How government works, or doesn’t

“Our City” by A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia

Last week was an interesting dichotomy for me in how government works or doesn’t. Wednesday I received an email from the Association of Idaho Cities that in short stated there was a drafting error in Senate Bill 1206 (SB1206) that was approved during the 2016 legislative session. SB1206 continued the “Surplus Eliminator” program, where 40 percent of funds go to local highway jurisdictions through the Local Strategic Initiatives Program, approximately $11.5M for 2018. The drafting error in SB1206 did not transfer the funds. As of last Wednesday, the funds for both the Local Strategic Initiatives Program and the Children Pedestrian Safety Program were at risk of not being transferred, therefore leaving the programs unfunded.

I was asked to contact members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) to request that they fund SB1206. Knowing a few members on each side of the aisle I requested, via email, their support in funding SB1206. Both Rep. Maxine Bell (co-chair of JFAC) and Sen. Mark Nye personally responded to my email within the hour expressing their support. I wasn’t too surprised at their support of SB1206; however, I was surprised by the quickness of their personal response. I have emailed our national legislators and at times never heard back, even from a staffer.

On Thursday there was a rules hearing in the Senate Education Committee. Our Sen. Jim Guthrie called me to see if I agreed with the particular rule changes to grant funding for the Idaho Quality Program Standards (IQPS) legislation that was passed in 2014. Further, after our conversation, he garnered support for the rule change that passed shortly thereafter. The IQPS was part of the Idaho Agricultural Education Program Initiative that increased funding for all of Career and Technical Education and was a result of business and industry, agricultural education teachers and state legislators working together. Over the last three years our local agriculture program has been able to expand educational and learning opportunities for our students largely due to the $30,000 received from IQPS grants and an increase in nearly $4,000 annually for added cost funding. Sen. Guthrie has been key in this effort to recognize and increase quality in our educational system through thoughtful grassroots legislation.

Later on Thursday I was part of a video meeting for the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) grant. This is a bike and children pedestrian safety and connectivity grant of nearly $400,000 that will connect our north and south city parks to the middle school and Lee Street Park. You may recognize the Children Pedestrian Safety part from above; yes funding of SB1206 matters. With all the street repairs that will be going on throughout town this coming summer it was critical that we coordinate this TAP grant so that it meshes with multiple other projects taking place.
Those in the meeting appreciated that fact and are working on our behalf to accommodate a midsummer completion of this project. Similarly we are working to coordinate the rebuilding of Fort Hall from Harrison to the Hwy 39 bypass, Whitman Street, Van Buren from Fort Hall west to the railroad tracks and Oregon Trail from Polk to Fairway with Disaster Relief Funds from last winter. Additionally, all the streets that were rebuilt last year and the year before will need to be chip-sealed.

It won’t be as bad as the downtown project but there may be days of inconvenience as you travel about town. I apologize in advance.

I mentioned a dichotomy, a division or contrast between two things that are represented as being opposed or entirely different, earlier. As I couldn’t really find much to watch on the tube late Friday evening and I tired of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I switched the channel to cable news.

How dysfunctional as a nation have we become, as compared to our state or community? They all know what has to be done, the leadership across both sides of the aisle even agree on what has to be done on numerous things, yet they won’t let themselves find their way to the middle. I remain a dichotomy within myself as well as I find myself so very proud of what together we can accomplish here in Idaho and American Falls; yet, at times disappointed by those who represent us all.

Until next week…

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