Idaho State of the State Address 2000

 

BOISE, Idaho - Jan. 17 - Following is the text of Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's 2000 State of the State Address:

Mr. Speaker. Mr. President. Distinguished members of the Legislature. Distinguished members of the Supreme Court. Fellow citizens of Idaho.

With new beginnings come new expectations and new hopes. In such a setting, therefore, to lose a dear friend and colleague and a great leader like Jerry Twiggs broke our hearts and dampened our spirits. A new year should not begin in grief, but it did. Just as last year ended in grief with the loss of another wonderful man, Jim Stoicheff.

We will miss them deeply just as we miss Pat Bieter. Their memory can inspire us to do great things in the manner by which we came to know them. With genuine care for one another, deep respect for the citizens we serve, and a wonderful sense of humor that allows us to keep things in perspective.

It is fair to say that Jerry, Jim, and Pat loved this institution and the legislative process. Let's draw from their inspiration to begin again. Because new beginnings should inspire. They would want it this way, to set course for a new session and a new era. With that as a guiding star, I now present my State of the State message.

God bless Jerry and Jim and Pat and their families. And God bless each of you this year as we begin anew.

These past few weeks have shown me a lot about the good in Idaho. I had the pleasure of participating in a number of the ceremonies that marked the third Humanitarian Bowl. Isn't it wonderful that this bowl game isn't dedicated to some product you consume, but to celebrating the human spirit, and what athletes do for the good of others off the field? People like Wilma Rudolph, Tom Landry, and Tony Gwynn, who were inducted into the Humanitarian Hall of Fame. And people like Harmon Killebrew and Picabo Street, our own Athletes of the Century.

I was told that a number of the officials who over the years have refereed some of the other major bowls the Liberty Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Rose Bowl -- ask to come back to do the Humanitarian Bowl. Why? Because they say they've never been made to feel more welcome than they have been here in Idaho.

The Governor of Kentucky and both of Kentucky's United States Senators flew out to watch their Louisville Cardinals play the BSU Broncos. One of those senators is Jim Bunning. Some of you may also know him as a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Detroit Tigers. He told me: "I just have to compliment Idaho. This is a fantastic facility, and your people have been wonderful. It's been a perfect day"

This from a man who won 100 games, threw 1,000 strikeouts, and pitched a no-hitter. In both leagues. He knows a little bit about perfection.

And I had to be polite when he told me: "I can't figure out how both your offense and defense are beating our guys off the line." The exact same question could have been asked a year ago from the Southern Miss fans about what the Vandals did to them.

ESPN says that more than a million households tuned into the Humanitarian Bowl this year. In a million homes around the country, people were tuning in to find out what's going on in Idaho.

When you think of the rich heritage and traditions of the programs at these southern institutions, it demonstrates the strength of our programs, and our faculty and students that we emerge the victors in these contests, whether athletic, academic or music. This is true at Idaho State University and all of our colleges as well.

And the next day, we saw a truly remarkable event. We watched the capitals of the world celebrate the millennium as it rolled across the time zones. We saw it celebrated in Beijing. In Cairo. In Paris. In London. New York.

And when it reached the Mountain Time Zone, the world watched the millennium celebrated in another world-class capital: Boise, Idaho. The world saw 60 hot air balloons light up on Capitol Boulevard, one after the other, in one-second intervals as the last seconds of the 20th Century receded. They saw the fireworks shower this capitol dome with stars. And they heard Nancy Roche's inspiring song, calling on us to "celebrate our past and imagine our future."

Do you know what Tom Brokaw of NBC News said about what he saw? He said: "Boise is the capital, of course, of Idaho. And it's one of the fastest growing cities and urban areas anywhere in America. This is one capital city that appears to have a very bright future."

Let's make sure that the world continues to watch Idaho, and for all of the right reasons. And therefore, let's talk today about how we should enter this new century.

So let us start our look at the state of our state with what I believe is one of the most important issues before us, and that is the safety of our children in our schools.

When I stood here last year, I said we needed up-to-date information on the state of our school facilities, so that we would make the right choices on what steps we should take. I appointed a 25-member committee, and I charged them with producing an updated, thorough, and accurate assessment of the state of our school facilities.

We now have that updated information, and I want to thank Chairman Milford Terrell and all of the committee members for their diligent work. After canvassing the state, and after a great deal of study and review, the committee identified the extent of the problem. In order to address the existing life safety needs of our schools, it will cost between $25 million and $48 million.

We now have the information we need to make the proper policy decisions. How, then, should we proceed?

In addition to adopting their recommendations, I believe we should go further. I believe there's an appropriate role for the state to play to ensure safe school facilities.

I propose a two-pronged course of action one to address the problems of the past, and one to ensure that we don't suffer the same problem in the future.

To deal with the life safety problems that have built up in recent years, let's take the opportunity of this millennium year to wipe the slate clean. I will submit legislation to you that will establish a loan program, by which school districts that have been unable to address these problems with local resources will receive repair funds.

