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KOOTENAI COUNTY
TOWN HALL RECAP

February 17, 2021

TL;DR

  • All Kootenai County representatives except Jim Addis made it to the town hall.
  • This was the MOST successful Kootenai County town hall ever.
  • Questions and the rep's answers are below.

Very successful legislative town hall Saturday.

Last Saturday held a VERY successful legislative town hall with over 450 Kootenai County residents attending to hear our our representatives had to say. Eight of our nine reps, deriving from districts 2, 3, and 4, were able to take a pause for a day and make the event a priority. Jim Addis was unable to make it; he was stuck at SeaTac Airport in Seattle in the middle of a snowstorm, and if you've ever lived in Seattle you know that the entire county shuts down over a half inch of snow. 😆

As a reminder, here are our Kootenai County representatives:
District 2
Rep. Vito Barbieri
Rep. Doug Okuniewicz
Senator Steve Vick

District 3
Rep. Ron Mendive
Rep. Tony Wisniewski
Senator Pete Riggs

District 4
Rep. Jim Addis (absent)
Rep. Paul Amador
Senator Mary Souza

I'm going to make the answers and responses as straightforward and paraphrased as I can; if you would like to hear the longer answer from the rep themselves, I urge you to check out the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee YouTube page. They have broken down each question into its own individual clip to make it easily digestible. I will link the specific video to each question so that you can go straight to the source and hear the full answers and discussions. I have also shortened each rep down to their initials for their answers. 😊
  1. Is abortion murder?
    • VB: Life begins at conception so ANY abortion is murder. Things won't start to change until we begin to criminalize abortions.
    • PR: Same 
    • TW: Same
    • PA: Same
    • MS: Same. I am PRO-CHOICE to have intercourse.
    • DO: Same.
    • SV: Same.
    • RM: Same
  2. Do HB17 and SB1085 allow exemptions for abortions for those that were raped or pregnant by incest?
    • VB: Supreme Court cannot be the last arbiter of what's constitutional. Idaho needs to stand on its sovereignty (which has not been the case the whole time I've been in office). Boise is occupied territory; if you want a pro-life bill to get through and signed by Governor, it's going to need some exceptions in it. Exceptions like allowing abortions for those who were raped, or exceptions for hospitals. Political reality is, until we change leadership, some representatives, and hearts & minds, the all-in types of bills are never going to get passed.
    • RM: We don't see all the bills, unless it's in front of us during committee, until it gets to the floor for final voting. I haven't seen these 2 specific bills but I can guess about what's in them. The bigger problem is that the church has dropped the ball and has moved away from discussing "politically incorrect" topics like abortion and we have done a poor job at educating those hearts and minds.
    • PR: These bills don't give everything we want, just a step here and a step there. If we can save one life, we'll keep doing what we're doing. Over time we'll get all of what we want. Sometimes it's just an incremental thing.
    • MS: A bill was just passed out of Senate Sate Affairs known as a "Trigger Bill." A Trigger Bill is one that would step in if something bigger happens. For example, if Roe vs. Wade would ever be overturned, we have a bill in place that would be "triggered" to state that Idaho has sovereignty and would overturn any decision based on Roe v Wade instantly. The one that just came out is called The Heartbeat Bill (SB1085). 
    • VB: There's some pro-life groups in Boise that don't like the Heartbeat Bill because there's already laws that say life begins at conception (whereas the Heartbeat Bill states that if there's a heartbeat they can't do an abortion) so there's some confusion. 
    • MS: The Heartbeat Bill addresses that: it says that life begins at conception, but abortions can't be performed if there's a heartbeat.
    • SV: It took slavery a hundred years to be abolished in this country; it's difficult to expect us to solve this problem overnight when abortion has been legal for 50 years. It's going to be a battle that we have to be willing to fight, and it's going to take several small victories to add up to winning the battle.
    • TW: We don't have an issue of law, we have an issue of the heart. We need to ensure we have the proper heart and then we need to ensure we're properly represented at the State with those that have the proper hearts. We need to start local.
  3. What's happening with repealing the grocery tax?
