Members of the Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHRC) voted unanimously to go along with the proposal to merge the commission with the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL). The move should help reduce IHRC's reliance on general fund dollars. The plan to merge the two state agencies came about after Gov. Butch Otter named the IHRC as one of several agencies targeted for removal from general fund spending. The Legislature must approve the plan before the two agencies can share costs and funding.
Read IdahoReporter's coverage of the IHRC/IDOL merger here and the news release on IHRC's unanimous vote below.
IHRC Commissioners Unanimously Support Partnership with Department of Labor
The Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has unanimously endorsed the proposed legislation merging the commission and the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL).
In approving the plan at a special meeting on Feb. 3, the nine commissioners expressed confidence that the proposed merger between the two agencies will have multiple benefits. It will:
* Enhance both agencies’ commitment to provide exemplary services to the citizens of Idaho with a minimal impact to the Department of Labor.
* Create significant cost savings and efficiency for the commission.
* Provide an offset to the proposed general funds reduction.
* Strengthen the commission while preserving its autonomy in enforcing Idaho’s Human Rights Act and the federal civil rights laws.
“In partnership with the Department of Labor, the Idaho Human Rights Commission will continue to do the work we are charged to do by the Idaho Legislature and the people of Idaho,” Commission President Estella O. Zamora said. “We look forward to working with Labor Director Roger Madsen and his staff and thank them for their willingness to support us and the important work that we do – protecting Idaho’s people from discrimination.”
“This is the kind of agreement that highlights what can be accomplished when we work together for a common purpose – to meet the needs of Idaho citizens while being mindful of the realities of our budget and the responsibility of living within the people’s means,” Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said. “I congratulate everyone involved for thinking creatively and acting so effectively.”
“The department looks forward to supporting the Human Rights Commission in carrying out a responsibility to keep Idaho free of discrimination,” Madsen said. “Through the department’s network of 25 local offices across the state, we hope to help the commission better reach all Idahoans.”
The proposed merger is a result of Governor Otter’s request in late December that the commission explore alternative funding sources to make state government more efficient. On Jan. 4, Commission Director Pamela Parks suggested to the Governor’s Office that Idaho consider the structure some other states have used in housing their civil rights enforcement agencies in their labor departments, calling it an efficient, effective and logical fit. Madsen immediately agreed, and discussions on the details of the merger were launched.
Madsen and several members of his team met with Parks and the commissioners for two hours on Jan. 30 to answer commissioners’ questions. After airing their concerns, the commissioners expressed their appreciation for the Labor Department’s attention to detail in drafting the legislation, saying it reflected the agreements reached in the earlier discussions.
“This partnership strengthens Idaho,” Commissioner Sheila Olsen of Idaho Falls said, enthusiastic about the assistance the commission will receive from the Labor Department to continue its important work.
Commissioner Joe B. McNeal, former mayor of Mountain Home, called the proposal “an outstanding effort by the department and commission to form a partnership that will benefit all Idahoans.”
Parks called it “a win-win for the state, and the right thing to do. We recognize that both our agencies share a common mission to provide Idaho with a strong work force and a commitment to ensure that those workers are protected from discrimination in the workplace.”
Commissioners are appointed by the governor to three year terms.