Governor Brad Little met with Chris Tapp and Senator Ricks to discuss the upcoming Wrongful Conviction Act bill last Friday. Chris told the Governor about some of his experiences in prison and the Governor signaled he is supportive of the bill. It was a good meeting and we appreciate Governor Little taking time to meet Chris; it meant a lot to him.
In the Senate Judiciary Rules Committee we have been reviewing the IDAPA Rules, aka Administrative Rules, and as Vice Chairman of this committee I conduct the process. Our committee also approved a few Gubernatorial appointments to various commissions and boards. The Idaho Senate must approve the executive appointments just like the U.S. Senate does with Presidential appointees.
I reintroduced my Wrongful Conviction bill, Senate Bill S1027. As you recall, the Governor vetoed the prior bill last year (H384), because he saw the added college tuition waiver and limited medical insurance as an unfunded mandate. I was upset with the veto, but during the summer I contacted the Governor’s office and we worked out the differences to make it an even better bill this year. We removed the tuition and insurance add-ons and then offset it by increasing the amount of compensation for each year a person is wrongfully imprisoned from $60,000 to $62,000. I do appreciate that the Governor did call me at the time he vetoed the bill and said he agreed with the bill’s intent and pledged to support it this year after it was adjusted. The bill is now ready, and a full hearing is scheduled for January 27th. This bill provides compensation for those who are truly innocent but were wrongfully convicted and sent to prison. The bill idea was inspired by the events surrounding Chris Tapp’s exoneration. Currently we have identified six individuals who may be eligible for compensation and probably only four because of circumstances. Society owes restitution to these individuals for taking away their freedom unjustly! Currently in Idaho, exonerees are let out of prison with only the clothes on their back, no money, no housing assistance, no job, no counseling, etc. We just say sorry which is terribly wrong, so this bill fixes that!
In the Agricultural Affairs Committee, we have been reviewing the IDAPA Rules. We finished those up this week and are ready to start hearing bills. I grew up on a farm in Madison county and I am excited to serve on this committee. Agriculture is still the backbone of Idaho’s economy in my opinion.
The process to end the emergency powers by the Governor has begun well. Governor Little took a shot at the Legislature last Friday in his press conference and we still have tire marks from the bus running over our toes. Even though the Governor hit it out of the park in the second inning, the Legislature is up to bat next. It’s a chess match with the Governor, and the Legislature will carefully consider its next move.
Idahoans are pleased the Governor opened up attending sporting events, etc. to 40% capacity. I am hearing positive reports about this, and I will continue to encourage movement towards no restrictions. Interestingly, before Governor Little made the change, I had met with his Deputy Chief of Staff and told her to loosen up the gatherings policy or else the Legislature would have no option but to continue moving forward to force his hand.
I receive a lot of email from people in our district who want the governor’s emergency orders to end promptly. I also receive email asking to not end the emergency, but probably a 3 to 1 lessor number. I do value input from constituents greatly and will carefully weigh all factors before voting on legislation. We have been told by the Governor’s office that if it ends promptly, so does the FEMA federal dollars coming into our state to help pay for the Idaho National Guard deployment, PPE for hospitals, COVID dollars to help businesses, and so on. Our Idaho Senate leadership has inquired with the FEMA office and we are awaiting a response just to verify what we’ve been told. Again, we will weigh all conditions before taking legislative action.
I am enjoying the Senate and getting to know the other Senators better. The routine is similar to the House, but there are a few differences in procedures like voting. The Senate has rollcall votes and the House votes electronically via pushing a button on their floor phone. The Senate majority caucus is smaller in numbers and easier to discuss details about pending bills than the House.
Please contact me if you come to the Capitol, I always enjoy greeting folks from home!
Below are some recent activities and highlights taking place in the Idaho Capitol. I hope you enjoy the information. For more details, you can log onto legislature.idaho.gov where you will find bills, committee recordings, and live stream videos of our House and Senate floor sessions. I look forward to your involvement.