Every Friday during the legislative session, I email an update about that week’s conservation issues at the Statehouse. We call this update Your Voice for Conservation. If you haven’t already, sign up for this weekly legislative update. You’ll have the latest news delivered directly to your inbox!
Despite record-breaking snow, the 2017 Legislature kicked off with an action-packed week, with the governor standing up for public lands. Since 1973, ICL has been there, serving as “your voice for conservation” in the Statehouse.
State of the State
Right out of the gate, Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter laid out his priorities. These include boosting funding for education, establishing a higher-ed working group, sidelining (or at least postponing) calls for tax cuts, increasing hunting and fishing fees to support the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and funding transportation.
Notably, the governor clearly opposed the proposed takeover of public lands. This issue has simmered since 2013, and we hope to finally douse it for good this year!
Rules, Rules, Rules
Consideration of administrative rules dominates the first couple of weeks. ICL has monitored a number of rules over the past year and is particularly concerned with proposed rules that threaten public health by loosening restrictions on field burning.
These newly proposed rules especially threaten sensitive groups like infants, the elderly and those with compromised lung and immune systems. During development of these rules, toxicologists with the Idaho’s own Department of Health and Welfare testified that reducing ozone and particulates from field burning is "critical for the protection of public health." So why is the Department of Environmental Quality loosening these rules?
Science Standards Are Back
In 2016, the House Education Committee balked at new science standards that suggested the Earth was actually 4 billion years old and climate change was a reality. So the Department of Education reinitiated the rulemaking, only to pull the rules after another round of public comments and hearings across the state.
Now, it appears that the revised science curriculum is back on the table, at least for a year. During this time, the Department of Education will embark on the third round of comments and hearings to bring Idaho’s science standards into the 20th…er…21st century…
Tie of the Week
It’s my tradition to share a “tie of the week.” This week’s tie honors Idaho’s public lands, mountains and forests that make Idaho Idaho. ICL works hard to protect these lands from misguided attempts to see them privatized and auctioned off to the highest bidder. Say it loud, say it proud-public lands in public hands!