    • SV: I'm the Senate sponsor of a House bill that would repeal the grocery tax. To this point it hasn't been able to get a hearing due to leadership control over the House Tax committee. There are multiple tax proposals out there but all those decisions are being made by very few people and things are being held up in the House (the tax bills start in the House.) The grocery tax is the most important tax that needs to be repealed. If we eliminated the sales tax on food, there's no legislator alive that would try to get that back. It's improper to tax the most basic necessity for life.
    • MS: Last time a grocery tax bill was tried, the (previous) Governor vetoed it a few years ago.
  4. Can we privatize the DMV?
    • MS: The DMV is critical to verifying people's identification at the election polls.
    • PA: I'm about to propose a study looking at the structure of our DMV systems finding inefficiencies and potentially a different format. The state of Idaho is the only state that has a state DMV that contracts with each county to provide the services and that creates a lot of issues. 
  5. Will there be another bill for the Juvenile Addiction Treatment Center that was vetoed last session?
    • MS: Senator Mendive, Pastor Tim Remington and I spent two years writing legislation to put this into place. It was a parent's choice bill that would give them permission to send their child to a youth treatment center. We got it through the circus that is every committee meeting, got it passed in both the House and the Senate, and then the Governor vetoed it. It was at the end of last year's session, the Governor had signed the Fairness in Women's Sports bill and the Birth Certificate bill, which were both controversial, and I think this was a "give back" to the liberals.
    • RM: It's amazing, there's all these groups that keep saying the state's handling this. They don't want to allow a private treatment facility since "the state's handling it, we don't want to run the risk of putting them in a private care facility that the state can't control." That's what this is all about: state's control.  THE STATE NEVER DOES ANYTHING AND NOTHING HAS CHANGED. A very high percentage of people get started in the drugs and alcohol before they turned 18; it doesn't just suddenly start the second you turn 18. If you can get involved in these people's lives before they get pregnant, before they get into jail, it's a benefit to everybody.
  6. Marijuana Legalization-There was no question about this but they did go off on this topic after the Treatment Center.
    • MS: There's a lot of information coming out right now, although being suppressed by media, about the effects of marijuana on the developing brain. It's devastating. It would imagine that 99% of the kids that go through Pastor Tim's rehab program started on marijuana. When smoked frequently it interrupts the development of the brain. We have a controversial bill that's an amendment to the state Constitution that says any illegal drugs in Idaho will stay illegal. It has exceptions for clinical trials and things like that. It passed the Senate with 2/3 of the vote and I hear it will not pass in the House. If it passed the House, it'll be on the General Election ballot in Nov. 2022 and you would all get to vote on it before it became law. 
    • PR: A lot of the opposition to the bill is because the FDA was referenced in it and there are concerns about linking something in the Idaho constitution to the FEDERAL Food and Drug Administration but when we're talking about prescription drugs they all have to be approved through the FDA. So this isn't about giving the federal government oversight in Idaho, the FDA HAS to approve any drugs that are going to be prescribed anyway.
    • SV: I do not support the legalization of marijuana but I have problems with this bill. The Constitution is no place to mention a federal agency. Bringing a federal agency into the Idaho Constitution brings with it questions about a state's sovereignty. Also, right now our ENTIRE constitution is less than 30,000 words. This ONE (proposed) amendment is over 40,000 words. It more than doubles the entire length of the constitution. While I don't support the legalization of marijuana, I voted against this amendment because I believe it does damage to our constitution, and at any time the federal government legalizes marijuana then it wouldn't do us any good anyway because we would have incorporated those federal laws into our constitution.
  7. What legislation has been introduced to address the inadequacy of the Legislature not having a separate legal counsel from the Executive Office?
    • SV: I am in the process of drafting legislation that would give the Legislature its own legal counsel. Even the Attorney General is finally starting to see that proving legal counsel to separate branches of government is not effective. 
    • DO: Coming from the business world, when you engage the lawyer you want one working for you, not the other side as well. That's a conflict of interest. When drafting legislation, it's typically to go against the grain of the current laws. The AG was trying to straddle the fence and give the Legislature good advice at the same time not provoking the Executive Office. It's just not right.
