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Scott McIntosh: Welcome back, Idaho legislators, here are our top do’s and don’ts

Idaho Gov. Brad Little is scheduled to give his inaugural address on Jan. 6, and his State of the State address is scheduled for the following Monday, officially kicking off the next Idaho legislative session.

As we tend to do this time each year, we’re sharing our top legislative do’s and don’ts for the upcoming session. If legislators would just follow our list, we have confidence the session would take three or four weeks, tops – especially if legislators stay away from those pesky don’ts that seem to dominate the session and waste valuable time each year.

As you read the list, we warn that you may experience deja vu. Don’t worry, though, it’s just that some of the items on our list have made appearances before, and are worthy of repeating.

DO: Continue increasing funding for public education. Education outcomes can be improved by reducing class sizes, limiting teacher turnover and increasing professional and non-professional staff, among other measures. That takes money – to hire more teachers, increase teacher pay to reduce turnover and hire more counselors and paraprofessionals. If you want to continue to improve rural schools, make them better.

DO: Follow the will of the Idaho voters, who overwhelmingly approved an advisory vote to spend $410 million passed by the Legislature on public education.

DON’T: Fall for the “education savings accounts” gimmick, which is just another way to say “voucher,” which diverts our taxpayer dollars to private schools. According to the Idaho Constitution, our tax dollars are intended “to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

DON’T: Attack Idaho’s higher education system with baseless claims and unfounded fears. Higher education is a vital economic driver that needs to attract the best and the brightest. Our colleges and universities need champions in the Legislature, not enemies.

Read our full list of legislative do’s and don’ts here.

Boise police investigation

An investigation into the racist attitudes expressed by retired Boise Police Capt. Matt Bryngelson is absolutely warranted. The city of Boise this month hired lawyer Michael Bromwich, of the Washington, D.C., law firm Steptoe & Johnson, to investigate whether Bryngelson’s racist attitudes infected his work and whether racist or white supremacist views infected the behavior of other officers. The cost of the investigation is not to exceed $500,000 and is expected to last no longer than December 2023.

We support a full and vigorous investigation, which is needed to maintain – or perhaps restore – faith in the Boise Police Department.

Hiring Steptoe & Johnson presents a mixed bag, though.

Read our full editorial here on why this needed a more transparent process.

Interim chief speaks out

“Anyone who has been following the news knows the past few years have been a particularly tough time to be a member of the law enforcement profession nationally and even a turbulent time locally. As the chief of the Boise Police Department, I have been tasked with leading our agency through a difficult time.”

Read the full guest column from interim Police Chief Ron Winegar here.

Former police chief weighs in

“I’m hearing many people express concern regarding the mayor’s ineptness in the handling of daily operations related to the Boise Police Department, from her confusing responses to the complaint that nine police officers filed for workplace harassment to her differing statements on the Office of Police Accountability.”

Read the full guest opinion piece from former Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson here.

Funding new school construction

The Vallivue school district’s overcrowding problem shows just how much state legislators need to step in and provide a solution to the problem of how we build new schools in Idaho. As Idaho Statesman reporter Rachel Spacek wrote, the Vallivue school district can’t keep up with the rapid growth within its boundaries. This year alone, Vallivue’s student enrollment grew by 8.3%, or more than 650 students.

Vallivue has added 46 portable classrooms in five years, with the entire fifth grade at Central Canyon Elementary School in portable classrooms. The district’s Lakevue Elementary, built for 725 students, has 949. Class sizes are at 35 students in some instances, compared with the average 24 students per class for an Idaho elementary school. Vallivue is overdue for at least two new elementary schools, Spacek reported, but Vallivue voters have twice shot down bonds to pay for new buildings.

Read my full column here on possible solutions.

Far-right politics and governance in Idaho

Idaho’s far-right coalition hasn’t recently had a true governing majority on the statewide level, but that could change, writes Idaho Statesman opinion writer Bryan Clark.

The two historical fates of Idaho’s far-right coalition – and the consequences that follow for the broader community – are currently on display in Bonneville and Kootenai counties, and particularly at their community colleges. At the College of Eastern Idaho, it’s business as usual. Local high school students get a head start toward college by taking dual-credit classes. Young adults work toward two-year degrees as a first step to a bachelor’s degree. Technical programs train older adults to move into high-paying blue-collar jobs at Idaho National Laboratory and businesses that crop up around it.

That’s not the case at North Idaho College.

Read Bryan Clark’s full column here.

Put an end to the Idaho legislative legal slush fund

The Idaho Legislature will soon get a pair of long-overdue bills, writes Idaho Statesman opinion writer Bryan Clark.

As James Dawson of Boise State Public Radio reported, the Board of Examiners recently voted to bill the Legislature for the state’s loss in a lawsuit brought by individuals who had been listed on Idaho’s sex offender registry for engaging in consensual sex that violated unconstitutional sodomy laws. This is the second time this year that the Board of Examiners, led by Gov. Brad Little, has taken such action.

The actions mean that lawmakers will have to come up with the money to cover these lawsuits themselves, rather than treating the Constitutional Defense Fund as their personal legal slush fund.

Read Bryan Clark’s full column here.

I’m listening

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