In a process sparked by Gov. Butch Otter's State of the State address before a joint session of the Idaho Legislature in January 2009, the Idaho Department of Labor (IDL) has taken the first step in absorbing the Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHRC) into its ranks.
In his address to lawmakers, Otter proposed cutting the budget to IHCR during a four-year process, a move designed to cut the state's budget. Otter's proposal faced some opposition and IHCR sought other remedies to save money and stave off elimination. A new home for the commission was found within IDL, which, the department says, will save the states thousands of dollars each year.
Bob Fick, representing IDL, presented the official plan to lawmakers on the House State Affairs Committee Thursday. Fick said the commission would retain all of its independence in operations, and the department would only aid the commission with technical and logistical support. He noted that the commission's administrator would be appointed by department's director, with advice from the commission.
Fick said the goal is that within four years, all general fund contributions to the commission will come to an end. When questioned about specific areas of potential savings, Fick said the department would save the commission approximately $68,000 by bringing the commission's offices into the department's offices. Department work might have to be re-prioritized to accommodate the switch and current department employees could be asked to take on additional duties, said Fick, though he added that the department has no plans to cut commission manpower.
The bill was introduced on a unanimous vote by committee members and will receive further deliberation in upcoming weeks.