1011 Teton Ave.
Occupation & relevant work experience
I am a partner in the law firm, Larsen & Rice, PLLC located in Caldwell, Idaho.
I have served in the Idaho Senate since my appointment at the beginning of March, 2012.
What is your education background?
Melba High School
I attended Brigham Young University
Juris Doctor degree from William Howard Taft University
Have you ever filed bankruptcy for yourself or for your business? If yes, please tell us when and the circumstances.
Have you been convicted of any misdemeanor or felony charges? (Traffic citations not included) If yes, what were the convictions and the circumstances?
Have you served in the military? If so, when, for how long and for what branch?
Please name the organizations or groups that have endorsed you so far in this election. Also please list any conflict of interest situations that you would face if elected.
What is your opinion of the tiered licensure proposal for teachers?
Tiered licensure can be a good tool to assure that teacher pay matches up with experience, ability and performance of teachers. However, it is important that it not be turned into a misnamed pay for performance program. For that reason it is critical that the standards used be objective and that there is a way for teachers to receive due process for any downward changes in the tier of the license. We also need to make sure that we do not create a system that makes it harder to get experienced teachers to come to Idaho from other states. My review of the proposed rule has left me with the opinion that it misses the mark and that the proposed rule demonstrates the need for legislative rules review. I do not support the proposed rule as it is currently written.
What is your opinion on Superintendent Tom Luna's proposal to increase public education spending by 6.9 percent?
The proposal by the current Superintendent is a good starting point for discussion of education funding for next fiscal year. There is general consensus on increasing funding, but it is important to remember that the proposals tend to change between September and the start of the legislative session in January. We will have a new Superintendent of Public Instruction after the election in November, which is likely to result in some priority shifts. I have consistently supported increases in education funding and will continue to do so.
Should Idaho continue implementing Common Core standards, or should the state reject them? Please explain why or why not.
Schools throughout the State of Idaho are well into implementation of new education standards. It is important to remember that the standards are just that, educational standards. They are not a curriculum. Curriculum is determined by local school districts. It is important to make sure that our education standards really are education standards and that they do not give control of education of Idaho's children to people and organizations that are not accountable to Idahoans.
What role should the state play in public defense reform to ensure anyone accused of a crime gets an adequate defense?
Indigent criminal defendants have a right to appointed counsel to represent them. The state has the obligation to see that such accused persons have competent counsel that has the time and resources to represent them competently. For that reason, the legislature has formed an interim committee to study the issue throughout the state and make recommendations. This will result in better uniformity throughout the state.
Did you support Gov. Butch Otter's position on establishing an Idaho health insurance exchange? Why or why not?
I supported creation of the state health insurance exchange. The choices were a federal exchange or a state exchange. As a result of our decision, Idahoans pay less than they would have with a federal exchange and health insurance agents and brokers are available to help individuals and families in their health insurance decisions.
Would you support a bill to allow communities the opportunity to vote on projects via a local option tax?
I do not support local option tax authority. It would tend to result in patchwork tax rates and reduce our ability to have comprehensive economic development strategies that work.
A transportation task force in 2010 estimated it would take about a quarter-billion dollars annually to fund needed road improvements in Idaho. How much more money do you believe the state should add to its transportation budget, and how should the state go about raising it?
There is a real need to increase transportation funding. Currently, all materials used in road construction and maintenance are subject to the sales and use tax. The tax is imposed on the contractor even if the government already owns the materials. This effectively increases the cost of road construction and maintenance by $18 million per year. This should be eliminated before any increases in taxes or fees. The methods being discussed include a 6 to 8 cent fuel tax increase combined with some increase in registration fees. I have been working on this since I was elected to the Senate.
What should Idaho do about Medicaid expansion?
Currently Medicaid is a wasteful program. Although the intent is to provide needed health care for those who cannot afford it, the way it is set up has resulted in poorer decision making. We see many going to the emergency room for medical conditions that should be handled in the doctor's office. There is little or no incentive for recipients to engage in preventive health care. There is need for real, permanent reform. Unfortunately, the current federal administration will not allow real or permanent reform to Medicaid. Without real, permanent reform Medicaid should not be expanded.
Do you support the 'religious freedom' legislation that was proposed in the 2014 Legislature that would have allowed some to refuse service to others based on religious beliefs?
I support the freedom of religion clauses in the Idaho and United States Constitutions. I have not spent any time reviewing the measure referred to as I believe our constitutions fully protect religious liberty.
Do you think the state should have spent money to defend in court the state's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage?
The citizens of the State of Idaho passed a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The state has an obligation to defend the state constitution in court if it is challenged. This includes exhausting available appeals. There are substantial additional questions that now exist as a result of the lower court rulings that should be decided by the United States Supreme Court. Substantial questions now emerge on such matters as whether or not a state can regulate marriage in regard to the number of persons who can be married to each other. There is a footnote in the Ninth Circuit decision that indicates that all marriages contracted in other states and nations must be recognized. It is prudent to seek resolution of this and other questions now rather than piecemeal in the future.
