As legislative leaders take center stage this morning at the AP Legislative Preview, Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, told the assembled reporters, “You’re really not as intimidating as a group as you are one on one.” Hill said he’s “really excited” about the state’s criminal justice reinvestment project. “We have an opportunity here to save the people of Idaho millions of dollars and provide a better service to those who are incarcerated, if you can call that a service. Mental health treatment, helping to reduce recidivism, drug abuse problems and how we treat those – there’s a lot of good ideas there,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said it would be “reckless” for lawmakers to put off a decision on Medicaid expansion for another year. “And it’s financially irresponsible,” she said. “I hope we at least have a very healthy debate about it, and have some direction and programs in place so that we can … move forward.”
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said he’s been carrying with him the 20 recommendations of the education stakeholders task force. “This will be a driver this session,” he said. “The good news is that there is slow growth, and we will have some new money to plow into these programs this year, particularly in the form of education.”
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, “I think we will avoid the tough decisions,” with it being an election year. He said, “I think it’s real interesting that we finally discovered that we’re a low-income state. … We can’t expect superior results with bottom of the barrel payments. And over the last few years, who’s been first in line as revenue has come back? It’s been tax cuts. It hasn’t been education or higher education.”