Printed on: December 30, 2012

Mack Shirley reflects on legislative career

By Matt Eichner
Rexburg Standard Journal

REXBURG -- Rep. Mack Shirley is retiring after a 10-year run representing District 34 in the Idaho House of Representatives.

Shirley, 79, recently reflected on two pieces of education legislation in an interview with the Rexburg Standard

Journal. He's a former teacher and principal in the Sugar-Salem School District, as well as a vice president at Ricks College (today, Brigham Young University-Idaho).

In 2004 Shirley, joined a majority of the Legislature in passing a bill to replace property tax money earmarked for education with sales tax money.

Shirley said the tax shift proved to be a mistake.

"I wish we had not taken the school property tax away from the educators," he said. "We assured (educators), and we were assured by the governor as legislators, that it would be a wash, that there would be no difference in income.

"But the fact of the matter is (that) when the recession hit, the sales tax income went way down."

One way Shirley tried to make up for that was through the Students Come First legislation, which was passed by the Legislature but ultimately rejected by Idaho voters.

"I had hoped that through these propositions, the Students Come First bills, we were increasing the potential (for teachers) to earn more money, but they were defeated by the public," Shirley said.

Shirley said he doesn't regret supporting Students Come First.

"I'm still not ashamed that we passed them," he said, "but I do admit that there were some things that probably could have been better and certainly the process could have been improved."

During his tenure, Shirley said he was especially proud of three bills he spearheaded:

A constitutional amendment defining marriage in Idaho as a union between a man and a woman;

Child abuse legislation that changed the statute of limitations to whenever the victim recalled the incident;

And a measure to place filters on computers used by children in public libraries.

Working for his constituents was both rewarding and sobering, he said.

"The people of Madison and Fremont (counties) are really great to work with," he said. "They place a lot of trust in their legislators. That puts a lot of pressure on you, and I appreciate that confidence. But it was a very sobering thing to cast votes (on their behalf)."

Working with Sen. Brent Hill and Rep. Dell Raybould, both of whom also represent District 34, was rewarding for Shirley.

"I really enjoyed the team we had. I thought they were great legislators and it was an honor to work with them," Shirley said.

Shirley said he and his wife are looking forward to serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In looking back on his political career, Shirley conceded he was unable to accomplish everything he wanted to -- especially in education.

"We did some good things," he said, "but I wished we could have done more."