Rep. Marco Erickson presenting a bill on Boise. | Courtesy photo
IDAHO FALLS — Two of the newest legislators from eastern Idaho say they’ve learned a lot since arriving in Boise.
Marco Erickson, R-Idaho Falls, and Sen. Kevin Cook, R-Idaho Falls, were elected in 2020 to represent eastern Idahoans. New or “freshman” legislators have lots to learn about what it takes to be a lawmaker, how to vote on bills and the process to introduce proposed laws.
“I have to ask lots of questions,” Erickson told EastIdahoNews.com. “It doesn’t matter where … either party, you can ask (a seasoned legislator) and they’re all really good to work with.”
Erickson says this proved vital when presenting two bills geared towards Idaho’s juvenile corrections system. He introduced House Bill 26 and 28. Both bills dealt with updating language and definitions in Idaho’s Juvenile Corrections Act.
The House unanimously supported the legislation Erickson presented and voted to send the bills over to the Senate. Read about the specifics of the bills here and here.
While new to the Idaho political landscape, Erickson felt comfortable sponsoring this legislation because of his work with juvenile corrections. Erickson, a local mental health professional, serves on the Region 7 Juvenile Justice Council.
“It makes it so much easier,” Erickson says. “When they (other legislators) ask questions … (on this topic) I know the answers to everything they’re asking.”
Sen. Kevin Cook, R-Idaho Falls, sits at his seat on the Senate Floor. | Courtesy Photo
Cook says his professional background has also been a major help to him as a legislator.
Cook has a background as a software engineer at Idaho National Laboratory and he explains his employment helped him see the importance of education issues in Idaho.
“They go out and hire people from other states because (Idaho) can’t fill all those positions,” Cook says. “That’s the reason why we’ve got to do better at educating. Getting our kids into STEM and higher education.”
Part of being a legislator also requires tackling tough and controversial issues. This year the executive powers of Gov. Brad Little and how the state responds to emergencies like COVID-19 and the use of federal funding have all made headlines.
“Not everything is black and white,” Cook says. “There is a lot to it and as soon as you think you know what you want, somebody brings up another idea … so you really have to study everything out. You can’t just go on a knee-jerk reaction.”
As a representative, Cook says he’s had to look at the elderly neighbor down the street or the small business owner who all have different needs. Every week, Cook and Erickson say they receive hundreds of emails from constituents about all sorts of things.
“You have to consider everybody and that’s been a learning process for me,” Cook says.
Erickson says he hopes the people understand that most legislators are trying their best to work on their behalf.
“The personalities aside, everybody really cares about their constituents,” Erickson says. “When they get emails, they bring it up in the meetings and they talk about the issues.”
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