Governor Brad Little answered questions from reporters across the state at the Idaho Press Club breakfast Friday morning on different bills passing through the legislature.
Even though the governor stated his legislative priorities in his State of the State toward the beginning of the session, some believe certain pieces of legislation strayed from these priorities.
“A lot of these issues are issues that concern Idahoans that are happening in another state that are not very applicable here and even the sponsors admit that,” Little said. “We’re building a moat around Idaho so these things don’t show up here in Idaho. And perhaps even when I was in the legislature, I made quite a big deal of voting for some of those bills for something that wasn’t going to come into Idaho. It’s a statement. I’ll look at each piece of legislation on its merits.”
Many bills in the legislature this year deal with increasing school choice in Idaho. Little praised the amount of choice Idahoan K-12 students have and promised to take issue with any legislation that could be significantly detrimental to long-term funding of public schools.
Many asked questions about Little’s launch program that now sits on the Senate Commerce & Human Resources committee. Little said this is one of the biggest actions taken by the state to make Post-K-12 training available to the vast majority of Idaho.
“This is a transformative way of funding post-K-12,” Little said. “The state board recognized that if you’re an institution that got your way and got the money, that was great, but it wasn’t driven by jobs. It wasn’t driven by demand, and it wasn’t driven by students. This turns out on its head and is driven by students in the demand in healthcare jobs, the demand in cybersecurity jobs, the demand in education jobs. It’s a tough transformation whenever you take something that’s been around for a long time and transform it, you’ve got a higher hurdle.”
Changing voting requirements
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would eliminate student IDs as a method of identification on election day.
Little said if student IDs couldn’t be used by students, he hoped the legislature would provide an alternative to those without a license to keep young people voting.
Little encouraged young people to vote and get politically involved.
“In political discourse, if you’re not at the table, there’s a chance you’re on the menu, and they better get at the table,” Little said.
The legislature is also trying to change how people can vote with legislation that would eliminate no-excuse absentee ballots.
Little said absentee voting is particularly important in rural parts of the state since some precincts are all absentee voting.
“I look forward to the debate, but I think absentee voting is so important, particularly in rural Idaho, that I’m not all that excited about it,” Little said.
One way the state seeks to preserve election security is through election audits.
“You can’t argue that the way that we do those audits are random,” Little said. “It’s probably the most sophisticated and fair way to judge the fairness of our election. People need to have confidence in elections. It’s essential for this country that people vote.”
Addressing fentanyl abuse
The governor saw fentanyl as a major issue in Idaho.
“It’s hard to imagine that a year and a half ago fentanyl wasn’t near the issue it is today,” Little said. “It’s really important that we do all we can to resolve some of these challenges that we’ve got from this just onslaught. Every state is facing it. Some of these rural communities are even suffering more from it than you would think.”
Little proposed three solutions:
— Beef up law enforcement.
— Increase awareness about the risks of fentanyl, especially among the younger population. The state created the Fentanyl Takes All website for this purpose.
— Increase pre-prosecution diversion programs. Pre-prosecution diversion enables eligible defendants to complete several conditions like rehabilitation or education in exchange for the court to dismiss their misdemeanor charge. Little said pre-prosecution programs were already beginning in Bonneville County.
Since the House of Representatives introduced legislation allowing for execution by firing squad, the governor was asked if he would be willing to execute someone in this manner.
“I’m a proponent for capital punishment,” Little said. “We need to do it in the most dignified, humane manner that creates the least amount of stress for my corrections team.”