It won't be an open-ended program for general construction. It will be limited to life safety. It won't be a program that will run in perpetuity. It will be a one-time opportunity. It won't have the state take on the full financial responsibility. The schools will repay the principal, while the state will pay the costs of interest. That means that over 20 years, the state will commit between $40 million and $50 million to be a partner with school districts in fixing this problem. In essence, it is a 50/50 partnership in life safety that I am proposing.

I don't believe and I don't propose -- that the state get into the business of full-time school construction. That would lead us down a path that would ultimately usurp local control, and potentially, force district consolidation.

The Facilities Committee soundly rejected a motion that the state use general funds for the replacement or the construction of school facilities. I don't want to go there, and I don't believe you do either.

As we correct the problems of the past, we can't allow another backlog to build up. Ten years from now, I don't want a future governor to stand at this podium and say we have to deal with another major life safety problem -- because our predecessors didn't act.

I propose that we coordinate the inspections of school facilities that are found to have life safety problems. A position will be created within the Division of Public Works to make a determination on these inspections. If a building has major life-threatening safety concerns that are not being addressed, then our children should not and will not be allowed inside.

It's a tough proposal. But when it comes to the safety of our children, we have to be tough. It will send the clearest of messages that we cannot tolerate unsafe conditions in our schools.

Coming to grips with the life safety issue is one of the most important tasks we face in this legislative session.

Some have suggested that we do nothing.

It's not sufficient for us to say that this issue is "not our responsibility." What happens if, God forbid, an electrical short were to cause a fire in a school building that leads to injury? Or even worse, death? Do we then travel to a hospital to comfort the families or do we then attend a funeral to console the mourners and say that we are sorry ... but the safety of that school was, quote, "not our responsibility"?

Ladies and gentlemen, we're talking about the very well-being of our children and our grandchildren. We have a responsibility to address this issue. It is not a fiscal responsibility. It is a moral responsibility.

My friends, we can do this. We can meet this challenge without infringing upon the history of local control. We can do it in a way that is fiscally sound. And we can do it in a way that will prevent a far more sweeping mandate from being imposed upon us.

Let me also talk about another aspect of the safety of our schools, and that's the issue of guns and schools.

Right now in Idaho, it's not against the law for an adult to openly carry a weapon onto school grounds. As you know, I vetoed a bill on this subject last March. It was a well-intentioned effort to address this problem. But as often happens, the details at the end of the legislative process caused serious concern, and I made my objections very clear in my veto message.

I ask you to send me legislation to correct this problem, so that the spirit of the law can be met by the letter of the law. Our children must be protected, and our schools must be safe.

We also have to deal with another issue of public safety that demands our action.

In August, we saw the conclusion of the prosecution of the man who was convicted of shooting Trooper Linda Huff seventeen times outside the ISP headquarters in Coeur d'Alene in June of 1998. Linda Huff was not the target of a murder because she was Linda Huff. She was targeted because she wore the uniform of the Idaho State Police.

After lengthy presentations in court, the presiding district judge determined that this brutal crime did not constitute an aggravating circumstance that would warrant the imposition of the death penalty. I do not intend to use this occasion to dissect the legal reasoning by which the judge reached this conclusion. But I do intend today to make it clear that if such a horrible act occurs again, there will be no question as to what the law requires.

I will submit legislation to you making it clear that the murder of a police officer qualifies as a capital offense that warrants the death penalty. If you kill a cop in Idaho, be prepared to forfeit your life.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the person convicted of Linda Huff's murder was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the crime. I can tell you today that we're making substantial progress in our war against this powerful and poisonous drug.

Along with our Director of Law Enforcement, Ed Strickfaden, I convened a series of 5 meetings with local, state, and federal law enforcement officials this past year. We met in Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Coeur d'Alene, Boise and Twin Falls.

We developed what we call CAMP Combined Agency Methamphetamine Program. As the manufacture and distribution of meth becomes more sophisticated, it's essential that all of our law enforcement agencies federal, state, and local are part of a seamless strategy to fight meth.

Just look at what happened this past year in Canyon County, where we were able to break up a sophisticated meth ring and hand down thirty-two indictments. We took an organization that ran from the Canadian border to Mexico, and we broke its back.

It was because a dozen law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local level worked together as a team. Our U.S. Attorney, Betty Richardson, other federal agencies, local law enforcement agencies, and significantly, the Idaho State Police that led this team, committing over 50 troopers to make this happen.

Captain Don Van Cleave of the ISP told me he knew how important this was because of how much the state invested in this case. Well, thanks to you, Idaho's law enforcement knows they have that kind of support. I thank you again for approving my proposals to put more money and muscle into fighting this scourge.

Because of your support, 350 state, county, and city police officials received up-to-date meth training throughout Idaho this past year. They've learned state-of-the-art techniques to detect clandestine labs, understand trends in drug trafficking, and improve search and seizure techniques.

Because of our increased efforts, more than 170 meth labs were shut down in Idaho this past year. That's a 74-percent increase over 1998, and it's proof that our efforts are paying off.

