Statehouse roundup, 3.15.17: House passes field trip funding bill

A bill designed to restore funding for school field trips cleared its final legislative hurdle on Wednesday.

The House voted 63-5 to pass Senate Bill 1123.

Back in 2009, lawmakers cut funding for field trips amid a series of budget freezes and cuts approved in response to the Great Recession.

House Education Chairwoman Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, sponsored the bill. Rep. John McCrostie, a current teacher and Garden City Democrat, urged legislators to restore funding for field trips. McCrostie referenced dozens of high school groups that have visited the Statehouse during the session, saying those field trips likely caused school districts to pinch pennies.

“(Field trips are) such a great opportunity for students to get to experience something they would not be able experience solely in the classroom,” McCrostie said.

Nobody debated against the bill, but five lawmakers voted against it without explaining their opposition.

SB 1123 next heads to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk for final consideration. It passed the Senate 34-1 on March 7.

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School budgets introduced

The House of Representatives introduced the seven 2017-18 public school budgets on Wednesday morning.

Legislators have not yet voted on the budget bills, but introducing them signals that a vote is near.

Last month, the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee wrote the school budgets and called for a 6.3 percent increase in general fund spending next year. That translates to a $100.6 million spending increase. The largest chunk of new spending — $61.9 million ­­— is earmarked for a third year of teacher raises under the Legislature’s career ladder salary law.

House members could vote on the school budget bills as soon as Thursday or Friday.

Science standards and climate change

Without any debate, the Senate formally extended a slate of temporary new science standards that removed references to global warming and human impact on the environment.

On Feb. 27, the Senate Education Committee voted to remove five references to human impact on the environment. The Senate committee followed the House Education Committee’s lead, which took the first step toward removing references to climate change.

After the committees removed references to climate change, that action was automatically rolled into Senate Concurrent Resolution 121 ­ — a procedural formality that cleared the Senate on a voice vote Wednesday. SCR 121 heads next to the House.

Regardless of whatever happens next, science standards will go back to the Legislature for consideration in 2018 because the standards the Legislature extended are only temporary.

In other climate news, several hundred people crowded into an information hearing on climate change organized by Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise. Rubel said her hearing was designed to explore how fire, drought and climate change will affect Idahoans, their businesses and their farms.

Because the hearing was informational, there was no action for lawmakers to take.

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