And they’re off

January 25, 2013

Nearly 40 years ago Secretariat closed the deal on horse racing’s Triple Crown at Belmont Park and secured legendary status. In a world record time of 2:24 for the 1 ½ miles the 3 year old colt blistered the field by 31 lengths. While all horses had an even start and equal opportunity to win, in this case the favorite got it done.

Legislation can be a little like a horse race. We are three weeks out of the starting gate and all the horses are still pretty bunched up. While it feels busy, movement of legislation has been slow. I suppose one could contribute that to a number of factors. There are 31 new members in the House and 11 new Senators. It stands to reason that relationship building so necessary to the legislative process will demand a little more time than usual.

We have had significant changes in many areas of leadership from Speaker of the House to the many new committee chairs. And while each session has key issues, there may be more this session that have critical implications for Idaho than we have seen in many years. In my opinion when to run legislation has become as big a part of strategy as what the legislation looks like. I believe the fear of getting pinned against the rail, or going out to quickly only to be caught at the club house turn is on the minds of many. So what are my picks to come out of the pack?

#1 Health Insurance Exchange

Expect a serious battle on this one. Governor Otter notified Health and Human Services (HHS) on December 14th that Idaho will opt for a state based exchange subject to legislative approval. If the approval sought is in fact gained, it will be only after significant debate. This issue is already pitting friends against friends and party members against those of their same political bloodline. We often say that we can disagree on an issue today and then show up tomorrow and work together. The insurance exchange issue will test that resolve.

#2 Repeal of the Personal Property Tax

We have yet to see any legislation but this horse is also expected to be there at the end. It is my understanding that a working group continues to put ideas together. I do believe most legislators understand that while this is an onerous tax that hampers development we can ill afford to leave local taxing districts high and dry. A trusted friend of mine who is working on this told me “I think we will have something most folks and taxing districts can support”. I hope so.

#3 Education Reform

While the mindset of some is that this horse will surely be scratched I’m not as convinced. There is strong opinion that we need to press forward with education reform in some fashion. Count me among those who feel we can ill afford to cease our efforts to create the best learning opportunities for Idaho’s students. That said I expect a much less aggressive approach than what we saw in 2011.

Many other potential entries will make it interesting for even the casual spectator. Gun rights, Medicaid expansion, local option tax, pay day loans and dozens more will all jockey for position.

When Secretariat died an autopsy revealed that his heart was much larger than what is normally found in equines. He was described by admirers as the perfect running machine. For the next few months in Boise I don’t expect things to run perfect but with hard work, patience, and common sense I believe we can get it done, even with tough track conditions.

This is an important time and I suspect that like that great colt from so many years ago, folks may be talking about the 2013 session for years to come.

Idaho State Journal 1/25/2013