I want to express my thanks to all of the county sheriffs, chiefs of police and county prosecutors who are making this partnership work. Also, Senator Denton Darrington and Representative Celia Gould have been effective chairmen on these issues. I ask for your continued support for the proposed re-organization of the Idaho State Police so that progress will continue.

Having declared this the Generation of the Child, I want to return to the issue of education. I'm committed to providing the resources that are necessary to ensure our students will have an education that's second to none. The budget I will submit on Wednesday will contain education funding levels of historic proportions.

But we know that the amount of money we provide to K-through-12 education isn't the sole yardstick by which our commitment should be measured. It must also be measured in how and where we are spending these resources in the programs designed to bring out the great potential in our students.

You took a significant step forward in improving our educational system this past year by adopting the recommendations of the Interim Committee on Reading. And I want to again thank the co-chairs of this committee, Representative Lee Gagner and Senator Betsy Dunklin, and the other members of the committee for all of their hard work in this regard.

We've begun to put the focus where it belongs -- on reading. In student testing. In special reading courses for those who have fallen behind. And in greater teacher preparation in our colleges and universities.

Our Superintendent of Public Instruction, Marilyn Howard, has seen the excitement and enthusiasm that's been created by this effort. She's absolutely right when she says watching this is like watching magic happen, and her background in early reading is so beneficial.

Last year, I asked you to provide funding for those Idaho teachers who have attained National Board Certification -- a nationally recognized symbol of broad-based teaching excellence.

Last year, 73 Idaho teachers reached this high-water mark, bringing us to a total of 90, which puts us among the top ten states in the nation.

Thanks to your support, these teachers will receive a $10,000 bonus over five years for their achievement. And I want to thank Senator Gary Schroeder for working with me to give this kind of financial recognition to teachers who want to excel.

We should take this same concept setting high standards for our teachers and rewarding those who reach them and apply it here in Idaho on the one skill that above all is critical to future learning: the gateway skill of reading.

I propose that we create our own high-water mark for reading instruction this year the Idaho Reading Specialist Examination. Say the words "Iowa Test," and parents and teachers alike recognize it as a national symbol by which students' academic achievement is measured. Why shouldn't an "Idaho Test " be a universal standard of excellence for educators in reading instruction in Idaho?

And while we're talking about outcomes, let's talk about exiting standards. I believe there's great value in state standards, but they must strike a balance between local control and meaningful accountability. I thank those who have put so many hours into fashioning a plan for Idaho.

In much the same way as our state assures the competency of our medical programs as a common-sense safeguard, I believe the state should ensure that every Idaho child leaves our schools knowing how to read, write, and do basic math. It is as critical to life as good health, and it is the right of every Idaho young person.

We should focus our standards and our testing on these essential basic skills. We still have too many of our young people moving through our schools who cannot read at grade level. Who cannot write clearly and effectively. Or who cannot grasp the fundamentals of math and understand how it impacts almost everything they will do. It is here, in the basics, where I believe we must first place our time and energy.

I ask that we focus on these basic skills, and do it in a way where meaningful accountability guides the process. I will propose sufficient funds in my budget to move forward on this critical task, and I ask that the content standards that have been developed be entrusted to local communities.

We've also seen successes in the learning options available to our students. Because of your support, 184 schools received Innovative Grants of up to $500 to create new ways for their students to learn. And you'll be pleased to see how far these dollars are going.

Cascade High School students have built a web site, where they're marketing the products they make. Geometry students at Wendell High School have learned how their studies apply in the real world through model rocketry. And ninth-grade students at North Junior High in Boise have "adopted" elementary school students, serving one-on-one as their tutors and mentors.

We can take this kind of creativity and help schools develop even more innovative learning options for our public school students. Look at what's going on inside our school walls, and then look at how fast the skills you need to be in the job market are changing outside those walls. If our schools aren't flexible enough to adapt, then we're not just short-changing our students we're crippling our future workforce.

Let's encourage our schools to break the molds. And when we do, then we'll see them achieve great results. We have outstanding teachers who can achieve great things when given the tools.

That's why I'm proposing a program to help schools develop more choice options for public school students. Grants will be awarded to schools and school districts that work cooperatively with parents, students and staff to change the way schools do business in curriculums, in hours, in rules, and in other creative areas. And while I'm not going to spell out all of the details of my budget today, I will tell you that I've set aside half a million dollars for this initiative.

I also want to endorse one of the recommendations of the School Safety Committee. I believe it's critical that every school have a character education program in place. I think it can play an important role in preventing an increase in school violence.

The school safety hotline I started last fall logged fifty calls by December. That's a good sign, in that it shows we're providing a way for students and parents to alert officials to potential threats. But it's also troubling, since it shows we still have a lot of work to do in reducing the potential for violence.

I think character education can help make that phone ring a lot less. Schools are in a unique position to assist parents in this critical area. Every young Idahoan deserves a secure foundation in those character traits that will help assure success in work, in family, and in life. I've asked my education advisor, Dr. Tom Morley, to build on this recommendation. He should know. He literally wrote the book on character education.

As we continue into the Generation of the Child, we've insisted on ensuring that our children are not only well-educated but are healthy. And we're making progress here as well.

