Rod Furniss and Karey Hanks are campaigning for District 31 Seat B in Idaho legislature - East Idaho News

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Rod Furniss and Karey Hanks are campaigning for District 31 Seat B in Idaho legislature

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RIGBY -— Two Idaho representatives from what was formerly District 35 are now running against each other for Seat B in District 31.

Due to redistricting in Jefferson County, parts of the former District 35 are now District 31.

Incumbent Rep. Rod Furniss is running against former Rep. Karey Hanks.

To learn more about Furniss, click here.

To learn more about Hanks, click here.

EastIdahoNews.com asked the candidates to answer the same eight questions. Their responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less. EastIdahoNews.com is publishing the answers in their entirety, and without any grammatical or style editing.

The primary election is May 21.

Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.

Furniss: I am a 6th generation Idahoan as my family homesteaded in the Menan area in the late 1800s. I worked on that very ranch and farm until I was 17. The ranch was expanded to Leadore (Oxbow Ranch) and as a young boy I drove a 4020 tractor many times there from Menan. I have a lovely wife and 5 wonderful children and 11 grandchildren that all reside in Idaho most of the time. I hope my posterity will live in Idaho, work in Idaho, and be educated in Idaho. Attended high school in Rigby and played football, basketball, and track. I played football at Ricks. I graduated from BYUI and ISU in Finance and have advanced degrees in insurance and financial planning. I worked in banking and have been involved with life and health insurance since 1986. I have been the local and state president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the president of our local education foundation. I grew to love teachers as we helped with financial needs of children and saw the dedication they have. I have served as a State Representative for 6 years and a local precinct committee person. I currently serve on the following committees: Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment, Joint Finance and Appropriations, Business, Energy, Your Health Idaho, Petroleum Tank, and Hispanic Affairs. I have served in many positions in church, Mission to Argentina, Bishop, High Councilor, Sunday School Teacher etc. I enjoy recreating in Island Park and Spencer.

Hanks: My husband Burke and I live on our family farm in the Egin area of Fremont County, where we raised six sons and one daughter. We now have 18 grandchildren. I was raised in Idaho Falls. I graduated from BYU-Idaho in 2011 with a Bachelor degree in Psychology. I have worked as a school bus driver for 18 years and as a harvest truck driver. I have worked as a semi-truck driver as well. I have volunteered in several capacities in my church, the Boy Scout organization and Republican central committee; also Fremont County Republican Women president. I have previously served 4 years as an Idaho state representative.

Why are you seeking political office? Briefly explain your political platform.

Furniss: I have a great love for Idaho’s amazing qualify of life and a strong desire to serve its people. My education and business experience have prepared me to be a strong advocate for superior healthcare, exceptional education opportunities, and a robust productive economy. Legislative District 31 has always been my home. I cherish the pioneer heritage of this area and the “salt-of-the-earth people” that make it unique. I want my family for the next generations to work in Idaho, be educated in Idaho, and play in Idaho. I have served for 6 years in the Idaho House of Representatives where my faith guides my every decision. I am pro-life because I believe that life is God-given. Abortion is the scourge of the earth and should never be considered except for rape, incest, or the health of the mother. Even with these exceptions abortion should be the last choice considered after much discussion and contemplation. I’m a pro-traditional marriage and believe marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman. I am pro-second amendment and my guns have always been and will continue to be my right to bear. The Idaho constitution protects my right to keep my guns regardless of allegations by anyone else.

Hanks: I love Idaho and our traditional Idaho values. I have watched my opponent’s voting record, and his votes do not reflect our values. My voting record shows my support and commitment to preserving our individual and parental rights, gun rights, and other God-given rights. We must preserve parents’ rights to make decisions for their children without government interference. My record shows I serve the people of our district, and empower our citizens, not the government. Sponsoring and passing numerous bills is not my focus. Representing my neighbors is my focus. I answer emails and calls, seeking solutions for individuals’ concerns.

What are the greatest challenges facing people and communities in your district? What is your plan to meet those challenges?

