T-minus two days? Legislature nears adjournment

It’s the time of the session when lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters often start conversations asking each other one question: When will the Legislature adjourn for the year?

Davis New
Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls

On Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis offered up a possible answer. As the Senate closed down floor activity for the day, he predicted the 2016 Legislature could adjourn on Wednesday.

Perhaps that was part prediction and part pep talk. Two big issues remain in play. The House Revenue and Taxation started Monday morning making what may well be its last stab at a tax-reduction bill for the year. The health care/Medicaid gap issue remains unresolved.

But as far as K-12 goes — after a busy Monday on the House floor — things are definitely taking shape.

It took the House about a half an hour to spend more than $1.5 billion, approving the seven K-12 spending bills with no real debate and only a smattering of opposition from House conservatives.

To put the fast pace of the debate into perspective, the same House spent a solid hour debating the Bible-in-schools bill — passing it over objections from lawmakers who predicted the bill would launch the state into a costly and futile court battle. The Legislature is done with this bill; it’s now on its way to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk.

There are still a few pieces of unfinished K-12 business. The House took a run at the “student mobility” conundrum Monday, passing a bill designed to provide extra money for schools that add students over the course of the school year. And the House Education Committee hasn’t given up yet on trying to boost teacher leadership premiums; that’s one of two last-ditch bills on Tuesday’s committee agenda.

But in the big picture, the House’s swift passage of the K-12 budget suggests smooth sailing on the Senate side — and bodes well for the “trailer” spending bill putting $9.1 million into Otter’s literacy initiative.

Some years, K-12 issues are the big sticking point between legislators and adjournment. It doesn’t look that way this year. If lawmakers are still at the Statehouse on Thursday — or beyond — it’s a safe bet that they are hung up on taxes and/or health care.

And if so, lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters will start their Thursday morning conversations talking about when this session will adjourn.