November 2016 Treasure Valley Voters Guide

Welcome to our Voter Guide for November's local races, bonds and levies, as well as the presidential election. Compare candidates' views on the issues side by side and create your own ballot, which you can then print or email.

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...Please note: Candidates' responses have not been edited except for libel.

Idaho House District 15 - Seat B

Incumbent: Republican Patrick McDonald Term: Two yearsSalary: $16,684

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    Jake Ellis

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    Patrick McDonald

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Biographical Information

Name your three priorities for Idaho. Do you support current policy on them? if not, describe your alternate plan. How would you pay for your proposals that have costs associated with them?

How should Idaho address the health care needs of the 78,000 residents in the so-called gap population? Do you support Medicaid expansion in some form? Some other proposal? Please address funding for the option you prefer.

What is the state's obligation to public schools? Is Idaho spending enough on buildings, teachers and operations? How can Idaho improve its go-on rate for students leaving high school?

What is your position on the relationship between the federal government, the states and local governments? Is the state right or wrong to hinder or pre-empt action on the local level? Should the state work to take more ownership or control of federal lands in Idaho?

Name three actions taken by the Legislature this past session that you opposed. Name three you supported or would support. Explain.

What is the proper role of a part-time citizen Legislature? Do you think Idaho’s current system works? Does the Legislature function well or do you see need for changes or improvements?

Do you support your party’s presidential nominee? Explain. Include in your answer who you plan to vote for and why.

Have you been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, a misdemeanor or felony or had a withheld judgment? If so, what, when and where?

Have you or a company you owned filed bankruptcy? If so, when and where?

Age 58
Education I attended Idaho State University while fighting wildland fires and later received a degree in Communication at Boise State University. I also honed my skills as a firefighter and community leader through Executive Fire Officer training at the National Fire Academy.
Prior political experience I was the City of Boise's 1992 Firefighter of the Year for my work to defeat the One Percent Initiative, which would have severely limited resources for cities and counties to provide emergency services. I spent several legislative sessions advocating for firefighters’ access to treatment for job-related illnesses, as a volunteer lobbyist for the Professional Firefighters of Idaho.
Civic involvement I’ve learned a great deal about our legislature and laws through my decades advocating for firefighters, both at the statehouse—as a volunteer lobbyist working for treatment of job-related illnesses—and in the workplace, where I coordinated efforts to enact pregnancy policies for female firefighters and prevent sexual harassment.
Years living in Idaho 54
Family Since retiring from the Boise Fire Department in 2014, I've cared for a disabled sister and my elderly relatives. I volunteer frequently at my son's school and spend time with my wife, daughter and granddaughter.
Twitter page @EllisforIdaho
My top priorities for Idaho are ensuring strong public schools, creating opportunities for hard-working people, and keeping our public lands public. Our kids need to be ready for education or training after high school.

We need to work within our means to create a world-class K-12 education system and make affordable access to higher education a reality for everyone.

The cost of higher education has far outpaced growth in wages, and our qualified college graduates often leave the state to seek more profitable opportunities. This proves our existing policy isn't working. Our communities are forced to rely on property tax levies to keep our schools intact.

Reviewing Idaho's $1.7 billion dollars in existing sales tax exemptions would do a great deal for our state. Some exemptions have been on the books for fifty years! We can hold the special interests accountable, and add resources to create real opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

Finally, state management of public lands would only worsen our fiscal situation - and diminish our quality of life. Managing and fighting fires on millions of acres takes valuable resources away from public schools and Idaho's future.
I believe we should ensure that every Idahoan deserves access to quality care without fear of going bankrupt in the process.

Examining where we can save money in Medicaid, the CAT fund and the Indigent Fund, then utilizing that existing funding to provide coverage is clearly not enough. If it were, we wouldn’t have 78,000 Idahoans unable to pay for health insurance.

Policies to close the coverage gap should be weighed against the millions of dollars in cost savings that Medicaid expansion provides to our state and local governments. More than half a billion dollars each year could be added to Idaho's economy for the next ten years by utilizing the Medicaid expansion. And it would cost us next to nothing!

Legislators should've passed this year's proposal to develop a waiver allowing Idaho to utilize Medicaid expansion funds to provide managed care. But they didn’t. This year's community health center proposal is five million dollars that won’t do much for anybody - and five million less to dedicate to the well-being of students and our communities.

In the meantime, Idaho's uninsured continue to suffer, and our communities continue to foot the bill.
Idaho’s public schools are only adequately funded when teachers have sufficient resources to ensure students’ success – at every school in the state. This is not the case. Teacher compensation should be competitive with neighboring states and robust enough to retain our talented educators. Our facilities should be maintained and equipped with classroom resources and technology sufficient to the needs of today’s economy and institutions of higher education.

