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Human Rights Commission, Labor Dept. agree to merger

Idaho Human Rights Commission members have unanimously endorsed the proposed legislation merging the commission and the Idaho Department of Labor.

In approving the plan at a special meeting on Feb. 3, the nine commissioners expressed confidence that the proposed merger between the two agencies will have multiple benefits, the Department of Labor said in a release. The state labor agency said the merger will enhance both agencies’ commitment to provide exemplary services with a minimal impact to the Department of Labor; create significant cost savings and efficiency for the commission; provide an offset to the proposed general funds reduction; and strengthen the commission while preserving its autonomy in enforcing Idaho’s Human Rights Act and the federal civil rights laws.

“In partnership with the Department of Labor, the Idaho Human Rights Commission will continue to do the work we are charged to do by the Idaho Legislature and the people of Idaho,” Commission President Estella Zamora said in the Department of Labor release. “We look forward to working with Labor Director Roger Madsen and his staff, and thank them for their willingness to support us and the important work that we do – protecting Idaho’s people from discrimination.”

The proposed merger is a result of Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s request in late December that the commission explore alternative funding sources to make state government more efficient. On Jan. 4, Commission Director Pamela Parks suggested to the Governor’s Office that Idaho consider the structure some other states have used in housing their civil rights enforcement agencies in their labor departments, calling it an efficient, effective and logical fit. Madsen immediately agreed, and discussions on the details of the merger were launched.

Madsen and several members of his team met with Parks and the commissioners for two hours on Jan. 30 to answer commissioners’ questions. After airing their concerns, the commissioners expressed their appreciation for the Labor Department’s attention to detail in drafting the legislation, saying it reflected the agreements reached in the earlier discussions.

“This is the kind of agreement that highlights what can be accomplished when we work together for a common purpose – to meet the needs of Idaho citizens while being mindful of the realities of our budget and the responsibility of living within the people’s means,” Otter said in the release. “I congratulate everyone involved for thinking creatively and acting so effectively.”

“The department looks forward to supporting the Human Rights Commission in carrying out a responsibility to keep Idaho free of discrimination,” Madsen said. “Through the department’s network of 25 local offices across the state, we hope to help the commission better reach all Idahoans.”

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