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For the week of January 3 through January 9, 2001

Legislators start work Monday

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Democrats Wendy Jaquet and Clint Stennett are gearing up for the opening of Idaho’s legislative session on Monday.

Jaquet, House minority leader, characterized last year’s session as "strident" and "uncomfortable." Things this year may not be much better, she said.

"People were angry because they couldn’t come to agreement on the [budget] surplus, and it’s going to happen again this year," she said.

Idaho has already received nearly $100 million from the settlement of a federal tobacco lawsuit, and by the end of the fiscal year, the state could be in receipt of nearly $200 million more.

Idaho’s Republican-dominated Legislature has indicated interest in putting that money into reducing income taxes and corporate taxes. Jaquet said that while the state’s Democrats would like to help with property-tax relief and "focused" corporate tax relief, ailing educational facilities should take center stage.

"Education is an investment in the economic development of the state," she said.

She also would like to give 50 percent of the surplus back to Idahoans in the form of school facilities improvements and sales tax reductions, but said the other 50 percent should be spent on increasing teacher salaries, improving college and university facilities, and on investing in alcohol and drug treatment and prevention.

Senate minority leader Stennett also said he was displeased with last year’s session, but is "cautiously optimistic" about the coming months.

"Because there’s such a large surplus of money, we will take real and positive steps toward school facilities and getting ahead of education, and keeping people from smoking, and going down the road toward substance abuse. We will actually increase teachers’ salaries, and we will provide some real tax relief."

Following are highlights of legislation Blaine County’s lawmakers are planning to introduce.

·  Transit tax. Jaquet is working with the city of Boise and the Association of Idaho Cities to allow citizens living in a regional transit authority (RTA) to vote a .5 percent levy on themselves for funding public transportation.

Jaquet said similar local control taxation bills have been unsuccessfully proposed about five previous times.

·  Agricultural land preservation. Jaquet and Stennett are working together on a bill that would collect a percentage of sales from subdivided or developed agricultural land. The money collected would then be used to preserve other agricultural lands.

·  Upper Big Wood preservation. If enacted into law, a bill Stennett plans to draft this session would preserve water quality in the Big Wood and North Fork Big Wood rivers. The "outstanding resource water" designation could prohibit mining and logging in the watershed, he said.

Stennett said he wants to find out what the public and some of his colleagues think of the idea. Designation would not occur until at least 2002.

·  Noxious weed legislation. Stennett said he plans to introduce a bill that would require anyone who subdivides land to also provide a noxious weed management plan. A clause in the bill would also require those selling land to disclose if noxious weeds are growing on the property.


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