Students need to be prepared for education after high school. Career and college education must be affordable and accessible for our children and our state, in order to compete for the jobs of the future.

Funding our education system at 2009 levels just isn't going to cut it. Fiscally, our state is in no position to siphon resources from public schools. Supplemental property tax levies are already too widespread and ineffective. Our rural school districts are stretched too thin with no way to viably increase funding, causing many of them to drop to a four-day school week.
Idaho has a great tradition of independence and individualism. We should empower local stakeholders, not stifle their efforts. Collaborating with the state and federal government is a critical part of this venture.

Bills passed this year stripping local governments of the power to raise the minimum wage or create greenbelts are wrong. Both bills are examples of where state control serves our communities poorly.

Our land management policy should ensure that clean water, fresh air, and access are meaningfully preserved in the long term – and that requires adequate resources and a firm commitment to everyone who treasures what public lands have to offer.

I support keeping public lands public. Idaho’s outdoors are a birthright for our children and grandchildren. Our state has a strong tradition of stewarding these lands so that recreationists, sportsmen, tourism, and industry each have a say in the enjoyment of these vast treasures.

If elected, I’d work toward greater collaboration with the federal government on public lands.

I oppose HB 380, which would reduce funds available for education by $28 million in order to give a tax cut to the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations.

HB 582 seeks the takeover of federal public lands. It's an expensive and short-sighted proposal that would lead to the sale of public lands to the highest bidder and a real decline in Idahoans' quality of life.

I strongly oppose HB 487 because it severely limits a worker’s right to move up within an industry. It must be proven that the employee has “no ability to affect the employers’ business interests” in joining a competitor, and courts must assume harmful intent from the employee before proven otherwise.


HB 528 provides justice for victims of sexual assault, by making law enforcement agencies submit DNA and photographic evidence collected after an attack no later than 30 days after obtaining it.

Hire Idaho, HB402, would grow Idaho businesses by giving Idaho companies first crack at state contracts.

HB 419 would require legislators to review tax exemptions and ensure that they’re working as promised, preserving exemptions that support our economy and sunsetting those that don’t.
Many of the problems that face our state today are a direct result of the emphasis placed on voting for the party, not the person. Medicaid expansion has become a strictly partisan issue at the expense of the lives of our fellow Idahoans. That’s not right. I believe that we can make great change by electing individuals who represent the interests of all of us.

My opponent has questioned my ability to be an effective representative, calling me a ‘placeholder candidate’. I’m not beholden to corporate interests or a party loyalty pledge, and that allows me to be a better mouthpiece for District 15, and for Idaho. My interests are with my neighbors, the people of the state, and with having the political courage to do the right thing.
As with many of my friends, neighbors and colleagues, Republican and Democrat alike, I am disappointed with the current state of our national politics. But I believe we can make change, which is why my focus is on serving the state of Idaho. A candidate who represents the interests of the people is far more important than the letter behind their name.
Age 73
Education M.Ed, Idaho State University B.S. Corporate Training, Idaho State University
Prior political experience District 15B Representative in the Idaho House of Representatives. Committee Assignments: 1) Education, 2) Judiciary, Rules, and Administration, 3)Transportation and Defense, and 4) Interim Committee on Public Defense Reform.
Civic involvement Numerous committees, public safety projects and awards through my time with the Idaho State Police, U.S. Marshals Service, and Idaho Legislature, as well as extensive involvement in organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and various local charities.
Years living in Idaho 68
Family Married 45 years to Sarah Jane McDonald, 3 sons, and 7 grandchildren.
As a member of the Public Defense Reform Committee I am committed to providing professional, efficient, and fair legal representation to all Idaho citizens. The committee developed a plan for the Public Defense Commission to have oversight of all indigent defense providers, making processes more streamlined and uniformed. This is long overdue and critical to assure quality legal representation. Funding will come from the counties and be supplemented by the state general fund.

With the STEM standards that I support, we are headed in the direction to produce students that are career ready. Businesses thrive when they have employees that are able to address modern needs. An educated/trained workforce is critical to attracting good jobs to Idaho.

I support promoting public safety. Businesses seek out safe communities. Idaho is fortunate in that we support law enforcement and their ability to protect us. If we can continue to maintain those qualities, Idaho will prosper. Idaho’s economic growth is positive, and revenues are increasing. That, in and of itself, will provide funding at this time.

