Reach lawmakers without going to Boise

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Idaho residents are now able to testify about some proposed laws being considered by the Idaho Legislature without having to travel to Boise.

Video conferencing technology will allow lawmakers to hear from citizens in real time at six remote locations across the state, inciuding the North Idaho College Workforce Training Center in Post Falls.

“This is a great way for citizens in North Idaho to be actively involved in the policy decisions of their state government,” said Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene.

The House Education Committee is launching the pilot program, which has been discussed for the last two years. House Bill 415 will be the first bill to receive testimony at 8 a.m. Thursday. People are required to register online to give testimony. No walk-ins allowed.

“I am very excited because my bill is going to be the first one,” said Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls. “I strongly support remote testimony. It will allow citizens to further engage in the legislative process and advance transparency. A lot of people can’t afford to drive down to Boise and this gives them the ability to participate in the legislative process.”

Cheatham’s bill would amend existing code to allow students to receive an excused absence from school if they’re playing taps at military funerals.

“As a Vietnam veteran, this is very near and dear to my heart,” he said. “I get emotional just thinking about students playing taps.”

Citizens can also testify on House Bill 443, which will be heard at 8:30 a.m. That bill gives school districts the ability to provide gun safety training to students.

Because it is the first year of the project, the number of bills open to remote testimony are limited and the project will be confined to bills taken up by the House Education Committee.

Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, lauded the effort to bring remote testimony to the Legislature.

“I’ve been supportive of this idea for years and I’m excited it is now available even on an introductory basis,” said Souza. “If citizens make use of it, the opportunities will grow and more committees will open their public testimony to this option. We need more public input down here in the Legislature!”

Those interested in testifying must fill out an online registration form at least 24 hours prior to the committee meeting or they will not able allowed to testify. The deadline for Thursday’s hearings is 8 a.m. today. If no one registers, the remote session will be canceled, said Mindy Patterson, an executive assistant with North Idaho College.

“People cannot just walk in and testify,” said Patterson. “They need to register online beforehand. This is the first one so we don’t know how many will be here. However, I expect this program to grow and become more popular.”

At the time of registration people will be required to provide the following information:

•First and last name.

•Location you will be testifying from.

•What organization you are representing, if any.

•Whether you are “For” or “Against” the bill.

•Written copy of your intended testimony.

For more information, go to https://legislature.idaho.gov/remote-testimony or contact the committee secretary at hedu@house.idaho.gov or 208-332-1148, or contact the Legislative Information Center at idleginfo@lso.idaho.gov or 208-332-1000.

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