EAST IDAHO ELECTS: District 34 senate candidates remind voters of their platform
REXBURG — Longtime District 34 State Senator Brent Hill (R-Rexburg) will face off against Democrat Robert Neilson on Tuesday. District 34 covers all of Madison County and a large section of rural Bonneville County.
Here’s some background on the candidates.
Brent Hill is currently the Idaho State Senate’s President Pro Tempore. He’s hoping his seniority and experience will give Idaho voters the confidence to re-elect him to the state senate.
“A lot of what I have to offer in the legislature has to do with tax policy, I have been in the tax arena for over 35 years and then also in budgeting,” Hill says.
He’s also served four years on the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee, which does appropriations and the budgeting for the legislature. He’s also served four years as the chairman of the Local Government and Taxation Committee, which deals with tax policy in the Senate.
“I believe in limited government, I believe in limited taxation,” Hill tells EastIdahoNews.com.
He says he also believes in the government meeting the needs of its people. One way it should is through quality education.
“Our major role based on the Idaho Constitution toward legislature has to do with public education, so public education is very high on my priority list,” Hill says.
He feels huge progress has been made in funding and accountability in public education within District 34, but he says things can be taken further. He believes quality education can be the solution to other problems the state faces.
“Our three biggest expenditures with the state of Idaho are first of all public education that’s by far the largest then health and welfare, and our corrections system which is basically our prisons,” Hill says. “The more we can do in the education arena the fewer problems we are going to have in the other areas.”
Hill says one of the areas we are lacking in, in eastern Idaho and throughout the state are treatment programs for those with addictions.
“As far as treatment centers for those who don’t have the means to go out and pay for very expensive treatments or addictions, we’re lacking there and I think that’s something we need to concentrate more on in the State of Idaho,” Hill says.
Hill has a firm stance on Proposition 1, which would again legalize video terminals for betting on historical horse races. He says as you take a look at Idaho’s history there haven’t been many propositions.
“Here we’ve got two of them and they both have long range and significant consequences,” Hill says.
He says regardless of moral beliefs he feels instant horse racing machines do not fit within the realm of what the Idaho constitution allows.
“No one is trying to hurt the horse racing industry or say that they shouldn’t be functioning… but our constitution says even if the activity qualifies as parimutuel betting it cannot be any form of casino gambling or any imitation or simulation of casino gambling like slot machines,” Hill says.
When asked about his opponent Robert Nielsen Hill says he’s a promising young man, and he has nothing disparaging to say about him.
“I have nothing bad to say about Robert, he’s run a good campaign. He’s kept it on the issues and I appreciate that and I have a great deal of respect for him,” Hill says.
Hill encourages those within District 34 to get out and vote as there are important races and issues on the ballot.
“I would just like to encourage people to vote some of our counties in Eastern Idaho did not have a good turn out in the Primary Election this year,” Hill says. “In fact, my own county was below the state average. I just think that we should be setting the example for the rest of the State, in our patriotism, in our involvement, in government and certainly our right to vote.”
Running against Brent Hill is Democratic Candidate Robert Nielsen who currently lives in Sugar City.
Nielsen worked as a lighting technician in film and television until a car accident left him with severe injuries to his spine.
“Shortly after that I moved back to Idaho to be closer to family,” Nielsen says.
Nielsen says he’s been active in his son’s education as a parent representative at the Head Start Program and helped out at his son’s school.
He tells EastIdahoNews.com that education, healthcare and public lands are his biggest focus.
“I have never ran for public office before. But, what I was seeing in the public school system I decided that it was time to step up and try to do what I can to make improvements our children desperately need,” Nielsen says
He says education in Idaho is behind the times and says we are one of the fastest growing states but the state’s attitude toward spending is 10 years behind. He says education is the most important investment we can make.
“The top-down approach that has been done now for years and it is not working. We need to focus back on what our teachers are telling us. Teachers need improvements to their pay and upgrades to their classrooms,” Nielsen says.
Nielsen says he’s also a supporter of Proposition two, which would allow Medicaid eligibility expansion to those under 65-years-old, whose income is 133 percent of the federal poverty level or below, and who are not eligible for other insurance coverage.
“I support prop 2. But, when it passes we need to do our best to make the program a success and example to other states,” Nielsen says.
“Public lands is another important aspect of who we are in Idaho. Access has been blocked by leases and we are exploiting it for a quick profit. Our lands are worth far more than that,” Nielsen says.
Nielsen feels he would be the best fit for the position as he brings a fresh perspective. He says he has an outlook on working families, and he feels Idahoan’s are looking for someone who knows what it’s like to raise a family at this point in time in District 34
Nielsen says he feels the needs in District 34 aren’t being met.
“I plan on hold Town Hall meetings often if elected. I think having better access to our elected officials is key to our growth,”
He says his other goals on top of healthcare and public lands is infrastructure improvements and the recruitment of livable wage jobs.
“My spinal injuries that has left me in chronic pain. Running for office has not helped that in anyway. But, that is the price of trying to make a difference in our community and it’s worth it. I want to make sure our children have a bright future. Our state is in need of improvements and I want to do my part. I am not so interested in holding such a high office. I am more interested in what that high office can do for our community,” Nielsen says.