The merger of two Idaho state agencies spurred by budget reductions shouldn’t affect anyone filing discrimination claims and is expected to save the state thousands of dollars. The Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which handles discrimination claims, will join the Idaho Department of Labor on July 1, after it was targeted for removal from the state budget earlier this year.
The IHRC will change its location, from office space west of the Idaho Capitol in Boise to the labor department headquarters east of the Capitol, and director Pam Parks said people dealing with the commission shouldn’t see many differences.
“People will not see a change in their ability to file a complaint with us,” she told IdahoReporter.com. Parks said she and other commission staff have to pack up their offices by Friday, and will be in Department of Labor’s building on Monday. The two state agencies will hold an open house in honor of the merger on July 1.
The move should save taxpayers $68,000 a year, since the IHRC rents its current office space. The labor department will also draw from a dedicated fund to pay $144,000 of the IHRC’s next budget, which totals $821,400. The rest of the commission’s budget for the next fiscal year, which starts next month, will come from the state general fund.
The idea for the merger came days after Gov. Butch Otter's budget address in January. The IHRC was one of several agencies targeted by the governor in January for removal from the general fund, which is supported by taxes. Otter didn’t call for the elimination of the agencies, but wanted them to be less reliant on tax dollars. Ultimately, none of the agencies received no funding, though all the targeted agencies did see spending reductions.
“Difficult economic times make people look at issues from different perspectives, and this merger is an example of how that second or third look provides a solution that copes with the realities of living within our means while effectively meeting the needs of Idaho citizens,” Otter said in a news release.
The labor department has long supported the merger. “The commission’s responsibility goes hand in glove with the mission of this department – to provide Idaho workers access to quality jobs that strengthen and expand communities throughout our state,” director Roger Madsen said in a news release. Most of the workload for the IHRC, which enforces civil rights laws in Idaho, involves employment disputes. Seven other states, including Utah and Oregon, have a similar arrangement between human rights agencies and labor departments.