Lawmakers heading home, K-12 budget in flux

It was a short Good Friday around the Statehouse.

As recently as this week, legislative leaders had been targeting March 29 as the adjournment date for the 2013 session. But that was before Wednesday, when the Senate voted down a $1.308 billion public schools budget proposal. Now, Friday was largely a getaway day, as lawmakers traveled home for the Easter weekend.

As legislators headed home, the 2013-14 public schools budget their last big piece of unfinished business for the year, there is no clear timetable for piecing together a Plan B.

The House held a brief morning session at 8 a.m. — then adjourned until Monday, April Fool’s Day, as House Speaker Scott Bedke reminded colleagues.

The Senate held a short session Friday, but senators did take one step toward solving the budget puzzle. On a 34-0 vote, they endorsed House Bill 65, a 2012-13 budget fix that frees up $30.6 million that had been allocated for Students Come First laws. “This is a bill we need to pass,” Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde said. “We owe it to our schools.”

HB 65 returns $30.6 million to public schools, and its passage is a precursor to breaking the 2013-14 budget impasse.

Friday’s schedule was built around allowing lawmakers to leave town for the holiday weekend, and the House and the Senate will not reconvene until 1:30 p.m. Monday. In the Senate, Friday’s debate shut down promptly at 10:45 a.m., to allow North Idaho senators to catch a flight home.

On the 2013-14 budget front, the holding pattern continued.

Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle

The House Education Committee will not meet Friday or Monday, Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, said after Friday’s House session. At this point, he says, any legislation to settle the K-12 budget impasse will likely start in the Senate.

The Senate rejected a House-passed budget on Wednesday — partly because senators want more controls over the way money is spent on teacher merit pay and technology, and partly because they want more public input in these areas.

But on Thursday, House Education called off a Friday meeting to introduce a bill aimed at addressing Senate concerns. A joint House-Senate education public hearing, originally planned for Monday morning, also was scrapped Thursday.

The Senate Education Committee has no hearings scheduled.

Neither does the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, the House-Senate panel that would ultimately have to rewrite the budget.

Check back at Idaho Education News for the latest on the budget front.

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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