Sunday, June 16, 2024

2024 legislative session saw many successes

by REP. MARK SAUTER / Contributing Writer
| May 30, 2024 1:00 AM

The 2024 legislative session ended on April 10. There were successes. 

This session we made some progress with the immigration problem. We passed Senate Joint Memorial No. 102 calling for our Congress and the president to secure the border. We funded an enforcement effort for the Idaho State Patrol. Sending a group of troopers to the border to assist law enforcement efforts there and to learn about the methods of smuggling drugs and people into our country and state. 

Related to immigration are illegal drugs and human trafficking. We passed legislation adding fentanyl to our list of drugs carrying mandatory minimum sentences. We added a life sentence to those found guilty of homicide when dealing fentanyl. We updated our human trafficking statutes, too. 

We made considerable investments in school facilities, roads and bridges, and water infrastructure. State funds reduce the need for local government spending and help offset the costs for our counties, cities, and school districts. These state funding efforts then help to reduce local property taxes. 

We dedicated considerable funding to school facility improvements. For example, the Lake Pend Oreille School District will receive over $15 million for school facility improvements, the West Bonner County School District will receive over $3 million, and the Boundary County School District will receive over $5 million. These amounts will not fully address the backlog of facility needs for the school districts; however, they do serve as a starting point and a major shift in state funding. Historically, the state has funded classroom instruction and school operations but not school facilities. 

We made some positive changes to women’s healthcare. We expanded healthcare for postpartum maternal care from two to 12 months. I’m told up to 70% of new mothers may benefit from this. This funding goes directly to our healthcare providers, not to individuals. We also re-started the Maternal Mortality Study for Idaho. In 2022, the last year of study, nearly all the deaths of mothers who died while pregnant or within a year of child delivery were preventable. These deaths are devastating to families and ultimately to our community. There is very little cost for this program. Predictable outcomes are often preventable, and this type of life-saving goes hand in hand with our pro-life beliefs. 

We also passed legislation that directs the staffing for our representation on the Idaho Board of Education to be geographical. This effort started last year. The 2023 bill wanted these previously volunteer board members to begin getting compensation and travel fees after being elected in partisan elections. That effort would have increased costs and grown government. The 2024 bill addresses the need to have regional representation without the increased costs and politicizing of education. Sometimes it takes a little time to get a bill right. 

This session we also passed the funding for Idaho Launch. This program expands training opportunities for graduating high school seniors interested in starting in-demand careers. The program doesn’t completely fund the training required for certification for a trade or in-demand degree, but it does help. Students will have to continuously perform to keep the funding and students who don’t finish their intended program will be called upon to return the funds.  Nearly 300 students from our district have applied for Idaho Launch. Our tax-paying employers are looking forward to filling job openings with these young, better-prepared workers. Higher-paying jobs lead to the growth of families and individuals. Better jobs also contribute more to our economy, the community, and state income taxes. 

We continued to whittle down our property tax burden too and made small reductions in our state income tax rates. Coupled with our school, workforce and infrastructure investments, we are putting Idaho first in priority for efficiency, jobs and keeping it a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

I voted for the bills that support and protect our district regarding the aforementioned issues. I also started and “ran” five constituent bills this session. All were signed into law by the governor. The bills ranged from water adjudication, public works procedures, elections, school board operations, and livestock depredation. They were all started by requests from our district and will benefit our area and the state.

Mark Sauter represents Bonner and Boundary counties in the Idaho Legislature in District 1A. He can be reached at