Your approval of Senate Bill 1183 last March opened the floodgates of financial support for our voluntary immunization registry. Since then, we've received contributions from the public and private sectors that now total more than $1.6 million.

With the support of health care providers, health districts, and concerned citizens, we've developed a sound plan this past year for an immunization registry. That plan is now in motion.

I'm pleased to tell you today that the registry will be up and running this year. It will be a comprehensive immunization tracking system. It will help us reach our goal of a 90-percent immunization rate. And it will be voluntary.

In addition, the funding you approved this past year has meant that more than 20,000 Idaho children will have been vaccinated against chicken pox by the end of this fiscal year.

There's another area of children's health where we need to focus our efforts, and it's early dental care. Tooth decay continues to be a significant problem among our children. Not only does it have the health consequences of pain, infection, and tooth loss. It can also affect school attendance, self-esteem, and readiness to learn.

Fortunately, like immunization, children's tooth decay is a problem that in large part is preventable. I've asked the Idaho dentists to join with the state in a partnership to improve our childrens' dental health. And once again, I've found that when you ask the business professionals of this state to help our children, they enthusiastically answer the call.

Today, I'm pleased to announce Seal Idaho 2000. Its goal is to give all second graders a free application of dental sealant -- a protective coating that's applied to young teeth to prevent cavities.

In cooperation with schools, communities, and public health groups, sealants will be provided free of charge next month by dentists and dental hygienists throughout the state. If we're successful in getting the word out to parents, some 20,000 young Idahoans will have brighter smiles for the rest of their lives. And this, too, is voluntary.

There's another area where we can expand on our efforts in this Generation of the Child. As I've traveled throughout the state this past year, I've been fortunate to see a number of programs that are designed to improve the well-being of our children and strengthen the bonds of family.

Hundreds of them are at work in cities and towns throughout the state. From pre-natal care to senior literacy volunteers. From teen pregnancy prevention to substance abuse awareness. From parent education and early learning to adolescent counseling. And many, many more.

While they are unquestionably successful, one of the things that's kept them from being even more effective is that there's no overall coordination. There's no common forum for information, where communities can talk to their peers and tap into what's working in other parts of the state that might meet their local needs.

That's why today, I'm announcing the formation of the Governor's Coordinating Council for Families and Children. This council will provide the organizations involved in family and children's services private, public, and not-for-profit with a common forum, where ideas can be shared and efforts can be coordinated to improve family and children's services in the state.

The council will hold a statewide roundtable in the spring, to bring together representatives of these organizations and help them collaborate on a statewide level, sharing information, and coordinating their efforts.

I've asked two distinguished and committed Idahoans to serve as the co-chairs of this council.

The first is a renowned pediatrician, whose efforts on behalf of children are known throughout this state and far beyond. He's Dr. Jerry Hirschfeld of St. Luke's Hospital.

The second is someone whose commitment to the children of this state and the importance of family has been an inspiration to me, both in the office and at home. She's my wife, Patricia.

I also want to thank Senators Grant Ipsen and John Andreason, and Representatives Fred Tillman, Dorothy Reynolds, Debbie Field, and Margaret Henbest for the valuable advice they've provided in creating this council.

The importance of strong family and caring parents in a child's life can't be overstated. Parents are a child's first and most influential teacher. That's why I continue to support Parents as Teachers a voluntary program to help give parents the skills and tools they need.

Last year, you said you wanted more information. This year, we're continuing to gather it. Using federal TANF dollars, we're partnering with the University of Idaho's Cooperative Extension program to set up 12 pilot projects for Parents As Teachers across the state. We will be able to observe and assess the program, and we'll receive feedback from communities on how well they're working. I want to recognize Representative Bev Montgomery for her help and guidance in this area.

We're also gathering more information from the Parents as Teachers sites that already exist. Through a federal AmeriCorps grant, volunteers are helping us understand the impact of parent education and mentoring on the families and children of Idaho.

I mentioned substance abuse awareness a moment ago as part of the Coordinating Council's efforts. I want to recognize the many efforts underway throughout the state to steer Idahoans away from drug and alcohol dependency, and to help those who want help to return to a clean and sober life. We know too well the role substance abuse plays in filling our jails and prisons. I absolutely prefer education and rehabilitation to incarceration.

We need to pull these efforts together. That's why I asked Superintendent Howard and the heads of the departments of Health and Welfare, Correction, Law Enforcement, Juvenile Correction, and Transportation to come to the table and develop a coordinated strategy. I've asked Lupe Wissel to oversee this effort. And I look forward to their recommendations on how we bring our resources together to combat a disease that ruins lives and families.

Regarding families, let me take a moment to talk about the issue of parental consent.

This Legislature and this state have grappled with this complex and personal issue for a number of years. I want to take this opportunity to commend the work that Representative Bill Sali has done in the past year to move this discussion forward.

There is a legislative proposal that's been available to everyone with an interest in the issue for nearly a year. There are no surprises as to what it contains. I believe it is something that we can and should take care of early in the session. Mr. Speaker and Mr. President, if you send me that bill in its current form, I will sign it.

