More from Cherie Buckner Webb

Hello All,

Committees have been diligently engaged in rules review the last couple of weeks. JFAC has been hearing budget requests, legislators have been preparing personal bills for submission and I am pleased to say that legislators have been devoting considerable time to listening to stakeholders. Following a predictably slower start, the pace is picking up rapidly.

Education Week

Institutions of higher education presented their budgets and shared visions for the futures of their institutions:

Education Committee presentations:

University of Idaho - President Duane Nellis
Idaho State University - President Arthur Vailas
Lewis and Clark State College - President Tony Fernandez
Education Update - Tom Luna, Supt. Public Instruction
Workforce Issues Affecting Public School Teachers -
Rakesh Mohan, Dir. Office of Performance Eval.

Superintendent Luna announced his request for a 3% increase for the public schools budget for 2013-14, which equals about $38 million more than the previous year. The devil is in the details though, as $33.9 million of that is going to unspecified changes to the education system. He expressed interest in continuing to funnel funds into technology, but this is not unheard of as money has been appropriated toward technology since the 1950s in Idaho’s public schools budget.

On February 1st from 8:00-10:30 a.m. the Senate and House Education Committees will be conducting a joint hearing in the Senate auditorium. The session will provide the community with the opportunity to share their suggestions on the next steps for education in Idaho. Testimony will be limited to three minutes per person. You may submit more detailed comments to the committee in writing via email to hedu@house.idaho.gov. Committee members will have access to all written comments. As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I look forward to hearing from you.

One highlight of the week was a visit by the fourth grade class from St. Joseph’s School. The students were a delight; very knowledgeable about Idaho history, they asked and answered great questions and beautifully executed an impromptu musical selection calling out all of the counties in Idaho. These amazing kids provided a poignant reminder of the importance of the work we do today and its impact on tomorrow.

Human Rights

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Human Rights celebration at the Capitol rotunda kicked off the week on January 21st. I was honored to unite with folks from every walk of life to honor the legacy of Dr. King. Most of you know that the day is of major significance for me. And as I stood with my granddaughter in my arms, I was overwhelmed by the importance that it holds for generations to come. Our children and our children’s children must not forget the struggle and unwavering perseverance of those who came before us to obtain basic equal rights. And yet there is much work to do. Many Idahoans are still denied basic human rights. And so it is that Representative Grant Burgoyne and I are hosting a Human Rights Act Education Panel on February 6th from 12:00 -1:00 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium. The panel will be moderated by David Adler of the Andrus Center for Public Policy. Panelists include:

· Pam Parks, Executive Director, Idaho Commission on Human Rights

· Maryann Jordan, Boise City Council

· Rev. Marci Glass, Pastor, Southminster Presbyterian Church

· Kevin Settles, Idaho Business Owner

· John Reuter, Former Sandpoint City Council President

Please join us.

Gun Violence

Gun violence is top of mind for many Idahoans. The tragedies of recent events touched the hearts and souls of us all. And while I will continue to defend 2nd Amendment rights, I support responsible gun ownership and policies that serve to protect the safety of our citizens. I join the Democratic caucus in committing to give cautious consideration to any proposed legislation on this topic.

Additionally the State of Idaho must be aggressive in attending to the needs or those with mental illness. We reaffirm our pledge to take proactive leadership in support of appropriate care for those with mental illness.

Increasing Voter Access

In response to the concerns from members of our communities, the Democratic Caucus is pleased to present a package of bills that is crafted to protect fundamental voting rights. This collection of bills, the Voting Opportunity and Trustworthy Elections (VOTE) initiative, was developed to encourage participatory government and increase access to the voting process.

· The Motor Voter Act

· The Online Voter Registration Act

· The Early Voter Opportunity Act

· The Voter Convenience Act

· The Private Election Taxpayer Compensation Act

Details of the VOTE Initiative will be presented at a press conference on Tuesday, January 29th, at 10:30 a.m. in Room WW-17 at the Capitol. You may access the audio via Idaho Public Television (click on the WW-17 link under “notices”).

Meet Caitlin Lister, Attaché Extraordinaire

I am pleased to introduce my Senate Attaché, Caitlin Lister, a native of Washington with great skills and talents and an amazing professional background. Caitlin spent six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving two tours in Iraq as a helicopter mechanic and three years as a U.S. Embassy Guard. She moved to Idaho upon completion of her military service, and earned her BA in Political Science at Boise State University. Caitlin worked on Mayor Bieter’s campaign, managed Sen. Elliot Werk’s campaign and is now in her second year working for the Senate Minority Party. She was honored as the Idaho Young Democrat of the month in January. Caitlin and her husband, Dan, have a 10 year-old daughter and are expecting their first son in May. Caitlin is an invaluable asset and consummate professional who assists me with all aspects of my work at the Capitol and can reach me at any time. Please feel free to contact her at 208/332-1416 or clister@senate.idaho.gov.

Town Hall Meetings

I invite you to join Representative Mat Erpelding, Representative Holli Woodings and me for upcoming District 19 Town Halls this session. The first will take place on February 19th at Longfellow Elementary School from 7-8:30 p.m. and the second is on March 13th, location to be announced in the near future. We will send out reminders as the events approach. Please join us – we want to hear from you (and share our perspectives).