Legislature to return Wednesday afternoon with light education load

As the Legislature returns to the Statehouse Wednesday, its education policymaking may be all but wrapped for the session.

Some of the hottest debates over education bills – around school budgets and indoctrination in the classroom – have been settled after Gov. Brad Little Monday signed budget bills funding K-12 teacher salaries and public universities. Those two bills were major sticking points that stalled the end of the now record-long session.

Gov. Brad Little

The agenda of the session’s waning days — or hours — was set by Little. On Wednesday, shortly before a 10:35 a.m. deadline, Little signed a divisive property tax reform bill passed in the waning days of the session. But not without reservations.

“I am signing House Bill 389 because it provides some relief to Idaho taxpayers,” Little wrote in a transmittal letter to House Speaker Scott Bedke. “However, I fear the long-term consequences may outweigh this temporary reprieve.”

Previously, Little signed all but one in a batch of bills and resolutions the Legislature passed before recessing last week, including four bills trimming his own executive power.

The Legislature recessed last week and scheduled a Wednesday return, in part, to reserve the right to override any gubernatorial vetoes. With no vetoes to override, Wednesday’s agenda is that much shorter.

It leaves a pair of education decisions that lawmakers could weigh Wednesday — or not. A federal early education grant totaling nearly $6 million has languished on the House’s agenda for weeks without getting a vote, though it could theoretically be taken up if House leadership chooses.

An attempt to reject a minor State Department of Education rule change dealing with school attendance and enrollment could move through the House, too, but it also has remained untouched on the chamber’s docket for weeks.

If the Legislature decides to break this week, though, its departure from Boise may not be final. A resolution that Majority Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, has called a “ticket out” of the session could extend the session until as late as Sept. 1. The Legislature would recess without per diem, allowing it to reconvene without Little’s approval, a move Blanksma said will allow lawmakers to make changes in response to the anticipated release of U.S. Census data this summer.

As of 11 a.m. today, only two committees have Wednesday meetings scheduled, lending little obvious sign of much last-second legislation. The Joint-Finance Appropriations Committee, composed half of senators and half of House members, is set to meet at the same time as the Senate, 1 p.m. The committee will take up two budgets related to the state’s permanent building fund and federal money for Idaho cities. The House Revenue and Tax Committee will also hold a procedural meeting after the House adjourns.

The House is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m.

Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert contributed to this story.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Blake Jones

Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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