Mark Harris

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It was good to see and visit with many of our county officials as they visited Boise this week. We were able to discuss some concerns, such as upcoming bills dealing with property taxes and levy and bond elections, that will affect our counties.

Two bills that are being talked about are H 347 and H 393. H 347, which limits bond elections to be held no sooner than every 11 months, has passed the House and is now on the Senate side of the Rotunda waiting for a hearing. H 393, which limits school levy and bond elections to every six months is waiting for a hearing in the House. The debated issue is whether or not legislation is passed to limit the number of bond elections, or do we leave the control with the local governments.

I had the opportunity to introduce a Senate Joint Memorial in the Senate Agriculture Affairs Committee. This Memorial will be sent to our congressional delegation, emphasizing the importance of the Snake River and Columbia River System. The Memorial also states that because of the importance of the river system, the Legislature opposes the breaching and removal of the dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Among the reasons for this opposition is the power generated by the dams and the importance of the Port of Lewiston to the movement of commodities down the Columbia River. 4,500 Idaho farm families depend on this navigation system to get their crops to market. Without this barge system, it would take 35 train cars or 134,000 grain trucks to haul the same amount of wheat to Portland. This is more expensive, and it would add more truck traffic to the highways. It would also cause the local market to see a glut in wheat and a drastic drop in price.

In the Senate State Affairs Committee, we learned thgat the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is the 9th largest employer in the state with 4,724 employees. They tout a total economic impact of $2.64 billion nationwide. INL is known around the country as the premier National Lab. In our region of eastern and southeast Idaho, INL injects about $159 million toward small businesses, employs 4,595 people and contributes a little more than $155,000 in community grants.

However, they are concerned with the lack of welders, electricians, and other trade related workers. As a result, INL is continuing to partner with the Workforce Development Council, community colleges and some local schools to find students that are interested into going into certain trade fields. The work that is going on there is exciting and the future looks bright.

Chairman Gibbs and I had the opportunity to introduce H 382 in the House Resources Committee this week to enabling legislation for the Bear River Basin Adjudication. The bill passed the committee on a unanimous vote to go to the House floor. Earlier this week, the Idaho Water Users Association met via phone and unanimously voted to support the bill. Adjudication will ultimately safeguard Idaho’s water and help represent our interest in any water dispute.

I encourage you to reach out if you have a concern or issue. My email is mharris@senate.idaho.gov.

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