 

I attended numerous meetings on transporation issues both in Boise and Eastern Idaho.  Statewide forums just finished crossing the state the last week of August.  This issue is something that really needs addressing and will require a major effort this coming legislative session.  The performance evaluation for the state department was crafted and the evaluator chosen during the summer.  I participated in the review and draft process.   This evaluation is a big step forward to getting efficiencies and needs addressed.

The election year has also made it a busy summer.  It was nice to get past the primaries,  there were many good candidates and I worked to support many of them.  We now look forward to the general elections and the work of encouraging and supporting good Republican candidates.  The next fifty plus days will prove to be demanding and challenging for Republicans locally, in the state and nationally.  We need to all step forward and support and encourage citizens to evaluate the issues and candidates closely. 

 I attended the State Republican convention in Sandpoint, Idaho,  The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry Convention in Donnelly, Idaho and briefly visited, a Idaho Association of Cities meeting,  a Rocky Mountain Power meetings, and gave a legislative update to the Assocation of City Owned Utilties.  Locally, it seems that there have been meetings with consitituents, committees and organizations several times every week.  Needless to say, it has been a busy one.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to share, to listen and to learn.  I feel that the busy summer of exchanging ideas will make my preparation for the upcoming legislative session better. 

I really appreciate the opportunity to serve the people of Legislative District 32,  I am learning more each day and look forward to serving each of you in the Senate.