The Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHCR) has a new home within the Idaho Department of Labor (IDL) pending legislative approval. Wednesday, the commission came one step closer to receiving that approval by receiving a unanimous vote of confirmation by members of the House State Affairs Committee.
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 for 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. 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 a previous hearing on the plan, 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.
Committee members were supportive of the move. Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, said that when she first considered the move, she worried that IHRC's functions would get lost in the "maze" of a large department, but now believes the commission will remain effective.
"I think it's a good idea," said Pasley-Stuart.
The merger bill now heads to the House floor for a vote.