So as we're preparing our children to become the healthy and well-educated workforce of the future, what kind of job market awaits them? And what are we doing right now to improve the climate for the businesses that will create these jobs?

Consider this: at just under 9 years running, the U.S. is about to set a record for economic expansion. But Idaho's economic expansion, as measured by employment growth, has been running for 14 years.

We've seen a number of exciting new job creations in the state in the past year. Convergys will create more than 500 new jobs at its new Pocatello call center. In Idaho Falls, Center Partners' technical support phone center will add more than 370 jobs. And here in Boise, Capital One's credit card and financial center will add more than 230 jobs.

All told, 14,000 more Idahoans were employed in 1999 than there were in 1998, and we're projecting an additional increase of 11,000 this year. And on Friday, it was announced that Idaho's unemployment rate was 4.4 percent the lowest rate since 1978.

But despite this strength, we know all too well that many regions of our state have not shared in the overall success. 5 counties in Idaho have experienced double-digit unemployment rates in each of the past 5 years. Employment in the forest products industry has declined each year for the past five years. Mining employment suffered back-to-back losses in 1998 and 1999. And commodity prices in agriculture continue to be in the tank, contributing to the lowest farm income levels in nearly 20 years.

So how do we continue to maintain the strength of our industries that are fueling our overall growth? And at the same time, how do we make sure that those areas that have suffered economically aren't left behind?

First, we must continue to kick down the doors overseas, aggressively pursuing new and expanded markets for Idaho products abroad.

I was pleased to lead two successful trade missions this past year one to Asia, and one to Latin America.

How successful? Just ask Senator Jim Risch. Senator Ric Branch. Senator Jack Riggs. Representative Maxine Bell. And Superintendent Howard. They sat in on the same meetings. They met with the same officials that I did.

We gave these nations a unique package. Nearly every state goes overseas looking for business. But we brought our A-Team. We combined government officials, educators, and business leaders to present a unified voice. And believe me, the folks we met with from heads of state and government ministers to C.E.O.'s and college presidents were impressed with our approach.

How successful were we? Ask Drew McDaniel of Precision Panel in Eagle, who broke ground on the first model home built in Beijing by a western company.

Ask Tammy and Herb Harney of Hamilton Manufacturing in Twin Falls, who will nearly quadruple their business because of contracts signed with the largest developer in Shanghai.

Ask the folks at Power Engineers in Hailey, who aren't only building a large geothermal plant in Costa Rica, but are bidding on business with major contractors throughout Central America.

I have a great sales team working with me to sell Idaho. Without question, Lieutenant Governor Butch Otter has been very effective in this role. He and Commerce Director Gary Mahn and Agriculture Director Pat Takasugi know how to leverage our trade offices in Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, and Guadalajara and our new office in our nation's capital into more opportunities to sell Idaho's goods and services overseas.

To give them more firepower, I've appointed an International Trade Advisory Committee, headed by Jim Hungelmann of Simplot Corporation and Charlie Pottenger of Potlatch, to help build more beachheads to new markets.

Improving our jobs climate is why I've created a Rural Economic Development Council, chaired by Peter O'Neill and co-chaired by Con Paulos, Steve Meyer, and Kenlon Johnson.

It's why I've established a Science and Technology Advisory Committee, headed by a world-class scientist, Dr. Billy Shipp. The partnership with Bechtel, the INEEL, and the university consortium adds great strength to our base.

And it's why I've appointed a Value-Added Committee, chaired by Larry Eastland, to take the developments we make here in Idaho one step further. Let me give you a case in point.

The University of Idaho has developed a new variety of wheat that’s specifically targeted for the Asian noodle market. But instead of shipping them the raw material, why shouldn’t we ship them the finished product. These are the kinds of opportunities I want to seize.

Let the world know: If it says “Made in Idaho,” it means “Quality.”

And since we’re on the subject of quality, we have a tremendous asset in this state that backs up that brand name. It’s the Quality Assurance Lab in Twin Falls. And as you will see on Wednesday, I believe it’s time for the state to financially support the Quality Assurance Lab.

As we look forward to the future, we must also honor our heritage. And central to that is our stewardship of our natural resources – our forests and rivers, our mountains and deserts.

We’ve been responsible stewards this past year.

We’ve begun the process to significantly expand our magnificent Ponderosa State Park.

We’ve concluded the efforts begun by Governor Batt to acquire Box Canyon as a state park. And I want to express the thanks of all Idahoans to the late Earl Hardy and his family. Their generosity will allow future generations of Idahoans to enjoy the splendor of this site.

We’ve expanded our trails system. I was proud to sign the consent decree last month that will lead to 71 miles of new trails from Plummer to Mullan.

We’ve entered into negotiations that will lead to a cleanup of the Coeur d’Alene Basin without federal intervention. When I spoke last month with EPA officials, they informed me that they were prepared to start naming additional Superfund sites in the basin within days.

