March 5, 2021 - Week 8
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Pre-School to Career: Workforce Development

The Idaho Legislature has been grappling with issues related to various aspects of Idaho’s workforce.  There were two bills to be considered by the House this week.  One was rejected (HB-226) and one was modified (HB-215 that is now HB-294).  Following is what IACI told the Legislature about both bills:

One thing about conspiracy theories is that they are never true. They are unsubstantiated “theories” designed to contort the truth. Such is the case with House Bill 226 and House Bill 215. Both are being attacked by misinformation deliberately designed to create confusion and mistrust. In fact, most of the theories that have been espoused about both pieces of legislation have nothing to do with the bills themselves. Frankly, we would hope that Idaho would be better than this, but some would continue to push false narratives. It is important that Idaho’s Legislature make these critical decisions on sound information, research, and facts.

HB-226 is an education bill supported by IACI. It is the appropriation that would allocate the second phase of what is called the “Pre-School Development Grant” or PDG. These dollars were specifically authorized by Governor Brad Little and secured by Idaho’s Senators James Risch and Mike Crapo. Click here to see a video with the Senators talking about their support for the grant.
What the bill is not is some kind of liberal conspiracy to brainwash young children. To suggest so is both foolish and does damage to Idaho’s children. Our organization, along with the US Chamber of Commerce, has been working on this issue for the last several years, highlighting the substantial lack of available quality childcare in this state. Exactly one year ago we released this well-researched report: Untapped Potential: How Childcare Impacts Idaho's State Economy.
The lack of childcare options costs Idaho employers $248 million in turnover and $166 million in absenteeism ANNUALLY. Our collaboration on securing the grant with the Idaho AEYC has already started to provide results in the creation of local collaboratives driven by local Idaho communities to successfully meet their own challenges. The PDG is used to assist them in ways to build and create childcare solutions. There are already 16 throughout Idaho, with more on the way. These are open to businesses, public schools, religious institutions, and parents. They create a program that works for them locally, rather than a top-down system. 
This is good for kids because it is a local system designed with tools provided by the grant. It is good for parents because it provides them with options that have never existed before. Finally, it is good for employers as we build better opportunities for our workforce to succeed. Does that sound like a liberal conspiracy to you? 
HB-215 is also an education bill supported by IACI. It is a bill that would continue Idaho’s Strong Students program. It would give families in certain economic demographics more opportunities to help their children overcome the education gaps created due to COVID-19. Without HB-215, these options are only available to more affluent families.
What the bill is not is some kind of conservative conspiracy to rip funds from public education and force people into state mandates. Some say it is a “voucher” program. To suggest this is misinformation designed to create confusion, brand it erroneously, and wholly disappointing. A voucher program is one where dollars are tied to the student. If the student leaves one school and attends another, the dollars follow that student, which means public schools that have fewer students have fewer resources. That is not what HB-215 does and it is a lie to say otherwise. 
HB-215 would give families the resources to obtain necessary infrastructure such as computers, books, tutors, and even hire teachers or attend a new school. In effect, it gives those on the lower income scale the SAME resources and opportunities already available to the wealthy. Frankly, it empowers families. It does not take resources away from public schools if the student changes locations. It does not dictate to parents the choices they make for their children. This is good for kids because it is good policy that focuses on their needs. It is good for parents because it gives them a chance to meet those needs, whatever the individual gap may be. It is good for Idaho’s employers, as it is a step to fill the gap and help our future workforce catch up their education and get back on track. Does that sound like a conservative conspiracy to you? 
It is time we dropped the hyperbole and talked about real problems Idahoans and our businesses are facing every day. Our workforce is comprised of Idahoans who need help in achieving their chosen path to prosperity. HB-226 and HB-215 go a long way in helping them achieve those goals. IACI strongly recommends support for both bills as good policy for Idaho. 

Legislating is hard.  It is specifically designed to have friction in the process to prevent a tyranny.  It is likely that the PDG grant will eventually be approved in some form, perhaps with new legislation.  It is also not uncommon to see bills being replaced with rewrites such as the morphing of HB-215 into HB-294.  It is through the careful deliberation of legislation that we believe the Idaho Legislature will eventually get it right.
Click Here for the Updated List of IACI-Tracked Bills

More Workforce Mandates

In addition, many other bills designed to dictate how businesses respond to an emergency, pandemic or other similar mandates have been introduced lately.  The IACI Legislative Committee will be considering these recent bills on Tuesday.
It is noteworthy that some in the Idaho Legislature would rather Idaho not be the “least regulated state in the Union” with all of these new requirements on employers, cloaked as more freedom for individuals.  The falsity of this narrative is that employers are actually the backbone of Idaho, employers are the ones that give people the opportunities to succeed — it is not additional governmental regulation.  IACI would strongly encourage lawmakers to keep this in mind as they consider these new mandates on employers.

Bring Sunshine to Local Government

The Legislature's Property Tax and Revenue Expenditure Study Committee found it readily apparent that local governmental accounting practices vary widely in Idaho, and that it was nearly impossible to make apple-to-apple comparisons of their budgets.  HB-73 is a direct result of the Committee's good work, recognizing that these local governments were already submitting their budgets to the Legislative Services Offices (LSO) for review and audit, but that there was no easy way for LSO to make that information uniform or public.
Having seen the success of the State Controller’s Transparent Idaho website, HB-73 shifts the responsibility for receiving local budgets from LSO to the Controller’s office.  The sunshine provided by Transparent Idaho on state agency budgets has already provided dividends for the state in the form of cost savings, and we believe the same will be true at the local government level.  Sunshine in government is always a good thing.
HB-73 will bring some uniformity to local governmental accounting, with the Controller’s office well-positioned to help local governments make their current reporting requirements even easier than it currently is online. For a minimal cost to state or local governments, HB-73 will help provide transparency in local government budgeting, which can only lead to more trust in local government.  IACI supports this positive effort in government transparency.

Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry
816 W. Bannock St, Suite 5B | P.O. Box 389 | Boise, ID 83701
Phone (208) 343-1849 | |

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Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry · 816 W Bannock St Ste 5B · Boise, ID 83702-5872 · USA

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