After a break of 285 days, I’ve traded in my hiking boots for my wingtips and am excited to be back in the saddle at the  Idaho Legislature. Seriously!

As the Idaho Conservation League’s government relations director and staff lobbyist, I am excited to continue the tradition of serving as Idaho’s voice for conservation  in the Statehouse. But let’s face it, the reason I can make an impact is because of decision makers know we have the support of our members.  For 45  years, ICL has kept tabs  on committees, hearings, bills and rules that affect our water, wildlife, public lands, communities and quality of life.    It’s a job that all of us at ICL take seriously and a tradition that I am honored and humbled to continue.

Each time I walk the two short blocks to the Capitol, I know that our supporters are encouraging me to stand up for the values we share: to protect Idaho’s natural values and safeguard our Idaho’s quality of life. When I stand before a committee, I know that you, ICL’s supporters, are standing right there with me … whether you make a financial gift of any amount or you’ve just taken five minutes to reach out to share your opinion with an elected official. Thank you! You keep ICL going-and you keep me going.

Governor Little Lays Out Priorities

Governor-elect Brad Little was sworn in as Idaho’s 33rd governor last Friday. Today, Monday, Jan. 7, he laid out his legislative and other priorities in his first State of the State Address. As he noted, he’s got a lot of work ahead of him. We look forward to working with the Little administration to explore new strategies and ideas.

Among the priorities that Gov. Little laid out: providing adequate funding for education, ensuring funding and maintenance of Idaho’s transportation infrastructure, expanding medicaid in line with voters’ approval of Proposition 2, enacting criminal justice reform, encouraging development of broadband internet access (especially in rural Idaho), and promoting access to first-time home buyers.

Regarding the environment, Gov. Little pointed out the importance of water. He noted the successful efforts to recharge the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer. The question ICL has: What are the long-term implications  if polluted surface water from the Snake River is being pumped underground?

Regarding public lands, Gov. Little offered a welcome approach that is largely in line with ICL. He reiterated something we know to be true, that “public lands are one of the state’s greatest assets.” Importantly,  he emphasized the success of collaborative efforts in Idaho (which ICL is engaged in) and the need to work together to “protect the special places that make Idaho unique.” He’ll have to overcome some of the voices that are trying to drive wedges into the collaborative efforts. These collaboratives are actually changing the tenor of public lands discussions and finding win-win solutions to help sustain rural economies, restore watersheds, reduce fire risk and provide permanent protection for some of these special places.

Gov. Little also highlighted the Good Neighbor Authority program and the  recently signed Shared Stewardship Agreement. The Good Neighbor program is a relatively new program that provides state assistance to the U.S. Forest Service in administering fuels reduction, logging and restoration work on national forests. The Forest Service retains decision-making authority, follows all environmental laws, and develops the projects with support from local collaborative efforts, in which ICL is engaged. The new, largely symbolic, Shared Stewardship Agreement supports continued implementation of shared priorities regardless of whether the lands are private, state or federally administered. We’ll be watching implementation of these and other programs closely to ensure that they meet conservation goals.

Ways to Stay Tuned In  

Email updates: If you’d like to receive alerts on pressing legislative issues, make sure to sign up for ICL emails using the form at the top of this page.

Text message alerts: If you’d like to be the first to know what’s happening, sign up for our text alerts. Text: 4Idaho to the number 52886.

ICL bill tracker: Track new bills and learn about our positions with the  ICL Bill Tracker. Check back as the session progresses to see what’s on the docket.

Volunteer with ICL: Become an ICL advocate and engage in activism by using your own voice and story.

In Other News

Following the 2018 elections, as well as one  recent retirement, the Legislature will have 27 new faces in 2019. That’s more than 25% of the entire membership.

While most of the leadership challenges in the House failed, the organizational meeting resulted in some new assignments for the session. House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) will continue to lead the House with the assistance of Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R-Star). The two new House leaders will be Reps. Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) and Jason Monks (R-Nampa) as caucus chair and assistant majority leader, respectively.

In the Senate, most of the changes came at the committee level, with a veritable domino effect set off by the retirement of long-serving JFAC (budget) Co-Chair Shawn Keough (R-Sandpoint).   The team of Sens. Brent Hill (R-Idaho Falls), Chuck Winder (R-Meridian), Steve Vick (R-Hayden Lake), and Kelly Anthon (R-Burley) will continue to set the agenda. The newly elected Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin will oversee the Senate, and will be a change from the years-long oversight from former Lt. Gov. Brad Little.

The TOTW Returns!

Finally, I am pleased to bring back the tradition of my  tie of the week #TOTW! Each week, I will try to wear a tie relevant to the discussions, debates and deliberations at the Statehouse. Since it’s the first week, there’s not much to “tie into.” So in recognition of  ICL’s decades of providing a green voice in the Statehouse, I bring you last week’s tie of the week!