5 points of focus for Idaho Legislature, 3 to forget

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter delivered his annual State of the State to open the 2016 Idaho Legislature at the Capitol on Monday.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter delivered his annual State of the State to open the 2016 Idaho Legislature at the Capitol on Monday. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

We hear a clock ticking, much like the one on the news show, “60 Minutes.” Only in this case, the clock might be ticking down 60-some days – which is about how long many expect the 2016 Legislature to last.

Why? Anybody running for re-election wants to get out of town and hit the campaign trail way in advance of the May 17 primary.

In a very well-received speech that was only 37 minutes long — or, short, like many hope the session will be — Gov. Butch Otter noted that “... it is my sincere wish that we undertake our work together in this legislative session without keeping one eye on the upcoming election ...”

Fat chance. Here’s our advice about legislative things to focus on and things to forget about — for this year, and forever.

Focus on ...

▪ All things education. Otter spent more than half of the speech on education matters, including bold steps to further the goals of his 20-point Task Force for Improving Education, now in its second of a five-year roll out. A $116 million increase in K-12 spending and a $44 million increase in post-secondary funding are needed in Idaho. Write the checks.

▪ Approve the $5 million to begin to address the shortcomings in Idaho’s public defender system. Create standards. Fix it. This is about basic rights to due process.

▪ Community college. Build on the success at places like the College of Western Idaho by upgrading Eastern Idaho Technical College.

▪ Health care. Though we see shortcomings in the health care plan that would divert $32 million from tobacco and cigarette taxes to provide some medical care for the 78,000 Idahoans in the coverage gap — we don’t trust the funding source, and it doesn’t provide for prescriptions and other services — this is better than nothing for a state lacking the political will to accept Medicaid expansion.

▪ Cybersecurity. We’re getting a sense of what we don’t know and where we are vulnerable. Attacking this with statewide and regional resources like the Idaho National Laboratory, partnerships with Boise State and the best practices of other states is not a want, it is a need.

Forget about ...

▪ Tax break boondoggles to pad re-election resumes

▪ Investigations of operations like Planned Parenthood. Nothing there.

▪ Close the barn door on historical horse racing.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman .com.

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