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Ned Burns Campaigns for Public Access, Rights, Teachers and Infrastructure
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Saturday, November 5, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Idaho Rep. Ned Burns watched aghast as his colleagues in the House spent the last days of the 2022 legislative session trying to pass a bill that would have cut $3.5 million in federal funding out of the Idaho Commission for Libraries’ budget.

“A small segment was mad that they couldn’t put librarians in jail. That moment crystalized for me why I need to be in the legislature--to be there to try to stop nonsense like that from happening,” he said. “That money was intended for things like building rooms at rural libraries so residents can access medical care via telehealth.”

Burns, a Democrat, hit the campaign trail immediately after the legislative session ended, hoping to be elected to District 26 Seat A. His challenger is Mike Pohanka, a Republican from Jerome.

Burns served a full term in the 2022 legislature after being appointed by Gov. Brad Little in December 2021 to serve out the remainder of Muffy Davis’s term. Davis resigned to serve as a Blaine County commissioner. Burns had previously substituted for Davis and Rep. Sally Toone.

A third-generation Idahoan, he grew up in Twin Falls but moved to the Wood River Valley after studying business at the University of Montana. Here, he worked in the fronts of restaurants, then switched to real estate where, he says, he has been able to help some who were close to having to leave the valley find housing that met their budget.

Married with two pugs, he plays recreational league hockey and enjoys hunting, fishing, backpacking and hiking.

He served as mayor of Bellevue from 2018 until his appointment to the legislature, campaigning to fix crumbling streets and affordable housing.

“Although the things we work on in the legislature have more impact on people’s lives statewide, the things I did as a mayor felt more immediate. As a legislator, I don’t get calls from someone if their water main breaks.

“As mayor, the buck stopped with me,” he added. “Now I’m one of 105 decisionmakers in the legislature, and there are a lot of things that need to be done.”

Burns’ list of things that need to be done include fixing the crumbling transportation infrastructure, pushing $400 million for education and keeping public lands public and access to hunting fishing safe from those who would seek to deny that access.

“We need to modernize water systems to make them more efficient. Currently, farmers are not getting the water they need. The farmers in Richfield lose 30 percent of their water due to seepage and evaporation. I’m on the resources committee and we have discussions all the time about this most finite resource,” he said.

Burns would like to have the legislature use some of the state’s surplus money to pay off $800 million worth of bonds and levies to cut Idahoans’ property taxes in half. He wants to increase teacher’s pay. And he wants the government to refrain from criminalizing abortion.

Burns says his term in the legislative has taught him how to navigate the bureaucracy, giving him a long list of contacts from local and federal government officials.

“I don’t need to learn about the complexities of issues. And I know who to call when something needs to get done. I had a constituent who was 2.5 months behind getting a brokerage license last year. I made one phone call and he had it in two days.

“I love being able to call an agency and saying, ‘I need to know about this because we’re taking a vote on it.’ The people who don’t learn what they need to know are not doing a good job.”

Burns said he can be effective as a member of the minority party, pointing to a bill he got through the house offering incentives for multi-family workforce housing.

“They know who I am, my commitment to the state, so they’re asking me to be involved in discussions.  As a Democrat in this state, you can’t have a big ego. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m going to be the guy working hard for the good of the people behind the scenes.”

Burns says it’s rumored that the Republicans are going to overturn the Medicaid Expansion Bill which, he said is wildly popular and so helpful to so many people.

“I’m going to do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he added. “And I’ll be at the forefront of any discussion to take away access to hunting and fishing on public lands. It’s so important for the people of District 26 to know they’ve got a voice in the legislature. I’ll help anyone solve their issues as quickly as I can. I’ll represent everyone, making sure Idaho is not passing bills that harm or take away rights.”

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