But after discussions in my office, they’ve agreed to hold off as we seek an Idaho solution. The major mining companies, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, and the Justice Department have all agreed to join me in negotiations to settle this issue.

In the end, we will have a state-based solution to this problem. I believe we should embark on a 25-year public works project to clean the basin up. And we will give northern Idaho the clean bill of health it deserves.

We’ve also seen progress this past year in our Fish and Game Commission. Don Clower, Marcus Gibbs, Alex Irby, and Roy Moulton have joined Nancy Hadley, John Burns, and Fred Wood. These new members have brought a new spirit of cooperation to the Commission’s work, and I believe we can say today that the era of conflict at the Commission has come to a close.

It ‘ s because of this new atmosphere and management that I will support their proposal to increase fees on fish and game licenses.

I don‘t do this lightly. When a fee increase proposal was before us last year at this time, I said no. I say yes now because I ‘m confident that this Commission will take these additional funds and put them where they‘re needed the most: in programs that are going to directly improve the quality of hunting and fishing opportunities for the sportsmen and women of Idaho.

Critical decisions on the issue of salmon and steelhead recovery also await us this year.

The Pacific Northwest and the federal government have spent billions of dollars on this process. And to put it in blunt terms, we have little to show for it so far.

Many within the federal government have thought they could regulate the salmon back into existence without seeking the partnership of the states and their people.

They cannot.

To their credit, they now recognize that there isn’t one single answer – no silver bullet – that will resolve this complex and contentious issue.

It is time for us as a state to renew our commitment to preserve these species.

And we have begun the process by gathering the critical information we need to craft Idaho‘s action plan. A plan that will be mindful of what our resources mean to our state‘s economic livelihood.

The Salmon Cabinet I formed this past year has been hard at work to develop data and research in the critical areas of habitat, hatcheries, harvest, and hydropower.

We will take this data to the table and help develop proposals that will balance the need to restore our salmon and steelhead stocks with the need to ensure that Idaho‘s economy continues to grow. We do not intend to simply react to a federal solution. Working with our sister states, we intend to play a key role in shaping a solution. And it will be a solution that can be supported economically, politically, and biologically.

It is our turn to solve the problem. It is time for Idaho‘s agenda.

I will work with the Legislature to marshal our state resources and bring cohesive direction and guidance to this effort on salmon and other endangered species issues. By instilling a new sense of urgency and cooperation between the state agencies, we will be able to develop conservation initiatives that benefit both species and property owners.

There is no more important challenge to the environmental and economic future of this state than that presented by the Endangered Species Act. But in true Idaho fashion, we can rise to this challenge.

This session, we must examine where we can be most effective with the Endangered Species Act. Is it in the existing Fish and Game Department, or should it be moved elsewhere?

I want to make sure that if a change is made, then the appropriate resources go with it, so that we don‘t set ourselves up for failure by raising expectations. So there are very important conditions and circumstances that will have to be a part of this going in.

And while we intend to work in cooperation to develop a solution to these critical species issues, we will not allow the federal government to dictate by decree how Idaho ‘s lands are managed.

Given the little we know about it so far, the Clinton Administration ‘ plan to halt development on roadless areas would affect the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Idahoans. And it could affect the value of our public trust lands – which translates directly into the dollars that help fund our schools for our children.

As President of the Land Board, maintaining the value of our lands for our children is a responsibility I take very seriously. Just as I do protecting Idaho ‘s water.

Idaho has asked for more time to review the roadless proposal. The federal government has denied our request. Idaho has asked for basic information. Thus far, they have refused. And therefore, Idaho is the first state in the Union to file suit against this unilateral action by the federal government.

The other members of the Land Board and I have joined in this bipartisan lawsuit to seek more time and more information. When a decision like this could dramatically affect this state, we have every right to insist on this information. If it takes a lawsuit to get their attention, then we‘ll see them in court. Our Attorney General, Al Lance, has an excellent track record in federal court.

And I ‘ve sent a letter to all of the western governors, notifying them of our lawsuit. Because regardless of their affiliation, they understand that a dictatorial approach is not how democracy works. And the states of the United States must stand firm and say no.

As we deal with all of these federal issues, one of the great assets Idaho has going for it is our congressional delegation. I commend and thank Senator Craig, Senator Crapo, Congressman Chenoweth-Hage, and Congressman Simpson for their continued effectiveness on behalf of Idaho.

Balancing environmental protection and economic growth will also be at the heart of the debate on the Division of Environmental Quality, and granting it department status. Last January, I said we‘d work with all of the interested parties to try and reach consensus on this issue. We‘ve met throughout the past year, and we ‘ve had a healthy discussion.

I ‘m now ready to proceed, and I believe most of the parties are as well. If some groups still have reservations, then that ‘s what the legislative process is all about. But it ‘s time to move forward. Our environment, which is our life-support system, justifies department status as we enter a new century. This isn‘t bigger government. It‘s better government. And it’s good public policy.

Let me also take a moment to publicly commend and thank the members of the Idaho Supreme Court for their willingness to revisit their previous decision on wilderness water rights.

