Legislative roundup: 2.3.15

A Filer lawmaker is pushing a new tax bill be believes can help school districts that include an urban renewal area.

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Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer

Rep. Clark Kauffman said his bill benefits the West Ada, Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Caldwell, Middleton, Jefferson, Coeur d’Alene, Lakeland, Teton, Twin Falls and Kimberly school districts.

The bill would change how emergency levies are calculated for school districts with an urban renewal area.

When an urban renewal district is formed, county assessors set the value for property within the district – a figure often referred to as the base.

As development occurs within an urban renewal area, the value of property may increase — an increase referred to as the increment.

Kauffman said the bill would allow school districts to leverage the total amount for emergency levies – not just the base value.

“As much as I love (urban renewal agencies), I think emergency levies for schools should go to schools,” Kauffman told House Revenue and Taxation Committee members.

After the bill was introduced Tuesday, Kauffman said county treasurers alerted him to the issue and a 2008 law change that included other levies but omitted emergency levies.

Clark estimated the bill would have provided $374,000 to the 11 school districts in question in 2014.

The committee voted to introduce the bill with very little discussion. It is likely to head back to Revenue and Taxation for a full hearing.

In other Statehouse news:

A Maniac plate? Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, wants the Orofino Joint School District to benefit from its own specialty license plate.

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Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins

On Monday, Shepherd introduced a bill to create the “Friends of the Orofino Maniacs” license plate, Bill Spence of the Lewiston Tribune reports. No other Idaho school district has its own specialty plate.

The Maniac is the mascot of the district’s junior-senior high school. Orofino is also home to State Hospital North, which provides psychiatric treatment to adults and children with mental illness.

If approved, the district would receive $22 for each new license plate order and $12 for each renewal. Money would go to academic programs, scholarships and field trips, and no proceeds would go to athletics, the Tribune reported.

Specialty license plates are a surprisingly controversial issue in the Statehouse. Bills to create three other specialty plates have been introduced this year, and motorists already can choose among at least 50 existing specialty plates.

Specialty plates have become so contentious that lawmakers have attempted to pass bills limiting the number of new specialty plates that can be introduced.

In order for a specialty plate to avoid being discontinued for a lack of interest, it must sell 1,000 plates a year for two consecutive years.

Total enrollment for the Orofino Joint School District was 1,025 in 2013-14.

Charter school fees: The Senate Education Committee gave unanimous support to a bill that would change the way charter school “authorizing fees” are calculated.

The annual authorizing fees generally run from $3,000 to $12,000 a year, depending on the size of the school. Under a 2013 law, these fees would automatically go up as the state’s K-12 appropriations go up.

Senate Bill 1021 would decouple the charter fees from increases in state appropriations. It might also mean that general funds will pay part of the operating costs for the state’s Public Charter School Commission, said Senate Education chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls. However, he said, this is no different than some administrative costs for traditional schools, already borne by the general fund.

The bill goes to the Senate floor.

Background checks: School employees and volunteers will wind up paying more for criminal background checks, under a bill headed to the Senate floor.

Currently, the checks cost $40 — but the State Department of Education has essentially been picking up a share of the cost for FBI and Idaho State Police checks. Under Senate Bill 1019, the state would collect $11 for its share of the work, and pass on costs from ISP and FBI. That would bring the costs to $50.75 for paid employees, and $49.50 for volunteers.

Senate Education gave the bill unanimous support, and it heads to the Senate floor.

Certification: An Education Department bill to streamline the teacher certification process is headed to the Senate floor.

The idea is to make the certification process pay for itself by eliminating overhead.

Certification fees now cost $75 for five years. That won’t change, at least in the short run. But at some point, the department will need to pursue a fee increase, said Tim Corder, legislative aide to state superintendent Sherri Ybarra.

Senate Education approved the bill unanimously.

 

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