Friday, February 08, 2008

Rep. Pence: Legislative Report Week 4

The week began with the news of Senator Stennett’s impending surgery. I am thankful that he was up and moving around quickly and was released Thursday. He will be in all our prayers as he continues his treatments in pursuit of recovery.

The Senate Education committee was scheduled to take up the iStars and We Teach Bills last Wednesday, but action was postponed. It appears neither of these concepts have enough approval to make it through committee. There is an effort to salvage the concept of rewarding effective teachers with additional pay. This may take the form of fewer steps or reduced amounts for each step. With tax income falling below expectations, legislators are wary of ongoing commitments of this magnitude. Any bill which ties relinquishing a continuing contract to eligibility to receive a step up the career ladder, will not get my vote.

One of the results of this summer’s Interim Water Resources Committee is H404. It asks for $20 million over ten years to develop aquifer planning and management throughout Idaho. These funds will be used to provide technical studies, facilitation services, hydrologic monitoring, and for the development of measurement and comprehensive plans for these aquifers. Water is becoming a valuable commodity and the need for comprehensive plans aimed at achieving aquifer sustainability is a necessary long-term goal. These plans will also provide data which will help to protect Idaho’s water as we confer with Washington officials over cross boarder water issues near Coeur d’ Alene.

Speaking of water, what about the snow this week? I trust it extended to the east as well. If so, it would go a long way in easing the anxiety over those pending shut down orders on irrigation wells all along the Snake River Aquifer.

The State Board of Education recently released a 113-page report concerning Medical Education in Idaho. This preliminary study was contracted to MGT of America. This report documented that a significant need for more physicians exists in Idaho. In addition the following results were noted:
· Access to physicians by the general population is extremely limited.
· Many of Idaho’s physicians are 55 or older and nearing retirement.
· Idaho’s population base is sufficient to support the clinical part of medical education.
· There are a number of highly qualified Idaho students seeking medical education.
· Idaho is dead last among states in the number of seats available in medical education.
· Less populated states have supported medical schools for years.
· Healthcare is an important component in the national economy, but much less so in Idaho.
· Idaho’s limited investment in medical education makes us ill-prepared to compete for a share of the rapidly expanding biomedical industry.

As a result of this report, the following four alternatives for medical education were identified.
· Create a new university–operated medical school on the distributive model. Sixty - one hundred students could be enrolled per class. Students take introductory courses on the university campus for two years and complete two years clinical training at several sites across the state (lead to a M.D. or equivalent degree)
· Expand the package of contract programs with medical schools in other states. (University of Washington and University of Utah, Others?)
· Develop a new joint medical school from current medical education resources. This approach would draw from the medical education resources of the three state universities.
· Expand graduate medical education (residency) programs in the state.

The Board spokesman, Mark Browning, emphasized that a cost benefit analysis of the data will be forth coming and will be important in any decision. A Medical Education Study Committee has been formed and will be meeting from March through May. Included in their proposed activities are public meetings at five sites around the state in April. Twin Falls is one of the sites and would be a good place to voice your opinions.

Recommendations from the committee are scheduled at the June Board Meeting. If you want to look more closely at the report, it is available through the Office of the State Board of Education [click here].

If you are in town, drop in and personally give me your opinions.

Otherwise, phone me at 1-208-332-1271, e-mail at, or write P.O. Box 83720, Boise, Idaho 83720-0038

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