Separation of Church and State
Like the calm before the storm, the House was relatively quiet last week with only a handful of bills being passed. However, as we head into the last three weeks of the session, the pace will quicken and the last two weeks will be very hectic.
It is appropriate to note that on Thursday of last week the National Day of Prayer was observed. Actually there were two observances. On the south steps of the Capitol a group gathered sponsored by Americans for Separation of church and state. Inside the rotunda a traditional observance of the day was held. It is sad to see how far from the original framers intent in regards to religion that we have come. Our founding fathers not only encouraged the Christian religion in every arena of public life, but intended it to be a unshakeable foundation of the new nation.
Consider the following quote by President Washington in his Inaugural Address, “The propitious, or the favorable smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.” President John Adams echoed this sentiment when he said, “We have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with emotions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
There was some news on the budget front from last week also. It seems that the gas tax will not come to a vote in either the House or Senate. The soaring fuel prices have sounded the death knell on this proposal. Because of the conditions of our roads and bridges however, there needs to be money appropriated to the Transportation Department from the General Revenue fund. Hopefully, this new way of funding the department will be considered next session.
The tobacco tax also entered into its final form. Although the bill has yet to hit my desk, the governor has outlined the basic proposal. It will raise prices on cigarettes for a net increase of .55 cents. It will restore the lost local sales tax to municipalities. The proposal also has a 20-mile buffer zone so retailers within that range of the border do not pay the full amount of the tax increase unless the border state has implemented a tobacco tax increase. The problems with the tribal smoke shops haven't all been worked out yet though. This is one of the biggest problems with the bill.
In exchange for the tax increase, the bill would also begin to reduce some other taxes. It would implement a retiree tax cut, eliminate the income tax trigger, and begin to reduce the Capital Gains tax. Income from the bill would ostensibly go to replace cuts on federal money for health care, provide money to implement a Private Premium Assistance Plan for small employers, fund trauma care, and help construct a Cancer Research Center at OU Health Science Center.
This tobacco tax bill and the medical lawsuit reform will probably be the last major bills that will be looked at this session. The governor has appointed a task force to look into restoring some of the language in a Worker's Compensation reform bill also. Once those are dealt with and the committee conference report bills are voted on, only the budget reconciliation bills will remain. However, that is still a lot of substance left to work on for this session.
Boise City News