    • PA: The Legislature has its own ability to hire outside counsel right now to defend ourselves in court. This question stems from this summer that showed us that we as a legislature do not have the ability to call ourselves into special session and we need to work to change that.
    • PR: There's a constitutional amendment and a bill being worked on concurrently right now in the Senate to amend Idaho Code 67-465 to re-balance the power and put ourselves back onto an even playing field with the Executive Office. 
    • RM: We're hoping this amendment will pass so that we will give ourselves the opportunity to call ourselves back into a special session if anything should happen.
    • MS: The House and the Senate have been working together to split out the duties of renewing and updating the emergency powers bills. The House is working on the code about natural disasters. The Senate is working on the code about "intentional" disasters or attacks.
    • TW: Before the constitutional amendment gets voted on by the people in Nov. 2022, we're working on workarounds for the present time. There's also a proposal working it's way through the House that says that checks the Governor if $$$ that comes into the state (like CARES funding), and he wants to spend more than 1% of the regular state budget equivalent amount of that new $$$, the Governor has to get authorization from the Legislature. It's the power of the Legislature that controls the purse strings, not the power of the Executive Branch.
    • SV: Right now there's a concerted effort to return some of these decisions that the health districts are making the elected officials. (SB1060 is what he's talking about, it PASSED in the Senate today 2/17, and will now go through the House.)
  8. Does Idaho provide any funding to Planned Parenthood, and will you support a bill requiring parental opt-in for students to attend sexual education classes?
    • VB: TAKE YOUR KIDS OUT OF THESE INSTITUTIONS! You're not going to control this bureaucracy, we pay for them in taxing but it doesn't matter. Get your kids out of the system. They're propagandizing...come on. The [class] is not going to let you know what's going on. Why? Because you'll try to stop them. We see the world has gone CRAZY. There's nothing that makes sense anymore, and you want to try and stop an institution is so well-established. The only way to deal with this is to take your kids out. It's not rocket science to feed these kids reading, writing, and arithmetic, but we're afraid because we think it's so sophisticated. If you want control of the institution, you're banging your head against the wall. STOP. 
    • DO: If there's anything we can do to defund Planned Parenthood, YES [I'm all for it]. I also would be supportive of legislation that would require parents to opt IN vs. opt out. 
    • TW: Rep. Barbara Ehardt tried to pass a bill last year to allow parents to opt in. There were other issues that she was working on and she didn't get it introduced. There's a lot of forces in the institution of education that don't want change from what they want. In higher learning institutions there's they're heavily promoting social justice programs. Currently we're trying to introduce legislation around those higher learning budgets and separate line items to see where the funding is going. Right now we don't have a law like that in the books. In K-12 institutions we do, but not in higher learning. 
  9. Raise your hands if you were for a mask mandate?
    • No one raised their hands. lol
  10. With a large $$$ surplus, what are the obstacles for a property tax?
    • DO: 1st hurdle is that there are too many chefs in the kitchen and everyone has their own idea. 2nd hurdle is that it's largely a local problem.
    • SV: None of your property tax $$$ goes to Boise. All of it collected is spent by the taxing districts in your county. The reason taxes are too high is because spending is too high; the way you lower taxes is to lower spending. At a state level, revenue determines spending. At a county level, spending determines taxes, so it's just the opposite. If you want your taxes lowered you have to quite voting for school levies, supplement levies, and bond issues, but it's going to impact those services. So you need to be aware. 
    • RM: This is one thing that the state has the least amount of influence over because it does come at a county level. 
    • MS: Spending and budgets begin at the local level which sets the levy rate and the levy rate is used to determine what your property tax will be. 
That's it! We did it! It took 2 tries to get through the town hall recap but we made it! Whew! Thank you for all the responses I got yesterday sympathizing with my Mailchimp troubles. I *may* have added a few strands of gray hair after that but things are looking good now. :)
 
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