House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, was joined by several legislators from Meridian, Eagle, and Boise to provide a wrap-up of the 2010 legislative for constituents in state legislative districts 14 and 20. Attending the meeting with Moyle were Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, and Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian. Sen. Shirley McKague, R-Meridian, who represents District 20 in the Senate, was slated to appear but was unable to do so due to a scheduling conflict.
The talk of the night focused on three of the hottest topics legislators faced during the session: education, budgets, and the texting-while-driving ban. A teacher in the audience queried lawmakers about their hesitance to raise taxes to pay for necessary services like education. Moyle fielded that question and took particular exception with the notion raised by the teacher that schools would need to increase class sizes as a result of the cuts.
"It ticks me off when people say we don't care about education," said Moyle. "The money is there for education." He added that during budget planning, lawmakers added a trigger to appropriations to ensure that class sizes wouldn't inflate to sizes unbearable for students. If a school district balloons class sizes, according to Moyle, certain funding will be removed by the state. All the lawmakers in attendance agreed that the budget cuts hurt, but wouldn't be impossible for districts to bear.
"It's up to the districts to be innovative within the district," said Labrador. "Maybe we should be paying teachers more and have fewer administrators."
"Everybody is going to have to give a little bit," said Moyle. "Everybody is struggling and we are all part of the solution."
Budget cuts were also a talking point for legislators. Moyle said that setting the budget "wasn't a pretty process," and that Idahoans "are going to start seeing the effect of the cuts soon." He added that both the House and Senate did what they needed to do to keep from raising taxes during the session.
"We did the best we could with what we had to work with," said Moyle.
The texting-while-driving ban, killed by Labrador through a procedural maneuver on the House floor on the final day of the session, provided for much debate in the meeting as well. One female constituent asked lawmakers why they failed to pass the legislation. Her question was met with a barrage of responses from Labrador and Hagedorn on why they felt the legislation was unnecessary.
Hagedorn said that the first version of the bill, which would have made it a misdemeanor to drive and text, was too harsh and would have put a huge strain on local courts and law enforcement officials.
"You would have had people jammed up in the courts and police officers in court and not on the street," said Hagedorn. Both he and Labrador said they felt as though the punishment for inattentive driving, which has a lower burden of proof than the texting ban would have had, should suffice when it comes to texting while driving.
"We do not need to create a new crime to charge people," said Labrador. He added that under the proposed ban, only the honest people who admitted to cops that they had been texting while driving would be charged, while those who lie would go free. For Labrador, that is unacceptable. "I will never agree to a law with selective prosecution.
The issue will not go away, believes Palmer. "I almost guarantee there will be another bill to deal with it next year," said Palmer.