Protecting the quality and productivity of our natural resources isn‘t the only way we honor our heritage. We honor it by celebrating our people. And at the beginning of this new century, I want to pay special respect to Idaho‘s seniors, for the contributions they have made, and continue to make, to all of us.

Today, 1 out of 5 Idahoans is 55 or older. More than 17,000 seniors are 85 or older, and they represent the fastest growing segment of our population. They represent a deep well of history and experience. And they deserve to enjoy these years in dignity and in safety.

I will always remember a dinner I attended last year for R.S.V.P. – the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program. What a special night it was to see how genuinely appreciative these seniors were for the recognition they received for their contributions to their communities. It was a great evening for Idaho.

I ‘m pleased to tell you thanks to the good work of our Commission on Aging, Idaho has once again been ranked by the U.S. Labor Department as the best state in the nation for its senior employment program. For those seniors who want to get back into the job market, we ‘re providing them with the skills they need.

But before these seniors go back into the job market full-time, community service is part of their training. Last year alone, those who participated in the Senior Employment Program put in nearly 46,000 hours of community service in Idaho. 46,000 hours. That‘s why I want to salute the seniors of Idaho. They set the example for the state.

We must continue to support and celebrate the contributions of Idaho ‘s Hispanic community.

When we were in Guadalajara last fall, several of you here joined me, along with Gladys Esquibel and Antonio Salcido of our Hispanic Commission, in the capitol building in Jalisco. I had the honor of accepting a $50,000 contribution from our sister state to help establish the Idaho Hispanic Cultural Center in Nampa.

And when Governor Cardenas presented this contribution, he talked about how much our states have in common.

That‘s why I believe this gift is an economic development tool. This prestigious center will become a destination center as we honor the contributions of our citizens of Hispanic descent. It will also be a facility that will strengthen our common economic bonds. So I ask that we match our sister state ‘s contribution and get this center off the drawing board.

We must also continue to embrace tolerance and celebrate the diversity of all Idahoans, and the contributions that each of us makes to the good of our state.

And let me take a moment to salute a man who left us yesterday far too soon, Gene Harris. The jazz world has lost a giant. Idaho has lost one of its finest goodwill ambassadors. And I have lost a friend. And while we mourn his loss, Gene will continue to live on in his music, in the festival here that bears his name, and in the friendship and love he shared with all of us.

You couldn‘t ask for a better example of our spirit than what we saw recently, when Idahoans stepped up and contributed more than $700,000 to secure a matching grant to build the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.

I want to thank everyone who played a part in making this possible, and I especially want to commend Greg Carr for putting up the $500,000 challenge grant that made this possible. This effort represents the true face of Idaho.

But we still know that a small number of people who peddle hate can cast a false image of Idaho. An image that‘s absolutely against who we are and what we are about. An image that‘s against our values.

I will continue to speak out against those who promote prejudice. I know you will too. And I will tell you this: a handful of people who may want to burn a cross are no match for 10,000 Idahoans who marched to support the Table Rock Cross.

To make sure our message is heard loud and clear, I‘ve asked our Department of Commerce to develop a unified image campaign for the state. I want the rest of the nation and the world to know clearly that Idaho is a state that welcomes people of all races, colors, creeds, and faiths. And it is the best place in the nation to live, to work, and to raise a family.

Last October, I had the honor of speaking at the annual banquet of the local chapter of the NAACP. It honors a great Idahoan, Bertha Edwards. A strong and courageous woman who gave freely to her community, but who refused to be intimidated by racism and hate. A few days before the banquet, I received a letter from a former Grand Dragon of the KKK in Louisiana, urging me not to attend. The only thing that letter did was to guarantee my attendance.

We must also continue to recognize the contributions of our Native Americans, and I want to applaud the Legislature for your foresight in establishing an Indian Affairs Committee, so that we can have government-to-government discussions. And I want to commend the work that‘s been done by the chairman of this committee, Senator Moon Wheeler.

The issue of Indian gaming will also be before you this year. Let me say this: it is my intent that the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe have a compact this year. However, we are also working on an approach to the gaming issue that will resolve this issue to the benefit of both the state and all of Idaho‘s tribes. These deliberations will be challenging, but I believe they are worth our efforts.

We must also continue to honor those Idahoans who proudly served our state and our nation in the Armed Forces, our veterans.

A while ago, I spoke about the innovative grants we awarded this past year to schools throughout the state. One went to Shoshone Elementary School, where students are using it to study World War Two by interviewing the Idahoans who fought in it, and their families who lived through the war as well. They‘re writing to veterans this month to invite them in to tell their stories, and they hope to complete both a book and a web site by this March. Teacher Diane Norman says that when her students received a phone call from their first veteran, they cheered.

What a wonderful way to learn, and what a moving way to honor the contributions of our Idaho veterans. More and more, Idahoans and Americans are taking time to remember, to reflect, and to celebrate our veterans. You see it in the success of movies like “Saving Private Ryan.” You see it in the sales of the book, “The Greatest Generation.” And you see it in the enthusiasm of an elementary school project in Shoshone.

