Statehouse briefs, 4.2.15: Salamanders and STEM

Salamander signing (Betsy Russell photo)
Ilah Hickman, right, and her friends pose for selfies with Gov. Butch Otter Thursday afternoon. (Photo from Betsy Russell, Spokane Spokesman-Review)

Ilah Hickman’s five-year campaign for the Idaho giant salamander ended successfully Thursday afternoon.

Gov. Butch Otter signed the Boise eighth-grader’s bill, designating the salamander the state amphibian.

“There ya are, kiddo, it’s all done,” Otter said after signing the bill, according to a blog post from Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “Good job!”

The bill took a long and circuitous path to Otter’s desk. It appeared to be all but dead in January, when the House State Affairs Committee voted to hold the bill in committee. The committee did an abrupt about-face on March 18, passing her bill and sending it to the House floor. It then passed both houses with overwhelming support.

STEM funding. Legislative budget-writers have attached a dollar figure to a new STEM action center in Otter’s office.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee agreed to put $647,300 into the center — designed to promote the “STEM” academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. The bulk of the money, $537,000, will come from the state general fund.

Nonini New
Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene

If legislators and Otter approve the request, funding would go into launching the center and hiring two full-time staffers.

A bill to create the center has passed both houses, but this had no money attached to it. House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt and Sen. Bob Nonini’s bill envisioned a $2 million budget — but Nonini had conceded this was an ambitious figure.

The Idaho center is modeled after a similar center in Utah, which received $20 million in first-year funding.

The $647,300 request passed JFAC on a 19-0 vote.




Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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