IDAHO FALLS, Idaho ー Idaho’s 2019 legislative session has officially come to a close.
Both the Idaho House of Representatives and Senate adjourned for the year on Thursday, April 11 at 4:20 p.m ending the third longest Idaho Legislative session since 1890.
The end of the session marks the end of the first experience many freshman lawmakers have had drafting, sponsoring and passing bills in the state’s capitol.
While many issues like Medicaid expansion, Idaho’s citizen initiative process and reforming the state’s education funding formula, caused tension among political parties in the state, Representative Rod Furniss said Idaho’s legislative body is very civil.
“We’ve had really qualified people and we’ve all become really good friends, even on both sides of the aisle,” Representative Furniss told KID NewsRadio. “I’ve been impressed with leadership on both sides of the aisle. They both present their issues really well. I’ve probably most been impressed with the department heads and the governor’s staff. I had to work closely with them on several bills and their knowledge and expertise has been outstanding.”
Listen to KID NewsRadio’s full interview with Representative Rod Furniss
Representative Gary Marshall also echoed an overall feeling of civility among lawmakers during the session. Despite differences in opinion, he told KID NewsRadio, Idaho’s legislature truly wants the best for the state.
“Everybody who serves, they’re all good people,” Representative Marshall told KID NewsRadio. “They all are honest, good people who want the best interests of Idaho. They have different interests, but everybody’s working hard and doing the very best they can.”
Listen to KID NewsRadio’s full interview with Representative Gary Marshall
Becoming a legislator always comes with a learning curve and for Rep. Furniss, serving in the state house required a crash course in civics.
“I really had to learn to understand how a bill processed and went through the legislature, how many people you had to work with the department heads, the lobbyists, of course, and just the whole procedure,” Rep. Furniss said. “It was real education for me and it would be for anyone, but for me it was especially important and a pretty high learning curve. But, I think we’ve got through that challenge and I’m grateful that’s behind me.”
Even Rep. Marshall, who previously worked as a professor at BYU-Idaho teaching history and government, found himself surprised at some of the challenges in the legislative process.
“I didn’t expect it to be so hard to amend a bill,” Rep. Marshall said. ” I thought the amending process would be easier in committee…the problem of getting good legislation written, getting it amended and making it better, that’s a little frustrating to me.”
Despite the challenges, both lawmakers reflected on their experiences during their first session positively. Rep. Marshall even found himself standing next to Governor Brad Little when a bill boosted starting teacher pay in the state.
“I was privileged to sponsor a bill that the Governor wanted to move,” Rep. Marshall said. ” I carried that on the floor of the House and had an opportunity to participate in the Governor’s signing of that bill. That was kind of highlight for me. I’d been a teacher. I know how tough it is. I’m glad to have a four in front of that figure and I hope it’s just the beginning of what we can accomplish for new teachers and seasoned veteran teachers as well over the next few years.”
In the months until the next session, Rep. Furniss encouraged people to continue reaching out to their lawmakers. After seeing high citizen involvement in his first session, Rep. Furniss said he looks forward to hearing the many good ideas his constituents have in store.
“I’ve really enjoyed the comments from the constituents,” Rep. Furniss said. “I would just encourage everyone to continue to be involved. We do look at emails, we do listen to phone calls. We are concerned and there’s a lot of good ideas out there.”