Furniss: Taxes, inflation, affordable housing, overcrowding of schools, and high interest rates effect the everyday households in Jefferson, Fremont, Clark, and Lemhi counties. Even though we have lowered Idaho income tax rates significantly inflation has eaten away at the spending power of families in Eastern Idaho. Wages have not kept pace with inflation even though they have risen substantially. Idaho sales tax has been reduced as well over the last 6 years I have served but again inflation has eaten away at those. I have voted every time to reduce property tax with H381, H292, and H521. With these bills property tax has or will decrease over 20%.
Interest rates have affected affordable housing and stopped young families from the American dream of owning a new home. School funding formulas and facility funding needs to be addressed with less burden on property taxes. We are seeing this change incrementally over the years. The Governor and the Idaho Legislature has done a great job at keeping Idaho a desirable place to raise a family and be educated. The federal government under the Biden Administration has done a terrible job. It could be fixed! Secure our boarder and providing meaningful work visas, open drilling permits and finish pipelines to reduce fuel prices, and vote in a Republican President, House, and Senate in Washington DC.

Hanks: As I have met with individuals in District 31, they are concerned about rising property taxes. They are worried about being taxed out of their homes. Also mentioned is our gun rights. We have had proposals for “property tax holidays” when we have state budget surpluses, but not enough support to carry it through. I think we need to scrutinize and trim our department/division budgets, thus allowing funding for necessary projects and tax rebates for tax paying Idaho citizens. We also need to strengthen and protect our second amendment rights, as the federal government is finding ways to limit these rights. Also, let’s finally repeal the grocery tax and help Idahoans deal with the rising inflation!

How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views? How will you communicate directly with constituents?

Furniss: In modern times constituents have more access to elected officials than ever before. Telephone, email, and social media all help inform representatives of Idaho of nearly every event, problem, and concern that constituents have. The best representatives prioritize those concerns and work on those that will affect the most constituents possible, understanding that it will never help 100% or make everyone whole or happy. As a Representative of Jefferson, Fremont, Clark, and Lemhi Counties I represent all who live within the borders. Once elected, a constituent is not defined by political party, religion, race, net worth, gender, age, or education and favoritism has no place one over the other. A problem is a problem regardless of status. My phone number (208-589-1100) and email(rfurniss@house.idaho.gov) are everywhere and I have nearly 7000 friends on social media. Public servants should be accessible. I am human and get over 100 emails a day during session so sometimes I miss emails, but I would encourage you to keep trying. I do try to review each one if it is unique and not a form letter. I have and will continue to hold town hall meetings and zoom meetings. If you would like to set one up in your home or community let us know.

Hanks: I have attempted to answer emails and calls, even when I am not in office. When individuals with differing views contact me, I explain why I support or oppose bills and base my views on Constitutional principles, as well as the Idaho Republican platform. In addition, I provide frequent email and Facebook updates on legislation and other pertinent issues.

What parts of the state budget could use more funding? Where are places in the budget that cuts could be made?

Furniss: I serve on JFAC, and we go over every agency budget and evaluate their base budgets as well as new requests for one time money and/or ongoing money. Agencies and the Governor do two separate budgets and then JFAC members can approve those budgets or make changes to those budgets. We meet as working groups and split the budgets into categories. This has been most productive as we are able to call the agency directors and ask specific questions to understand each request. A request may be for new cars, employees, desks and computers, software, additions to or maintenance on buildings, rent increases, janitorial contract increases, and many more items. The working groups can ask the tough questions like how many miles do the current vehicles have, how long have you had them, why do you need more employees, what is the contract for software, can we consolidate with other agencies, can we fix the current building or add on instead of building new? The working groups were able to find $35.9 million in savings in the Health and Welfare budgets this year. The goal for JFAC is to dig deep into the base budgets for 20% of the agencies over the next 5 years. By doing this we will see if appropriations that have been done years ago are still needed or obsolete. Many states are envious of how Idaho does budgets with both the Senate and House members agreeing before the majority of the legislature votes and are signed by the Governor.

