BOISE – Eleven months ago, amid confusion and misunderstandings, the Idaho House unexpectedly killed popular legislation to create a “pet friendly” special license plate to benefit low-cost spay and neutering services in rural Idaho. Then-Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, had worked on the bill for several years, but had been out ill for all of last year’s legislative session, with substitutes filling in for him, when the bill was rejected.
Last week, in a bipartisan move, the House Transportation Committee reintroduced the bill, and Kloc, now retired from the Legislature and recovering well from cancer treatment, was back to present it. This time, the bill’s co-sponsors are House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian.
Kloc said, “Let me give you a really startling piece of information that you may not know. Two dogs and their litters will produce 78,000 puppies in seven years. That’s just dogs. And Idaho just happens to be the No. 1 state in the country for dog ownership. Two cats will produce 420,000 kittens in the same period of time. That’s a lot of animals out there.” The special license plate, featuring endearing images of a dog and cat, would raise funds to be distributed by the Idaho Humane Society’s Pet Lovers Fund, which helps offset the cost of spaying and neutering pets for low-income Idahoans.
“That’s the Idaho Humane Society, here in Boise, Idaho,” Kloc emphasized. “And all the funds will be kept in Idaho.”
The committee voted unanimously to introduce the bill, clearing the way for a full hearing.
Last year, the measure was defeated on a 31-31 tie vote in the House, with eight House members absent, including key supporters of the bill. On reconsideration, it failed, 32-31, as several House members changed sides, including then-Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, who said he thought the bill would benefit the Humane Society of the United States. “I love puppies and kitties. But the Humane Society is the most aggressive anti-agricultural entity that works around the West, and I just couldn’t vote to support them,” Hartgen told the House.
Actually, last year’s bill, like this year’s, was for the Idaho Humane Society.
Palmer said after last week’s committee meeting, “There were a couple of people that were not on the floor who would have supported the bill, so we’ll give it another shot.” He also said with a smile that his support for Kloc’s bill shows he’s not all that “ornery.”
All the topics
More than 100 people turned out for Friday’s big public hearing on health and welfare issues at the state Capitol, with no assigned topic – each was simply allowed to have their say for up to 3 minutes. The overwhelming majority of the 30 who got time to speak called on the Idaho Legislature to implement and fund Proposition 2, the voter-approved Medicaid expansion initiative, as-is, with no restrictions or changes, while one opposed Medicaid expansion.
But there were a few other topics addressed:
Four people advocated for specific budget requests in Idaho’s Medicaid budget to better fund programs for children with developmental disabilities, including rate increases. Among them was Colleen Sisk, director of Syringa Family Partnership in Sandpoint, who said, “We have these services, but we need them funded adequately. … At my agency alone in North Idaho, there are 85 children on the waiting list. The parents call daily.” These are mostly children under age 5, she said, and early intervention can change their lives.
Three people people addressed issues with the state Department of Health & Welfare’s contract for nonemergency medical transportation.
One objected to immunization rules for Idaho schoolchildren.
And one, Sue Birnbaum, complained that she was fired from her job as a physical therapist at St. Al’s Rehabilitation Services because she refused a flu shot, suggesting lawmakers should do something about that.
Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state Capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.
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