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Washington, Idaho legislators reconvene today in Olympia and Boise

Screenshot from Idaho Public TV
Idaho legislators will convene at noon Pacific time to hear Governor Brad Little's annual State of the State address.

Washington and Idaho legislators will open their respective sessions Monday in Olympia and Boise, respectively.

Both states find themselves in strong fiscal situations, but each have their respective challenges.

In Olympia, top issues include hitting the pause button on the state’s new long-term care insurance program – known as WA Cares. Majority Democrats want to make some changes to it before it’s ready for prime time. They also plan to make clarifying changes to some of the police reform bills they passed last year. Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins
says Democrats are trying to strike an “appropriate balance” when it comes to policing.

“Anytime you take some of these big, more transformational acts, you definitely need to stay open and then be willing to continue to have tweaks to find the Goldilocks spot on these," she said.

Among the clarifications is that deadly force can be used in the face of an immediate threat and that physical force can be used to take someone into custody. Minority Republicans have called the reforms “anti-police” and have unveiled their own package of pro-police, get-tough-on-crime bills.

In Boise, much of the discussion will be about how to handle a large budget surplus, more than a billion-and-a-half dollars. Governor Brad Little says the state should make targeted one-time investments in transportation and other areas.

House Speaker Scott Bedke agrees, that the state should not commit to itself to major spending increases.

“You pay off any debts you have. You fix the things you’ve been stalling on fixing and kicking down the road," he said.

Others are pushing to give some of that tax money back. Some want to lower state property taxes. Others want to lower state income tax rates. Some want to eliminate or reduce the state sales tax on food. Sen. Grant Burgoyne [D-Boise] likes that idea.

“There are people in Idaho who are struggling. They do not enjoy much in the way of income tax relief because they don’t pay much in income taxes and this would be a way to help them," he said.

Governor Little will give his State of the State address today at noon. He says a handful of legislators have told him they'll tune in on TV, rather than in person, because of concerns about spread about the coronavirus. Mostly, though, he says, it's business as usual.

In Olympia, two Democratic state senators have reported they've tested positive for Covid, including
Spokane's Andy Billig. In a statement, Billig said, "I am grateful to have been vaccinated and boosted, which I know has prevented me from having any significant symptoms."

Senators will, for the most part, participate remotely during the opening week of the session.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.
Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.