Hanks: I don’t know of any agency or department that needs more funding, especially in this time of higher inflation, higher food and fuel prices, and tax increases. I believe individuals, for the most part, spend their money more wisely than government bureaucrats.

Are you currently working on any legislation or have ideas for bills that you feel are vital to the future of Idaho? Please provide details.

Furniss: Two bills I have started for next year.
HCR045 is a resolution to utilize State cash to maximize the rate of return. Many agencies have significant cash balances that may not be invested or needed. State agencies must have a cash management plan and follow it. With the increased interest rates this can be a substantial revenue source and tax savings to the taxpayer. Also, by submitting and following a plan excess cash will be submitted back to the general fund instead of being held at the agencies. By having all the plans at the Controllers Office and the Treasury’s Office we can coordinate cash needs seasonally and share cash between agencies.
H755 is a needs-based grant program that is already established at the Treasury where they evaluate grant requests. This bill gets the money down to schools that can not pass a bond or do not have the bonding capacity to add on, maintain, or build a new school. It equalizes the funding process by treating each school district as if they were in the lowest taxing district per person in the state. The bill extends a hand up not a pay all and frees up money already set aside but unused and complies with the Supreme Court ruling that Idaho must do better at following Article IX, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution “it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform, and thorough system of public, free common schools.” 

Hanks: Veterans have approached me with ideas, and we need to protect Idahoans from “squatters.” Our laws are not adequate. An Island Park resident is asking for changes in Short-Term Rentals also.

Have you seen any mistakes made by the Idaho Legislature in recent years? How would you work to correct these errors?

Furniss: 2021 HJR4 was a resolution by House members to keep marijuana out of Idaho and has been the biggest disappointment and mistake of the Idaho Legislature. It failed by 3 votes. Unfortunately, those 3 votes came from Eastern Idaho. Ron Nate, Chad Christensen, and Karey Hanks all voted against a constitutional change to limit schedule 1 drugs unless voted on by the Idaho Legislature. Many legislators including myself, drafted the resolution to be put on the ballot and voted on by the public to keep marijuana from our children. We worked tirelessly with leadership and members to obtain the votes and we were assured we had them till the vote failed. Drugs have become the scourge of our nation and Idaho stands alone in keeping marijuana out of Idaho so far. HJR4 would have solidified this effort. Many states are now regretting recreational marijuana as health concerns have arisen with more dui’s, work force problems and the tripling of teen suicide. This should come back.

Hanks: Hindsight is always 20/20 they say. There are bills I would have liked to pass, and bills that shouldn’t have passed. We’ll see how the election goes and if we have the will to improve and protect our way of life here in Idaho.

What is the most important issue facing Idahoans? What is a legislator’s role in meeting or addressing that issue?

Furniss: In a recent survey conducted by Boise State University’s Idaho Policy Institute and School of Public Service, Idahoans are most concerned about education, jobs and the economy, and housing.
I believe most Idahoan want their children educated by teachers that are neutral and unbiased toward politics and religion. In Eastern Idaho we have the best teachers and have seen no evidence of bias. If there have been isolated incidents, they have been handled swiftly and correctly by our more than adequate school boards and superintendents. The Idaho Legislature still has work to do with the school funding formula, school facilities, and maintenance.
Idaho is the least regulated state in the Nation. I serve on the business committee, and we have seen thousands of pages of regulations stricken from statutes over the last 6 years to promote business and economic growth. The Department of Commerce has done an excellent job of promoting Idaho and creating job growth. Idaho has reached out internationally to sell and have been successful at this endeavor. Idaho legislature will continue to reduce business regulations to meet the needs of Idahoans.
Housing is a problem, yet we see single family homes, multifamily apartments and townhomes being constructed on nearly every corner. We have not been able to keep up to demand due to supply chain issues and labor shortages. The supply chain seems to be better, but the labor shortages are not. Idaho Launch program for graduating senior took direct aim at this problem promoting the trades.

Hanks: Overreaching government control in our lives is the most important. We need to review and quit passing more laws, and look at repealing some of the laws we have. Also, some of our agencies’ rules are onerous and need more legislative oversight.

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