The Idaho House voted Monday to approve the Idaho Human Rights Commission's (IHCR) merger into the Idaho Department of Labor (IDL) with a 65-0 unanimous vote.
One of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, hailed the innovation and creativity of those involved with the transfer.
"This is an excellent example of what happens when people think outside to the box," said Pasley-Stuart. She praised the two agencies for their ability to problem-solve while facing difficult circumstances. She added that the states that utilize a similar model for their human rights efforts, including Utah, Texas, and Missouri, have experienced success in their respective programs.
The merger is the result of Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State address delivered to a joint meeting of the House and Senate. In his speech, Otter advocated phasing out the commission, and its yearly appropriation from the general fund, during a four-year process. 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 state thousands of dollars each year.
Bob Fick, representing IDL, presented the transition plan to lawmakers during the committee hearing on the bill. 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. Of specific cost savings, Fick said the department would save the commission approximately $68,000 by bringing the commission’s offices into the department’s offices. At that previous hearing, Fick said department priorities might have to be re-prioritized to accommodate the switch and current department employees could be asked to take on additional duties. He added that the department has no plans to cut commission manpower.
Both agencies are supportive of the move. The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.
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