Idaho legislative committee questions drug, vaping prevention program recommendations

Republican legislator wants ‘path forward’ before pitching Joint Millennium Fund budget to JFAC for 2025

By: - September 12, 2023 4:20 am
Idaho Legislature Millennium Fund tobacco settlement

The Idaho Legislature’s Joint Millennium Fund Committee meets Monday at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise. (Clark Corbin/Idaho Capital Sun)

Several Idaho legislators serving on a committee that makes recommendations for distributing state funding from tobacco settlements expressed concern Monday with some of the funding proposals.

The Idaho Legislature’s Joint Millennium Fund Committee is a group of 10 legislators that makes recommendations for using Idaho’s share of settlement money from class action lawsuits filed against tobacco companies for marketing to minors. 

In March, Idaho’s Joint Millennium Fund Committee recommended spending more than $25 million in fiscal year 2024 for an array of programs for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the state’s public health districts, community based recovery centers, the Idaho State Department of Education, Idaho Public Television and more. 

Some of that money is one-time in nature, which means the committee will soon make recommendations to the Idaho Legislature for spending almost $18 million in fiscal year 2025. But Sen. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, said during a meeting Monday at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise that he has concerns about whether there is enough collaboration taking place among the funding recipients. Burtenshaw and other legislators also wondered whether there is enough work taking place to bring vaping and tobacco prevention programs directly to classrooms where they can reach children. 

“I guess I am a little uncomfortable with the direction we have right now,” said Burtenshaw, who is the co-chairman of the committee.


Burtenshaw said he will call another meeting of the Joint Millennium Fund Committee for early December to allow the different groups receiving funds to coordinate their plans and present a fuller vision to the committee before the 2024 legislative session begins in January. 

“I’m uncomfortable right now with making a presentation on funding for the program that we are talking about unless we have a pathway forward,” Burtenshaw said during Monday’s meeting.

Funding should prioritize programs that focus on prevention, cessation and treatment

When the committee made its most recent funding recommendations in March, it also approved language that the Idaho Legislature should consider when budgeting money from the Millennium Income Fund. That language states that all of the money from the fund “should be prioritized for programs that focus on prevention, cessation and treatment of tobacco, vape, alcohol, illegal substances, other substances that may be abused beyond the intended uses, and for the overall safety and wellbeing of Idaho youth.” The committee went on to state that “funding should be prioritized to programs first that benefit Idahoans less than 18 years of age and then for adults with higher risk factors for using or abusing various substances …”

On Monday, Burtenshaw said he believes funding should be focused more on prevention than having health districts focus on treatment.  

“I need to see a pathway forward, and if we can do that, I am happy to represent that budget to the Joint Finance (-Appropriations) Committee,” Burtenshaw said. “If we don’t I don’t know where that takes us.”

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During Monday’s meeting, four funding recipients shared an overview of the programs they are working on using this year’s share of funding. Those groups include Idaho Public Television, recovery community centers, public health districts, and the State Department of Education’s Safe and Drug Free Schools program.

Rep. Ned Burns, D-Bellevue, told Burtenshaw and other legislators that change will take time and he urged patience. Burns said the latest round of funding was only sent out in July, and most Idaho students have only been back in school for a week or two. 

“I think this is going to be multi-year, long-term effort that you cannot gauge whether it’s successful or not in very short order,” Burns said. 

During Monday’s meeting, Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise, also expressed concern the state is no longer conducting a youth risk behavior assessment survey that would give policymakers data about youth tobacco, vaping and drug use. 

Burtenshaw did not immediately announce the date of the Joint Millennium Fund Committee’s upcoming meeting in December. The 2024 legislative session starts Jan. 8 at the Idaho State Capitol. 


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Clark Corbin
Clark Corbin

Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.