Idaho Department of Labor Director Roger Madesen said he's firmly behind the proposal to join the Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHRC) with his department. “The plan to merge our department with the Human Rights Commission is significant to us, and humbling and inspiring,” he told lawmakers Tuesay. "I look forward to providing the support the commission and director Pam Parks and her staff need to continue making the independent decisions that affirm our state's commitment to equality."
The proposed merger could affect other programs the labor department had in the works. "The additional financial support the department is putting into the Human Rights Commission has required us to juggle our priorities, and some projects that had been on the front burner before have now been pushed back or scaled back," Madsen said. The merger will cost the labor department $144,000 in the next budget year, and $1.5 million during the next four years. Items on the chopping block include opening more offices across the state, reduced funding for the online Idaho Career Information System, and installing new energy-efficient windows at the labor department headquarters in Boise.
"The window situation down at the main office is pretty bad," said labor department spokesman Bob Fick.
Madsen said he will encourage the commission to use its resources wisely, but won't offer input on its work handling discrimination disputes. "I’m not going to tell the human rights commission my opinions on issues, even if they ask," he said. “I’m going to make sure that they’re efficient, independent, and effective.”
“Now you’ve found a home for the Idaho Human Rights Commission, and we’re grateful,” said Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome.
The IHRC announced Monday that it supports the merger, which came about after Gov. Butch Otter announced his intent to phase out state funding for the agency during the next four years. "We're humbled that they offered to help," IHRC director Pam Parks said. "It's a huge impact."
Otter supports the merger, according to Madsen. "Hopefully the Legislature will endorse it and then he can sign a bill," he said. The merger would likely go into effect in July. Madsen said he will meet informally with IHRC staff Tuesday morning to further discuss the merger.
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