The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee just unanimously approved the budget for the Idaho Women’s Commission for next year – which in itself is unusual. For years, a few committee members have objected to the idea of a women’s commission – most notably Sen. Mel Richardson, R-Idaho Falls, who long maintained that women already have improved their lot and there’s no men’s commission. But Richardson said today that he met with a member of the commission and gained new understanding of what the commission does, including helping guide displaced homemakers to needed state programs and services. Now he supports the commission. “I have great respect for some of the things they have been doing,” he said.
But this year’s squabble over the tiny budget – it totals less than $40,000 in general funds – actually was among the female members of JFAC, who had questioned whether the funding was unnecessarily being spent on an executive director position – now vacant – when it could go to grants and other more direct efforts to help women and families. In the last week, JFAC members Reps. Margaret Henbest, Shirley Ringo, Kathy Skippen and Maxine Bell met with the governor’s office and three members of the women’s commission, and pinned down just what the staffing needs are for the commission, which have to do with coordinating meetings, responding to numerous phone calls and emails from clients, and publishing a $7,000 legal guide for women every other year that’s widely distributed, including to other state agencies. In the end, the women legislators crafted a budget that allows for 16/100 time funding for the executive director, and directs the rest of the agency’s budget into its services, including additional efforts to coordinate with educational institutions to offer seminars for women.
Ringo said the new budget reflects “what we learned about the focus of the women’s commission.”
Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, then made a disclosure of his own – his wife serves on the women’s commission. “I applaud the efforts of the past week,” he said.