It’s that time of year: a lot of legislation flying around in the late-session rush.
With the Legislature hoping to adjourn by the end of next week, you can count on more of a flurry of activity. So let’s catch our breath and catch up on some education-related bills that fell through the cracks:
School bond issues. If Gov. Butch Otter signs on, school districts will be able to take out 30-year building bonds — up from the current 20-year maximum. The Senate OK’d House Bill 218, which would bring the terms of school bonds into line with other local governments. The vote was 29-6: voting no were six Senate Republicans: Marv Hagedorn, Meridian; Bob Nonini, Coeur d’Alene; Sheryl Nuxoll, Cottonwood; Jim Patrick, Twin Falls; Steve Vick, Dalton Gardens; and Chuck Winder, Boise.
Use it or lose it. The House voted Tuesday to extend the school districts’ “use it or lose it” spending flexibility for 2013-14. Sponsored by the Idaho School Boards Assocation and the Idaho Association of School Administrators, House Bill 275 allows districts to hire 9.5 percent fewer positions than the state funds.
The House vote was 65-5: voting no were House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley; Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star; Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton; Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene; and Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls. The bill goes to the Senate.
Transportation budgets. The House signed on with the Senate, endorsing a bill that would encourage districts to save money on busing. The wording in Senate Bill 1093 isn’t new; it’s mirrored after budget bills dating back to 2010-11, and it frees up $7.5 million in transportation money that could go into district discretionary spending.
The bill passed 57-13 with a bipartisan smattering of opposition. (Voting no were Reps. Neil Anderson, R-Blackfoot; Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens; Lenore Barrett, R-Challis; Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise; John Gannon, D-Boise; Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls; James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian; Phylis King, D-Boise; Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow; Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls; JoAn Wood, R-Rigby; McMillan; and Thompson.) The bill now goes to Otter’s desk.
Group homes. The House voted to take the state off the hook for the cost of educating troubled teens who are sent from other states to Idaho group homes. Senate Bill 1097 would allow districts to pass on these bills to the group home operators — and ultimately, to the student’s home state. Tuesday’s vote was 67-3. (Voting no were Reps. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa; Barrett and Wood.) The bill goes to Otter’s desk.
Fiscal emergencies. On a 35-0 vote, the Senate OK’s Senate Bill 1146, an Idaho Education Association-authored bill that gives school districts greater latitude to declare a financial emergency. This bill heads to the House.
Student health care plans. The Senate passed House Bill 199, which allows public and private universities to set up self-funded health plans for students and their beneficiaries. The vote Tuesday was 35-0. Since this bill has passed the House, it’s on its way to the governor.