This session started four days early for me as I was chosen to serve on a special Change in Employee Compensation Commitee (CEC). It has been a blur for me ever since. A few of the issues that are of major concern to our distrcit are Education (as always), Water Adjudication, Highway Funding, the State taking control of the Federal Lands, a call for a Consititutional convention, a Veterans home, etc.
On the Education front we passed a major bill that increased teacher salaries and tied salaries and bonuses to student outcomes and teacher evaluations. Currently, many rural districts are not able to find the teachers they need. This problem will increase over the next few years as baby boomers retire. Idaho must become more competitive with surrounding stataes to recruit and retain good teachers. Also, I met with our new superintendent of public instruction, Sherri Ybarra. Upon hearing her presentation before the House Education committee I am encouraged that the State Department of Education is moving in a positive direction. Unfortunately, on a recent trip to Washington D.C., Ms. Ybarra was told by the President and Secretary Duncan that Idaho took the money and signed on the dotted line on we are required to comply with the 95% mandate for the SBAC testing this year. Superintendent Ybarra is seeking approval of alternate testing for next year.
Water adjuication has come to Northern Idaho. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has made 53 water rights claims on behalf of the Coeur D'Alene Tribe. We all need to pay close attention to this.
The possibility of the State taking control of the Federal lands in Idaho generated lots of mail. Unfortunately, a large number of people believe that the State would sell the land and thus public land would disappear. The acutal goal is for the State to utilize the resources while maintaining the land as public. Currently, for every dollar we send Washington D.C. we get a dollar and forty cents back. This money comes with strings from the Federal Government, which we as a State do not want. Idaho's only hope to be seld sustaining and to be able to rid ourselves of the shackles that come with the Federal money is to manage those lands.
It has been a privilege serving you this session. Thank you!
Representative Ron Mendive