All of these priorities are accomplished without tax increases
Idaho has been wise to take its time on this issue and observe the pitfalls facing states as they have signed on and been left to deal with the burden on their general fund from their portion of Medicaid expansion. The carrot that the federal government is holding out to states is to fully fund the program for the first few years, and gradually return the cost to the states. We don’t have the luxury that the federal government has of holding a blank check for our debts. States that have expanded Medicaid, as Idaho is considering, have encountered much higher than expected enrollments and budget outlays. With such a large portion of state funds devoted to Medicaid, any unexpected fluctuation in enrollment could put considerable pressure on important items we hold dear within the general fund. I also have reservations regarding how appropriate Medicaid would be for handling medical coverage for nondisabled adults without children when it was originally designed and best suited for meeting the needs of the disabled and indigent. We explored other options, but we definitely need to tread carefully before we act like accepting this money doesn’t bind us in the future.
The Idaho Constitution mandates the legislature to provide a uniform and free public school system. As a member of the House Education Committee, I am committed to this principle, and am a strong advocate for education. The legislature increased public school funding 7.4 % for FY 2017, and boosted literacy funding by $9.1 million. A specific example of one of the bills I helped pass to address education in Idaho is HB 526. That bill ensures children who are most behind in reading abilities will get 60 additional hours of critical assistance, and students who are just below grade level get 30 hours of assistance. These kinds of bills drive our investment in improving high school students “Go on” rate to college. We also increased the Opportunity Scholarship/Veterans and Public Service Scholarship to expand access to college funding for Idaho students. I have also been involved in initiatives that enhance school safety, which has been something that I’ve been closely aligned with from well before my time in the legislature due to my 45 years serving in Idaho law enforcement. My entire family attended Idaho schools, and education has always been close to my heart.
We all can appreciate how intrusive the federal government has been in many of their endeavors, and we feel those effects at the state level when we are left to deal with mandates coming from Washington that don’t reflect Idaho values. I don’t believe Idaho has an interest in local measures that seek to do the opposite and carve out a niche for the locality, that in turn were tailored to push the state as a whole to follow suit. Some of the recent wage and bag laws did this. Prosperous communities don’t exist as an island. We have a state legislature that can handle those kinds of issues, and having a patchwork of regulations that don’t blend with neighboring communities isn’t in the best interest of Idaho.

Realistically, right now Idaho doesn’t have the funds to put toward management of federally administered lands in Idaho. Idaho could do a better job, but we just don’t have the revenue to make it happen. This needs to be an ongoing discussion, but right now there aren’t any feasible alternatives that don’t break apart our budget.
HB511: I voted against this bill because I felt it would negatively impact existing homeowners and their property values against their will by providing for HOA covenants to be changed to allow for short stay rentals.

HB 431: I voted against HB431 because it has potential to increase homeowner taxes by removing the index on the Idaho Homestead Exemption from the inflationary scale.

HB624: I couldn’t support HB624 as it removed Idaho State Police funding from the highway distribution account, which cut their public safety budget considerably. Unfortunately, the bill passed by one vote.

HB487: I sponsored this bill that leveled the playing field for small business. It enhanced protections against employees stealing intellectual property and using it to impact the owner of the key material. This bill passed and become law.

HB560: HB560 amended law to expanded protections from sex crimes, as well as enhanced the definition by which sex crimes could be committed, and I voted for it.

HB514: This bill adds to existing law to enhance the safety and security in Idaho’s public schools. I co-sponsored this bill and it became law.
I was elected with a drive to be effective. The people of my district deserve more than just an opposition placeholder that’s a thorn in the side of the establishment. They want to see bills passed that matter, and I’ve delivered on that. After a career serving as a police officer, I’ve been keenly aware of the interplay between what goes on in the state house, and the effect on the people of my state. As a citizen myself, I appreciate legislation that doesn’t depart from my core conservative values. Whether it’s the hot button issues like voting for gun rights, pro-life policies, and against raising taxes, I’ve been there for the people of District 15. But I’ve also been there for them on the less obvious details of legislative service, like the technical aspects of looking out for small business, allocating funds to protect the health of fire fighters, and even designation of a state amphibian that a 14 year old constituent spent years working towards. Being citizen legislators keeps us connected to who we are and what’s important. I don’t want that changed.

If pressed for one improvement, I’d like to see the session somehow less wedded to time constraints that we operate under
The Republican Party has great history of fielding fantastic candidates like Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and recently Mitt Romney. I've been proud to have directly supported the latter two personally. I encourage everyone to vote their conscience in this unique presidential election. My focus on District 15 and the State of Idaho remains intact regardless of who the president is, but like many voters, I'm concerned that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be four more years of the Obama policies.
I was cited for parking in a no parking zone in St. Anthony in the 1990’s, which at the time was categorized as a misdemeanor. I paid the ticket the day I received it.