Brothers and Sisters,
The 2010 Idaho State Legislative Session has come to a close. Overall, I would say it was a fairly successful year. Considering the economic climate, I feel fortunate that we didn’t sustain any significant blows to our retirement or to collective bargaining. I think the attempt to rescind the PERSI COLA this year is a harbinger of things to come next year though. I also think the discussion about the teacher’s collective bargaining and a bill that passed this year which weakens their bargaining rights warns us of potential attacks to ours next year.
We also escaped the session without the EMS Code Task Force legislation being passed. As written, this bill would have severely limited our respective agencies abilities to make decisions regarding EMS service within our jurisdictions. We thought we had reached a compromise that we could live with which would have given every one of our agencies a voice on a governing board. That was rejected by the Idaho Association of Counties and was not considered by the Senate.
Instead of giving the bill another hearing (with the amendment), Chairman Lodge decided to request that the Office of Performance Evaluation (OPE) study the issue to provide guidance for legislation for next year. Again, I am disappointed that the Senate Health and Welfare Committee didn’t just push forward with the issue since seven of eight stakeholder groups were behind a compromise amendment. I had worried that the study would be set up in such a way as to lead to a conclusion that would not favor us. As it turns out the specific questions being asked were developed by the EMS Bureau and appear to provide a fairly neutral scope to the study. After a hearing on which studies to undertake this year, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee (JLOC) gave OPE the official marching orders to take on this study. I have never been a part of this process and have no idea what to expect. One thing I do know to expect is that this issue will be back next year. I will keep you updated as I learn more.
On a positive note, HB 617 (the rescue bill) passed the Senate unanimously on the third to last day of session. I am not surprised as it made it out of Senate State Affairs, which is a committee comprised of all of leadership, unanimously the week before. After waiting patiently behind over 50 other bills, H 617 was heard Thursday, March 25th and received little debate before being unanimously accepted by the Senate.
Our other objectives for the year did not pan out as we had hoped, but we will continue to work on them. The peer counseling legislation will be pursued through the Supreme Court committee on procedural rules. We will work on this in the interim. The funding for the Fallen Firefighter Foundation legislation does not look very optimistic at this point. It is clear that the tax check off is not an option as long as Rep. Lake is in office. We will look at other funding options for the future. We are starting to work more aggressively toward presumptive legislation for next year also. There will be a price tag to this legislation, so we’ll have to evaluate the economic climate into our plan. The economy was the major factor in not pursuing this legislation the past two years and could affect us next year.
I want to thank all of you for taking an interest in what we do legislatively. I especially want to thank those of you who helped with our day on the hill and with the grassroots email and letter campaign. Your work helps immensely. I will need your help these next 7 months to further our political cause by helping in the upcoming election campaigns. Please consider giving 2 hours this spring and 2 hours this fall to help out on one of our legislative campaigns or one of your local election campaigns. Thanks again.
Professional Firefighters of Idaho
Executive Vice President