I believe we can do our part as well. We should move the Division of Veterans Services out of the Department of Health and Welfare, and establish it as an agency in its own right. Representative Ruby Stone has been working diligently on this issue. Ruby, I know it‘s an issue dear to your heart, and I ‘m looking for your continued leadership. You stay with it, and when it comes to my desk, I‘ll sign it.

And right now, Idaho is the only state in the union without a state or federally supported final resting place for our veterans. That distinction must end. My budget will include funds to begin the design of an Idaho Veterans Cemetery. The state will then step forward and maintain this sacred ground in perpetuity.

I want to thank Representative Helen Chenoweth-Hage for her efforts on our veterans ‘ behalf, and I want to commend Joe Terteling for his generous offer of land here in Boise to establish this cemetery.

On Wednesday, we will discuss the budget in detail. We will discuss the extent of the surplus, and how I propose to utilize it. And we ‘ll discuss the details of funding levels for education, for my initiatives, for our state employees, and for many other areas. But I do want to take a moment and talk about the tobacco settlement.

Last year, we agreed not to rush to spend money that we had yet to receive. In hindsight, we made a smart move. Because as you know, the proverbial check in the mail didn‘t show up until just a few weeks ago.

Now that we‘ve received the first installment, I ‘m once again recommending a prudent course of action.

I ask you to take this money and put it in a trust fund. Once we spend the principal, the money ‘s gone. And that would close the window for funding any number of programs that are critical to this state ‘s future.

By establishing a trust fund, and through the interest that money will earn, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide funding for programs in perpetuity. For those who might be thinking about spending this money right off the bat, consider this: In just 20 years, the annual interest we ‘ll be able to spend will exceed the annual payment that would go in this trust fund.

And with Treasurer Ron Crane and Senator John Sandy, I ‘ve discussed the concept of a bond bank. The principal could be used as collateral to leverage the state ‘s buying power, so that municipalities could borrow this money at a much lower rate of interest. I commend them for thinking creatively about how we can get more bang for these bucks.

There‘s no shortage of ideas on how to spend this money. But through the concept of a trust fund, let me tell you the three areas that I believe merit priority consideration. They ‘re all tied together, and they ‘re all consistent with my priority of healthy, well-educated children.

The first is in health advocacy, so that we can steer our children away from ever getting hooked on tobacco in the first place. The other two would be the Permanent Building Fund, which has been woefully low for many years, and scholarships, so that Idaho children will both have an opportunity to go to school and to stay in Idaho.

These details can be worked out. But the first dollars should go to health advocacy.

But today isn‘t a day to dwell on dollars. That comes on Wednesday.

As I was preparing for this speech, I came across an article from the Idaho Statesman that I thought was appropriate for the occasion.

It said, and I quote: “In all occupations, the people have improved their condition, and their prospects for the future are brighter than before in the history of the state.”

And it said this: “the foundations have been laid deep and broad for more comprehensive development than the state has yet known.”

It wasn‘t a recent article. It ran a hundred years ago, on New Year ‘s Day, 1900. And yet it still applies today. Our foundations are strong. The opportunities are here.

But a hundred years from now, think about what those who will sit in this historic place will say about us. How did we begin the journey of the greatest century this state has ever seen? Did we take those issues that have tied us up for the past ten or twenty years – and did we face them and solve them?

My friends, that is my intention – to face these issues and solve them together. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Let us begin anew.

Let me close by introducing you to two people whose presence here today is quite remarkable.

Ruth Winther was born on June 19, 1896. She came to northern Idaho in 1902, where her dad homesteaded near Kamiah. She met her husband while teaching in Lapwai. They married in 1921 and moved to Nampa in 1927. In 1943, her husband opened a music store, Winther Music. Their Boise store is still open today. Until just a few years ago, she worked in the store. 3 sons. 8 grandchildren. 17 great grandchildren. And at the young age of 103, she lives in her home in Nampa and now considers herself officially retired.

Ruth, you‘ve earned it. We thank you for your service, and we ‘re honored with your presence.

And this past New Year ‘s Eve, Gretchen Anderson and her husband, Buster Minshew, bid farewell to the 20th Century and ushered in the new millennium with a wonderful view of the fireworks here at the Capitol. They watched from the 10th floor of St. Luke‘s Hospital, where little Margaret Delaney Viola Minshew was waiting to enter the world. And on New Year‘s Day, at 5:17 p.m., Maggie staked her claim as one of the first Idahoans to be born in the 21st Century. Maggie, we ‘re going to make sure you have a wonderful future in Idaho.

With Ruth having been born in the 19th Century, with Maggie having been born in the 21st Century, and all of us having been born in the 20th Century, I believe it‘s the first time when three centuries of Idahoans have gathered in this historic chamber.

Just think about the history in Idaho that Ruth has seen. And who can tell what the future will bring for Maggie? That‘s why we should celebrate our past and imagine our future -- as we begin our work.

It is my honor to serve with you, the people of Idaho. This great state, this forty-third star in the galaxy of states that form the greatest nation in the world.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the great State of Idaho.

 
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