Rep. Ilana Rubel stays up until 2 a.m. reading legal documents and draft bills, preparing for her new job as a member of Idaho House of Representatives.
She temporarily stepped away from her law career and is giving up time with her four school-age children to instead spend time with lobbyists, agency directors and government leaders to solve Idaho’s political challenges.
“I can’t think of anything more fun than doing this,” she said on her fourth day in office. “I want to help in a very meaningful way at making real changes that will affect real people.”
Rubel was nominated by Democrats and then appointed by Gov. Butch Otter to fill the House seat vacated by Janie Ward-Engelking’s appointment to the Idaho Senate. Rubel, representing District 18 in Boise, took Ward-Engelking’s spot on the House Education Committee.
“My kids are a powerful motivation,” said Rubel, whose four children range in age from 5 to 13. “I have a great interest in making this community better on all fronts, but we can do much better in education and I see real opportunities that we shouldn’t let slip away.”
Rubel is a newcomer to the Statehouse, but she’s not new to politics. During her last 15 years in Boise, she has attended fundraisers, donated to her favorite causes and campaigned for her favorite candidates. She’s voted for Democrats in every election since age 18, she said.
“I have a very avid interest in politics,” said the Harvard Law School graduate.
And though Rubel missed orientation events at the start of the 2014 session, she’s not acting like a freshman who was advised to sit back, listen and observe. On her very first day with the House Education Committee, she asked questions and shared her opinion about a rule she wasn’t too happy with.
“We have a lot of mature people like me on the committee and very few who are active parents and that’s something she adds,” said Donna Pence, D-Gooding, a fellow member of the House Education Committee and retired teacher. “Her legal background is handy to have and she’s very intelligent.”
Where Rubel stands on education issues
Rubel supports K-12 education maintaining Idaho Core Standards, the new math and English language arts standards implemented in all Idaho schools this year. “The education community says it’s a top priority and I’m in agreement.”
She “loves” Rep. Hy Kloc’s early childhood education initiative and increasing the budget for reading remediation in elementary school.
She said she wants a more robust and increased investment in education and that it can be done without raising taxes.
“I question the current prioritization of money,” Rubel said. “There is an enormous pile of money being wasted with rejection of the Medicaid expansion funds, fighting the recognition of same-sex marriage, prospective tax breaks for the wealthy and wolf control.”
She has scheduled meetings with the teacher-union advisors, trustees and business leaders. One evening, she attended four receptions and information-gathering events held for lawmakers.
“I’m a big believer in data driven decision-making,” she said. “I will try and be fully informed by reading the draft bills before they come to committee so I can round up any concerns in advance. I want to give it all I’ve got.”
District 18 Democrats selected Rubel from 15 applicants, in part, because she said education was her top priority.
“She said if we give children a world-class education and provide a wide variety of opportunities to learn that it would set them up for a successful life,” said Rep. Phylis K. King, also a Democrat from District 18. “Her background as a lawyer demonstrated that she could easily draft legislation and is keen to collaborate with our colleagues across the aisle.”
Rubel spent a lifetime preparing for this job
Rubel was born in Canada but is a U.S. citizen because her parents were both American. She graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Harvard Law School in Boston.
Her husband, John Paschke, was recruited to Boise by Micron 14 years ago. He now works in the technology licensing field. Rubel and her family live near the Greenbelt. They bike, ski, hike and trek llamas into the mountains.
“We fell in love with Idaho. There is no more beautiful place on Earth,” said Rubel, who also sits on the Resources and Conservation Committee. “Part of my motivation is to keep it that way.”
Rubel said she will enter her first election in May to try and keep her appointed seat in a swing district for Democrats.
“I want to represent my constituents and I absolutely hope they reach out to me,” said Rubel. “I’m brand new to this and I really want them to feel encouraged to contact me.”
Rep. Ilana Rubel can be reached at [email protected] or (208) 332-1034.