Idaho Examiner -
Idaho Rep. Tom Loertscher

Monday, January 30, 2006

House Highlights - Week Three, 2006

By Tom Loertscher

Some time ago I was listening to one of those motivational speakers giving a speech on famous last words. What he said reminded me of some of the things that went on in the House this past week. During last year’s legislative session we were told that if we did not pass tax favors for some large companies such as Albertsons it would be just a matter of time before they would move their corporate headquarters elsewhere, where they would be treated better. The Legislature responded by giving Albertsons and any other such company tax incentives to stay in Idaho. It worked. The tax breaks were put in place and Albertsons is leaving. The talk around these marbled halls has been all the way from disappointment to outrage. Duped was another word used. So much for those famous last words.

One former colleague during a very protracted debate on the House floor, (all of which was in favor of the bill, by the way) uttered these now famous last words: “The oftener you run over a dead cat, the flatter it gets.” Rules review continues and at times the process is frustrating. One set of rules from the Department of Health and Welfare had no substantive provisions for the operation of a program. The Department admitted that these rules merely set up a process for writing new rules next year. Now how was that again? Stated another way these were rules to govern rule making. You have to hand it to the agency for creativity at least. The discussion over high school reform continues with some law makers thinking there needs to be a cooling off period. Not a bad idea when you consider how heated the discussion has become around the tables in the lounge and other places. But what may more likely happen is to keep “running over this cat” until the steam is all out of the opposition.

Famous last words are not all from the past either. Representative Dennis Lake has been saying that property tax reform will happen this year, because it has to. I don’t recall ever having seen so many tax bills introduced in one week. They cover a range of topics, from homeowner’s exemption increase to school maintenance and operation levy elimination. It is possible for almost everyone to find something in all of these bills to love and to hate. I was gently reminded at home over the weekend that each of these proposals needs to be very carefully evaluated and make sure there will be no unintended consequences. Will property tax reform happen this year? I hope so, but more than that it has to be done the right way.

Forecasts can be another form of famous last words, in a way. My brother used to live in Hollister California, and he said that it was the only time he ever saw weather forecasts be accurate. It wasn’t that the weatherman was good at forecasting, it was because they just don’t have weather there. One day is like the next, same sky, same temperatures, same seasons, etc. We don’t have that problem around these parts. One year I decided to be a little more scientific about when to cut the hay. When the forecast was 50% or higher chance of rain I would not cut. And when I didn’t cut it didn’t rain either. But I digress. I have this vivid memory of the forecast of the Transportation Department indicating that Federal highway dollars would not decrease, but now they have decreased. Sounds a bit like some of those famous last words. And when asked by the media when it is expected that this legislative session will be over, the forecasts run the gambit, from March 14th to sometime in April. If history is any indicator of session length, it may be wiser not make a forecast, not yet at least. We probably don’t need any more famous last words.

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