One labor bill revived; another appears dead

Before adjourning Friday morning for the Easter weekend, senators resuscitated one controversial labor bill — while another was put on hold, possibly for the year.

Cutting salaries and contract days. The second time around, senators approved a bill allowing school districts to increase or cut salaries, or add or reduce contract days.

The new bill was somewhat softened, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde told colleagues. Districts can only reduce contract days if both parties agree, or if a district estimates that it will receive less money for salary-based apportionment than it actually would pay out.

The vote was 21-14, and the debate was at times testy.

Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls

Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, suggested opponents of the bill did not trust school board members — a comment that drew objections on the floor.

Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, suggested senators were contributing to a climate where school boards could outmuscle teachers. “We really need to think about the environment, the working environment we’re putting our teachers in.”

The issue, and Senate Bill 1040, has had a colorful history in the Senate.

Earlier in the week, senators had extensively amended SB 1040 to resemble Senate Bill 1148, the first version of a bill allowing school boards to cut salaries and contract days.

Senators rejected SB 1148 on March 22, on a 14-19 vote. But this was cast as a protest vote; a couple of senators voted no to signal their opposition to the 2013-14 public schools budget, Goedde said at the time.

But Friday’s vote was something of a mixed bag, without a clear pattern.

  • SB 1040 did pick up support from six Republicans who voted no on SB 1148. But only one of these six, Jim Guthrie of McCammon, also voted against the 2013-14 schools budget when it reached the Senate floor Wednesday.
  • The amended bill picked up votes from two Republicans who were absent for the SB 1148 vote: Russell Fulcher of Meridian and Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood.
  • One Republican, Steve Vick of Dalton Gardens, supported SB 1148 a week ago, but opposed SB 1040.

SB 1040 now heads to the House.

Last best offer. A hotly contested piece of the labor legislative package appears to be dead: a bill that would require school districts to impose its last best offer in the event of a negotiating impasse.

The Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators had pushed for the June 10 deadline, saying it was needed in order to give school districts budgeting assurance. House Bill 260 had cleared the House easily and received Senate Education’s support a week ago.

On Friday, Goedde moved the bill back to his committee, at the request of ISBA and IASA.

Both of these labor bills are among several proposals sought by the ISBA. The proposals mirror language from the rejected Proposition 1 labor law.

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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