My Position on Top Issues Facing Idahoans

1. The Idaho Legislature urgently needs greater representation of Idahoans from all walks of life, so that the laws of our state are relevant to the life experience of our people. We will be a stronger Idaho and use taxpayer dollars more wisely with women, veterans, educators, students, minorities, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, the uninsured, victims’ families, and those working hard without being able to make a livable wage having a stronger voice in our legislature.

2. I passionately support expanding Medicaid because it is the right thing to do for Idahoans, and I will work to ensure Medicaid expansion is funded. According to a Boise State University study, 71% of Idahoans want the Medicaid gap to be closed. Medicaid expansion will, most importantly, save lives—by some estimates as many as one per day—and money by lowering the cost of health care paid for by all Idahoans, which includes the catastrophic and indigent funds, and receiving 90% of the cost of Medicaid expansion in federal funding.  If the voters pass Medicaid expansion on the ballot in November, their decision should result in priority legislative action.

3. We must have a safer, brighter future for our youth. We need to act as an urgent matter to make our schools safer with common sense solutions about which we can agree, such as having single entry at our schools, identifying other affordable ways to ensure no one enters a school with a weapon, and being proactive to do our best ensure all of our students are engaged and providing effective mental health support for those who are not. We have been put on notice that a mass shooting could occur at an Idaho school. An extent of conditions assessment of all Idaho schools to identify vulnerabilities and find ways to address them should be performed as a priority. This type of assessment is done at the Idaho National Laboratory after an event occurs to determine whether similar vulnerabilities exist elsewhere to ensure the same event doesn’t happen again.

In addition to making our schools safer, we need to address the leading causes of death of our youth and all Idahoans. Vehicular deaths and firearm deaths together accounted for nearly 500 deaths in Idaho in 2016. Many of those deaths were of young people, and suicide was the cause of the vast majority of firearm deaths.

a) We need to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving and redouble efforts to stop texting while driving.

b) Idaho has a 57% higher suicide rate than the rest of the country. Between 2012 and 2016, 105 Idaho teens committed suicide, 27 under the age of 14. We need to reduce teen suicide, cyber bullying, and opioid use.

4. Idaho needs to increase funding for education to provide our youth with a brighter future. Education is a top concern for Idahoans and the Idaho Constitution requires uniform, thorough, and free public schools.

a) Funding for education per pupil in Idaho is second to last in the nation.

b) We are one of only six states not offering public pre-school. Every dollar spent on pre-school education saves $7.50 in later government assistance benefits and criminal justice expenses.  Head Start serves only 20% of eligible children because of lack of funding.

c) Idaho teachers are paid less than all but 12 states (adjusted for inflation). Our teachers must be valued and compensated for their critical contribution to Idaho.

d) The graduation rate in Idaho is only 42% while 61% of quality jobs require a post-secondary degree. Idaho is far from reaching its goal set in 2010 for 60% of 25- to 34-year-old Idahoans to obtain a post-secondary education degree or certificate.

e) Tuition and student fee increases have vastly outpaced state funding for higher education. Over the past 40 years, state funding of education has increased five-fold while tuition and fees have increased by a factor of 69.

When our standard becomes having the most competitive, highest quality education in the nation, we will be proud of Idaho’s investment in education and our state will reap the economic benefits from it.

5. We need to ensure our parents and all able Idahoans can make a livable wage so that they can support their children and fully contribute to our economy. Hard-working Idahoans deserve that we invest in them so that that they have the opportunity to be trained or retrained to obtain jobs that pay a livable wage or better. Investing in our people is highly preferable to investing in prisons.

6. We need to act to protect our public lands—the crown jewels of Idaho, which should be for the benefit of all Idahoans. 61% of Idaho is public land. But more than a third of Idaho’s state-owned lands, 1.5 million acres, have been sold to the highest bidder.

7. We need to support the Idaho National Laboratory, which has benefited southeastern Idaho in countless ways. As a 26-year veteran of the INL, currently supervising a team of writers at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project, and before that working at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center, I know first-hand the skills of our highly trained INL workforce.  I also fully support expanding the mission of the billion‑dollar AMWTP nuclear waste processing facility to process other nuclear waste within the U.S. Department of Energy complex.  It makes sense to continue using the state-of-the-art AMWTP facility, and it would save the jobs of 450 workers.

We also should greatly expand the integration of the INL into our community.  The INL resource is an untapped gold mine within our own community, and we should find creative ways to fully use the vast talent of the INL workforce.  For example, partnerships should be developed between INL and the College of Eastern Idaho and our high schools, with INL scientists, engineers, human performance specialists, human resource managers, and graphic artists teaching or guest lecturing. The INL’s national expertise in cyber security could help identify ways to make Idaho, and schools throughout the country, safer.