Statehouse roundup, 1.27.2016

The House Education Committee began to take steps Wednesday to repeal an unfunded program designed to pay for advertisements warning students about drugs and alcohol.

State Board logoState Board of Education spokesman and legislative affairs officer Blake Youde pushed the bill to repeal the Youth Education Fund.

Originally approved by the Legislature in 1992, the education fund does not exist — and does not appear to have ever existed or been funded, Youde told lawmakers. The Safe and Drug Free School program already fills the same purpose as the mothballed education fund.

The House Education Committee introduced the bill on a voice vote after very limited discussion. It is expected to return to the committee for a full hearing.

In other action Wednesday:

Geddes confirmation. In recent months, the Idaho Education Network broadband debacle has presented the Department of Administration with its biggest challenge, state Department of Administration director Bob Geddes told senators Wednesday.

The network’s collapse has cast a shadow over the department’s purchasing and IT staffs, Geddes said during a Senate State Affairs confirmation hearing Wednesday. The department is working on resolving the network debacle, Geddes said, but he offered no details. “I think we are making progress,” he said.

The Administration Department operated the network, which provided high-speed Internet to high schools across the state. The network was mothballed in 2015, after District Judge Patrick Owen voided its $60 million contract. The ruling remains under appeal before the state Supreme Court, and tens of millions of dollars of state money is riding on the outcome.

Geddes, a former Senate president pro tempore, was appointed in May to head the Administration Department. His appointment is now pending before the Senate. After brief questioning Wednesday, Senate State Affairs is poised to vote on Geddes confirmation later this week.

Property valuations. House Education took preliminary steps to remove a requirement for the Idaho State Tax Commission to report on property valuations.

The reports pertained to property valuations for the Lewiston, Boise and Emmett school districts, which predate statehood.

Youde said the reports are no longer necessary for funding calculations and removing the requirement would lighten the burden for the Idaho State Tax Commission.

Committee members introduced this bill on a voice vote. That bill is also expected to return to the committee for a full discussion.

Career technical education. A bill to rename Idaho’s Division of Professional Technical Education is headed to the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 1210 would rename the agency as the Division of Career Technical Education, a rebrand designed to better match similar divisions in other states.

It would cost an estimated $3,100 to change signs, letterheads and business cards in the division.

The 38-page bill would delete numerous references to professional technical education from Idaho code. In contrast to the bill’s length, debate on the change was brief Wednesday, and the Senate Education Committee approved the change on a unanimous voice vote.

Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert contributed to this report.