Week 1

Monday, the first day of the regular session, I found myself in the front row of the House Chambers scrunched up against the teleprompter listening to our governor deliver the State of the State.

There are a lot of ways to interpret such a speech. Here’s mine.

Idaho has problems:  unemployment, foreclosures, a slow economy, bad roads and programs that need changes (in my opinion, Health and Welfare and K12 Education). Our Governor chose to characterize the problems as simple ones we can solve around the kitchen table. Results will come from more volunteerism, stronger bootstraps, actively defending ourselves from the Federal Government up to and including “nullification”. (But we will borrow from the feds to bail out our bankrupt unemployment fund.) We can escape the “tyranny of entitlements” by doing less.

He expects businesses to come to Idaho to bring jobs and prosperity without significant solutions for funding our roads, modernizing our tax structures, or improving the state of public and higher education; the things that potential employers want. These are the hard decisions that need our attention. Instead we were promised a secret solution for schools, to come from Superintendant Luna on Wednesday.

In medicine we always look for the simple solutions. I like simple solutions. These felt disappointing. There is a maxim in business about simple solutions:  “The easiest way out of a problem is also the easiest way back in.”

The fact that Superintendant Luna’s unilateral solution for our schools was secret didn’t bode well. I find solutions in organizations are best hashed out with the folks who will have to do the work. It can be messy and time consuming, but it can stick. Like the legislature, bad solutions die, compromises are forged, and the common good is served.

Luna too was disappointing. Both he and Otter cited the recent election as evidence their policies reflected the will of the people. And most people do want education to change. But his recommendations for increasing class size, having students taught by laptops (not highly effective teachers) and hiring administrators who have never taught seemed to be saying teachers aren’t important. I believe they are. 

As the week progressed I settled into committee assignments. We toured the Idaho Department of Agriculture and met with the Dairy producers. We’ll start reviewing rules in Agriculture Committee next week. We started reviewing them this week on H&W.

As I was walking back up a drizzly Capitol Blvd. toward the statehouse I was discussing funding for our roads with a senior Senator. I had studied the Governor’s task force report and thought I could see an easy answer. The wise Senator explained some of the nuances to me and smiled, shaking his head. “There are no easy answers.”

We went through the big doors and into the rotunda.

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About ddxdx

A Family physician in the Idaho State Senate
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