Sending a message? Senate rejects labor bill

The Senate rejected a bill allowing school districts to cut teacher salaries — but the surprise outcome may have little to do with the bill itself.

Instead, some senators apparently used Senate Bill 1148 as a vehicle to voice their displeasure over the $1.3 billion 2013-14 public schools budget, which easily passed the House earlier Friday.

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene

A couple of senators voted against the bill to signal their opposition to House Bill 323, the $1.3 billion public schools budget, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, said after the Senate vote.

The Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators have spent the session pushing for several bills that have their origins in Proposition 1, the Students Come First collective bargaining law rejected by voters in November. ISBA Executive Director Karen Echeverria was left disappointed by Friday’s vote — and baffled by the Senate’s decision to use SB 1148 to send a message.

“I don’t see a linkage,” she said. “That’s why it’s a little confusing to us.”

Supporters argued that SB 1148 provides school districts needed budget flexibility, allowing them to raise or decrease teacher salaries or add or eliminate contract days. The Idaho Education Association opposed the bill.

Friday’s vote cut across partisan and ideological lines, and didn’t seem to follow a clear pattern. Opponents included:

  • Sens. Bob Nonini and Cliff Bayer, two Republicans who have voiced opposition to the 2013-14 budget.
  • Three Republicans on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee who supported the budget in committee: JFAC co-chair Dean Cameron, Vice Chair Shawn Keough, and Dan Johnson.
  • Two members of the GOP leadership team: Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill and Majority Leader Bart Davis.
  • All seven Senate Democrats.

The timing was at least intriguing. Senators suspended their rules to move SB 1148 up the calendar, and they voted on it just a couple of hours after the House approved the public schools budget.

As a practical matter, the defeat of SB 1148 may have limited effect. Like many of the labor bills echoing elements of Proposition 1, SB 1148 would have been effective for only one year. The “sunset clause” was included because a legislative interim committee may be convened to pend the off-season studying labor issues.

But the 2013-14 schools budget, now headed to the Senate, is a make-or-break bill. Lawmakers must pass a public schools budget in order to adjourn for the year.

Legislative leaders have said they hope to adjourn next week — a target that remains “doable,” Davis told colleagues Friday. It would be almost impossible to meet this deadline if the Senate does not approve the K-12 budget already passed by the House.

Two other labor bills pass. There was less drama earlier Friday, as the Senate approved two other labor bills. Senate Bill 1147, eliminating ongoing “evergreen” contract clauses, passed, 22-9. Senate Bill 1149, which could require teachers’ unions to certify that they represent a majority of a district’s staff, passed 24-10.

How they voted on SB 1148:

Yes (14 Republicans): Bair, Brackett, Goedde, Hagedorn, Heider, Lakey, Lodge, Mortimer, Patrick, Pearce, Siddoway, Thayn, Vick, Winder.

No (12 Republicans, 7 Democrats): Bayer, Bock, Buckner-Webb, Cameron, Davis, Durst, Guthrie, Hill, Johnson, Keough, Lacey, Martin, McKenzie, Nonini, Rice, Schmidt, Stennett, Tippets, Werk.

Absent (2 Republicans): Fulcher, Nuxoll.

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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