The Idaho Statehouse buzzed Monday morning with unmistakable excitement and optimism as lawmakers waited to officially convene the 2013 session with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s State of the State Address.
“I would tell you that the state of the state is in pretty good shape,” Otter said to members of the press at Friday’s annual legislative preview, and while he promised not to give too much away prior to the official address, he did say that health care exchange, education reform and Idaho’s personal property tax are issues he expects to come up this session.
According to members of the Legislature, his expectations are correct.
“The budget is going to be an issue. Health care exchanges, I think, will be big. The personal property tax issue won’t be a surprise to anyone,” said newly elected Ammon Republican Rep. Wendy Horman. Added the longtime Bonneville School Board member, “I’m an education person. Education will be a big deal.”
Lawmakers had little to offer, however, about what surprise issues may crop up during 2013.
“There’s always that one big issue that’s very passionate and very emotional that we don’t know about when we go into the session,” Idaho’s House speaker, Oakley Republican Rep. Scott Bedke, said Friday, without going into further detail.
Despite the issues and surprises in store, legislators are greeting the new session with an optimistic outlook.
“I’m very hopeful,” said Horman. “There’s a lot of very good people here that I’ve met and it’s exciting to see them put their energy to work for the public good. It’s been very encouraging to meet them and begin to work with them. It’s really a privilege to be a part of the process. It’s an honor and an opportunity to recognize the work of those that have gone before and build on it.”
Grace Republican Rep. Marc Gibbs, vice chair of the House Resources and Conservation Committee, added that the first day of the legislative session brings "new optimism."
“Until we find out what kind of tone has been set and what the governor has to say, I’m very optimistic about the direction and the work we’ll do,” he said.
But Gibbs cautioned that it’s unrealistic to think that everything will be smooth sailing. While lawmakers are hopeful prior to the convening of the session, they have tough issues to face in the coming months.
“I’m not so optimistic about the economic outlook,” he said. “With the Social Security increase, disposable income is going down. I think there’s room for pessimism, but obviously, today, we should be optimistic and wait to hear what the governor has to say.”