Statehouse preview, Week 11

Legislative leaders insist the 2013 session could end by March 29.

Not that they are lacking for unfinished business on the education front. They still have to figure out what to do with $30 million in the 2012-13 public schools budget — money that had been earmarked for Students Come First programs. They have to pass 2013-14 budgets for K-12, community colleges and higher education.

And there are other issues hanging fire.

Here’s a preview:

• Personal property taxes. For businesses who want the Legislature to repeal this tax on equipment and furnishings — and for school districts who rely on this tax for $38.6 million a year — the waiting game continues. The House Revenue and Taxation Committee has two competing repeal bills in hand, but won’t meet Monday. The committee might take up the issue Tuesday or Wednesday, Chairman Gary Collins, R-Nampa, told the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell Friday.

The return of the labor bills. Last week, the Senate Education Committee held two controversial collective bargaining bills with origins in the failed Proposition 1: Senate Bill 1147, which limits teacher contract agreements to one or two years; and Senate Bill 1148, which allows school boards to reduce teacher salaries. But committee Chairman John Goedde insisted the bills weren’t dead. And they’re not. Senate Education will take them up again Monday afternoon.

Charter schools. Senate Education will have a busy Monday afternoon. Also on the docket are two controversial charter schools bills. House Bill 206 would provide $1.4 million in stipends for charter buildings. House Bill 221 would allow universities and nonprofit groups to authorize charter schools. Senate Education held these bills last week, at the request of charter groups, but they’re back on the schedule.

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In other charter schools news … Legislators will get their first glimpse of a report from the state’s Office of Performance Evaluations: “Policy Differences Between Charter and Traditional Schools.” The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee meets at 4 p.m. Monday in the Statehouse’s Lincoln Auditorium.

Use it or lose it. The House could vote Monday on a bill, sought by school boards and school administrators, extending the districts’ so-called “use it or lose it” funding flexibility. House Bill 275 would allow districts to hire 9.5 percent fewer staffers than the state funds.

Monday in House Education. If the session is heading into its waning weeks, you wouldn’t be able to tell from Monday morning’s House Education Committee agenda. The committee has a full agenda of five new bills. If the committee decides to introduce, or print, these bills, the bills will have to work their way through both houses in the final weeks of the session.

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