A bill designed to create an Orofino High School specialty license plate is back from the dead following some confusing Statehouse maneuvering Tuesday.
Pushed by Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, House Bill 413 would create the new specialty license plate as a fundraiser for the North Idaho school district.
The bill was introduced back in January, but ran into problems in committee. Several speakers said the Maniacs mascot and logo are offensive and stigmatize people who suffer from mental illness. Orofino is home to State Hospital North, which provides treatment to adults with mental illness.
Last month, lawmakers amended the bill to remove the word “Maniacs” in hopes of softening the controversy. But that didn’t put the controversy to rest.
“We have pitted people against each other… and we are not funding education properly,” said Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise. “Now we have to resort to license plates or bake sales to fund their schools, which is not appropriate.”
Under the bill, $22 from the initial registration fees collected from the license plate sales would go to Orofino Joint School District. The money could be used for “sponsored field trips and enhanced activities, such as educational speakers and scholarships for dual credit courses,” according to the bill.
When the bill came up on the House floor Tuesday, it initially appeared to fail after a rare 35-35 tie vote.
Then things really got weird.
After the vote, Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, asked for permission to change his “no” vote to a “yes” vote. Changing Nielsen’s vote would have altered the outcome of the vote. Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, objected.
The procedural maneuvering continued.
Ultimately, Nielsen asked the House to reconsider the matter and hold a completely new vote on the bill.
Compounding the confusion, Nielsen had changed his original “yes” vote to a “no” vote while the House’s voting window was still open, leading to the tie in the first place.
After lunch, lawmakers took the Orofino bill up again, and Nielsen switched back to a “yes” vote.
The license plate bill then passed 34-32, a narrow majority. Four legislators were not present for the afternoon vote.
In backing the bill, Shepherd pointed out that media organizations ranging from USA Today to ESPN have said the Maniacs are among the nation’s most unique high school mascots. He also said residents should have the opportunity to volunteer to support the school district by purchasing a specialty license plate.
The bill next heads to the Senate for consideration.
In other Statehouse action Tuesday:
Charter school contracts. A bill giving charter school administrators the option to award different contracts to their teachers cleared its final legislative hurdle Tuesday.
Senate Bill 1248 removes the mandate that charter schools use teacher contract forms approved by the superintendent of public instruction. The House voted 55-14 to pass the bill, which applies only to charter schools. Leaders of the state’s 115 public school districts still must use the contract forms approved by the state superintendent.
Supporters of the bill say the move is necessary to allow charter leaders to tailor their contracts and personnel decisions to their unique school environments. Supporters also said the move could lead to innovative hiring or contracting practices that could spark positive change.
But opponents claim the bill is designed to eat away at collective bargaining rights, could alienate teachers and lead to teachers within the same school buildings being subject to different contracts and labor terms. Opponents also fear the move will usher in at-will contracts within charter schools.
The bill has divided charter school leaders and is opposed by three education groups: the Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho Association of School Administrators and the Idaho Education Association.
Rep. Lance Clow, the Twin Falls Republican who sponsored the bill in the House, pointed out the change is optional. Charter school leaders can continue using the state contract forms if they wish.
The bill previously passed the Senate 22-13 on Feb. 22, and now heads to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk for final consideration. (Scroll through Idaho Ed News’ bill tracker to learn how every lawmaker voted on education bills this year.)
Online sales tax. Internet sales tax bills are something of an annual occurrence around the Statehouse.
And on Tuesday, Rep. Lance Clow was back before the House Revenue and Taxation Committee with this year’s attempt to facilitate sales tax collections on e-commerce.
The online sales tax is a perennial talking point in the education funding debate — with some legislators saying an Internet sales tax law could provide millions of new dollars for K-12.
Clow stopped short of estimating how much an Internet sales tax law could yield for state coffers. However, he said Idahoans make $24.3 billion in taxable retail purchases per year — and according to national estimates, 10 percent of purchases are now made online. “We can estimate that the remote sellers account for nearly $2.4 billion in sales,” Clow, R-Twin Falls, said in the bill’s statement of purpose.
Sales taxes are already collected on some Internet sales, but not all of them. If an online retailer has a brick-and-mortar store within the state — a “nexus,” in tax parlance — the retailer is obligated to collect a sales tax. Otherwise, taxpayers are supposed to submit a “use tax” on their income tax forms, but do this on the honor system.
Clow has advocated for an Internet sales tax for several years. This year’s bill — designed to tighten up the definition of retailers that do business in Idaho — is co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, chairman of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee.
House Revenue and Taxation voted unanimously to introduce the Internet sales tax bill, for a possible hearing later this session.
Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert contributed to this report.