Should the words 'sexual orientation, gender identity' be added to Idaho's fair employment, housing, education & public accommodation law?
What would be your top three legislative priorities if elected?
My priorities continue to be jobs and economic development, education and protection of private property. I will continue to support sound tax policy that will help improve our economy. I will continue to support educational opportunity that helps lead to improved incomes for individuals and families. I will continue to support policies that allow people to enjoy and control the fruits of their own labors.
Explain why you support or oppose the state's effort to control wolves and what you would do differently.
It is necessary to control the wolf population in the State of Idaho. The increasing number of wolves results in killing of cattle and sheep along with reduction in the number of elk in our state. While there is no intent or plan to eliminate wolves, it is prudent to manage the population.
Do you support the attempt for Idaho to take back control of some of the state's federal lands, and if so, how should the state pay for the cost of maintaining them, which is currently borne by the federal government.
The discussion of state control of the land within the State of Idaho is an important one. The federal lands are not managed as well as state lands are. This has resulted in fuel loading that has produced massive wildfires that destroy forests and kill wildlife and fish. In addition, the lands produce less than comparable state lands do. While it is unlikely that the federal lands would be turned over to the State of Idaho the discussion is likely to lead to either, an increase in state management and input or better federal management. We cannot simply sit back and watch ever more devastating fires damage our forests and pollute our streams with ash and mud. It is time to have serious discussions about ownership and management of public lands in Idaho.
Explain your position on this year's amendment to the Idaho Constitution, House Joint Resolution 2, to amend the Constitution to confirm the Legislature's authority to review the rules proposed by state agencies each year.
HJR 2 seeks to put the Legislature's authority to review administrative rules clearly and unambiguously in our state constitution. It received unanimous, bipartisan support in both the state House of Representatives and the Senate. Every year the legislature rejects rules that simply do not conform to the laws of our state. In addition, the review of rules does bring to light occasions when statutes are poorly written or ill conceived. It is of the utmost importance that we pass this amendment to our state constitution to ensure that this authority to review administrative rules is never lost. The argument that some have recently made that equate rules review with a partisan ability to reject rules based on decisions applying rules made in compliance with Idaho law is misplaced. Agency application of existing rules is not what is reviewed. The rule itself is reviewed. If the rule does not conform to the law it is rejected. If the rule conforms to the law the rule is not rejected and even if it were, there would be no effect since the law would still say the same thing. Rules review maintains the balance that must exist between the three branches of government.
What do you think about tax breaks and credits offered to businesses in an attempt to bring them to Idaho? Is this good policy or is it a case of government unfairly picking winners and losers?
Not every tax break or credit offered to businesses is good policy. However, well crafted incentives can and do increase the number of high paying jobs that come to our state, whether by expansion of existing Idaho businesses or those that move in from out of state. This past session we passed legislation that provides a tax credit to businesses that expand or come to our state if there are a substantial number of high paying jobs. The tax credit is limited in time and amount and only is given after the business has performed. This has already resulted in a new aircraft maintenance facility to the Treasure Valley that will bring at least 50 jobs that pay in excess of $50,000.00 per year. This will be a boost to our economy. This particular tax incentive program is modeled after a highly successful program that has been used for years in Utah. In addition, this incentive will increase revenues that we can use to fund education and other needs.
Would you support a tax on purchases made online as a means of leveling the playing field for Idaho's brick-and-mortar businesses?
We currently have a tax on internet purchases that covers the same goods that are taxed when purchased in brick and mortar businesses. What we do not have is uniform collection of those taxes. What is referred to as the “Internet sales tax” is nothing more than collection of taxes already due and owing, but not currently collected. Currently it is not possible to enforce collection of these taxes through the businesses that sell the goods to Idahoans without a physical presence in Idaho. Instead individuals are required to report the purchase and pay the tax with their income tax return. This method of collection is inefficient and results in the loss of substantial tax revenues. Requiring out of state sellers to collect this sales tax for the State of Idaho cannot occur unless Congress passes legislation allowing the states to impose this collection responsibility.
What kind of legislation would you support that would help increase wages in Idaho?
I have consistently supported improving education, improving our transportation system, protection of private property and making our tax and regulatory system friendlier to the growth and development of business. Sound policy is what will continue to increase household income and raise wages and the standard of living in our state. Schemes to require increases in wages by government mandate are simply another form of get rich quick scheme that does not improve the wealth or standard of living of those that receive the apparent benefit. This is amply demonstrated by the continual clamor in some sectors for increases in the minimum wage. The minimum wage simply does not keep up with the cost of living and increases in minimum wages are quickly followed by increases in prices that wipe out the increases in the minimum wage. There is no magic bullet, instead, quality education, well designed and adequate transportation systems, private property and a good business climate have been proven to improve opportunity for individuals and communities to increase individual wealth and living standards.