Predicting what lawmakers will focus on during the Idaho legislative session is a bit of a gamble. But after eight terms in office, Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, has a good idea of the Legislature's priorities -- after all, he has a big influence in shaping that agenda. Hill, who is the President Pro-Tem of the Senate, points to education and gay rights issues as topics front and center for lawmakers this year.
Sen. Hill says education is his number one priority this year. He says he wants to restore the state’s public education budget which was cut during the Great Recession. “I really think we’re going to see the largest education budget for K-12 in the history of Idaho during this next legislative session.”
He says even that kind of budget likely won’t be enough to adequately fund schools in Idaho. But he says it’s better than the cut-down education budgets Idaho has faced in the last few years.
In a recent blog post, Hill also weighed in on the "Add the Words" issue. “Add the Words” refers to adding the words “sexual orientation and gender identity" to the Idaho Human Rights Act to protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. For years, lawmakers have prevented the issue from moving forward.
Hill says he thinks it’s time to have a public hearing on “Add the Words.” “Where people can come in on both sides of the issue and express their concerns, their feelings, their ideas and let’s try to evaluate what the situation is." Hill says. "Personally, I don’t think it will go any further than just a public hearing unless both sides are willing to make some compromises.”
Hill says the state needs to spend more on road and bridge maintenance in the next fiscal year. He also thinks tax cuts are possible.
"There may be some tax stimulus bills, some smaller things to help spur certain sectors of the economy," he says, "I doubt that we're going to see a large across-the board tax cut this year, at least not until we get on our feet as far as public education and our transportation, which are both lacking right now."
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