It is an honor to be your State Senator from District 4, Coeur d’Alene
I look forward to representing your ideas and concerns in Boise during the legislative session in January, February and March, and here at home throughout the rest of the year.
Communication is very important, especially when our government is making decisions that will impact us long term, so I will be communicating with you as much as possible.
You can’t easily witness the process of our state government in person because of the 400 miles between Coeur d’Alene and the Capitol, so I have a Senate Journal on this web site to share short thoughts, experiences and content with you during the legislative session.
Please check out my Senate Journal during the session and you can sign up on this web site for my free newsletter, which I’ll be writing the rest of the year. In addition to this web site, the newsletter and Senate Journal, you can find me on Facebook at Mary Souza for Idaho, and on Twitter at @MarySouzaIdaho. Please email your thoughts or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Working to keep you in the loop!
My Newsletter of March 19, 2018: BIG News & FAKE News!
Dear Newsletter Readers,
The big news is that the session is almost done. It’s been very fast paced and highly productive. And the Zags are going to the Sweet 16! (I just put that last part in for fun--we’re big fans!)
The three bills I’ve personally worked all the way through the system have been successful:
1. Public Records Request updates: (S1274) was generated because the Press couldn’t get access to school district severance packages, even though public employee compensation is a public record. We updated the law and it passed through both House and Senate and is on the Governor’s desk for his signature.
2. School Board Election Date Change: (S1280) This third-year effort to improve the terribly low voter turnout in these important elections was a compromise brought by the Idaho School Board Association (ISBA). At their annual conference, a resolution to change their election from May of odd numbered years to November of the same years, on the city election ballot, was approved by 71% of their conference attendees. Senator Jim Rice and I, the sponsors of the bill, agreed to the compromise and the bill has passed through both House and Senate and is on the Governor’s desk.
3. Foster Care Improvement Act: (S1341) is the most important bill we, as a legislature, will consider this year, in my opinion. It is the product of two years of the Foster Care Interim Committee, as well as our smaller working group which met many times during this session to craft this bill. We worked with the Judiciary, Public Health Districts, the Department of Health and Welfare, outside non-profit groups and funding analysts. Lots of negotiations and ruffled feathers but, ultimately, good support. Our bill was introduced last week, has passed through the Senate and a House committee and will be heard by the full House early this week. I’m proud to have been part of this process.
This year there has been some serious Fake News as well. Sometimes people and groups try to garner the spotlight (read “fundraising”) by conjuring up exaggerated narratives to make their group seem more essential. Here are two fake news attacks that hit me as Vice Chair of Senate Health & Welfare:
—Vaccination opt outs: Our committee, as well as our chairman, believes parents have the right to opt their child out of vaccinations, if they so choose. Idaho law says so. But there was an old form at the schools used for this purpose, which some parents found onerous and guilt-producing. We agreed. So over the past year we worked with the Department of Health & Welfare to revamp the form and also allow other methods of notice, such as a letter. Now, an anti-vaccination group that had been included in the process, and even agreed to the new form, started spreading untrue statements about our committee, particularly our chairman. They even went to his district in Twin Falls and campaigned door to door against him, using false information and supposedly claiming he blocked a bill allowing parental opt outs. Not true! It’s already in the law and the bill they wanted was not necessary after the new forms were finalized. I think they wanted the redundant bill so they could claim credit.
—CBD Oil: This oil is made from the marijuana or hemp plant but contains only the tiniest amount of THC, the psychoactive element. You couldn’t get high on this oil if you took a bath in it! CBD is said to help certain physical ailments, and people want to legally use it in Idaho. Two years ago, we, as a legislature, passed a bill to allow CBD oil, which I voted for, but the Governor vetoed. This year’s version had several additional testing requirements but was still controversial. The bill passed easily out of the House and came to our Senate Health and Welfare committee where it met a roadblock. Our chairman decided to hold the bill and not allow a hearing because the Governor didn’t want the bill. Members of the committee wanted a hearing but most would not go against the chairman.
Under Senate rules, the chairman’s decision is final. There was a big dust-up in our committee when one member made a motion to force the bill onto an agenda, which is against the rules. It was not handled well and tempers flared. (Not mine) In an effort to smooth the situation and continue on with our committee meeting, because we had a room full of people for other agenda items, I made a substitute motion to hold the bill in committee. That motion passed and we continued with our meeting.
But the Fake News machine was churning! By that evening, social media was screaming about what happened, saying I “killed” the bill. No, I did not. The bill was in the same condition before and after my motion—held in committee. And what the social media screamers didn’t seem to know is that I was actually a legislative co-sponsor on the bill. I wanted it to be heard! But we have to work under the rules we have, not always the rules we want. The nasty emails and messages kept coming, calling me awful names and claiming I hate children and sick people. Fake news.
All that craziness aside, the other important Big News, dear Readers, is that this is an election year for the entire legislature. I have an opponent for the May 15th primary and a Democrat challenger for the November election, so I will need your help!
Please let me know if you’re able to help by:
- My sign in your yard
- Write a Letter to the CdA Press Editor in support (up to 250 words) email@example.com
- Donation: PO Box 2223, CdA, ID 83816, or online at marysouzaforidaho.com
We should be done here in Boise next week, I hope, and the May 15th Primary is just around the corner. Thank you for your years of help and support. I am deeply honored to represent you. --Mary