Before the Legislature pulled an all-night session on transportation funding — stretching from Friday into the House’s adjournment at 1:36 a.m. Saturday morning — the Senate briefly turned its attention again to school broadband connectivity.
Without any serious debate Friday morning, senators passed a House concurrent resolution to create a legislative committee to oversee broadband services and “develop a path forward” in light of District Judge Patrick Owen’s ruling voiding the Idaho Education Network contract.
Senators on Wednesday had passed an earlier version of a broadband resolution, but it was replaced by the newer version created in the House Thursday.
Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, sponsored both bills and said the House’s version was “a much simpler version” with the same intent.
“For the body across the rotunda (the Idaho House) sometimes less is more, and in this case, that seems to be the case,” Lakey said.
The resolution calls for the committee to “undertake and complete a study of and make recommendations for broadband services and governance in the state of Idaho.”
Boise Democratic Sen. Grant Burgoyne was the only senator to oppose the resolution Friday. He did not explain his vote.
Having already cleared the House 63-0 a day earlier, House Concurrent Resolution 26 has passed. A concurrent resolution does not require Gov. Butch Otter’s signature.
In other Statehouse action Friday and Saturday morning:
Legislative endgame. A rare conference committee made up of three House members and three senators unanimously passed an estimated $95 million proposal that would increase the gas tax by 7 cents and raise registration fees Friday afternoon.
The committee first convened Thursday morning, with hopes of striking a deal that would facilitate adjournment of the legislative session for the year.
After some problems emerged in the the drafting of the transportation bill, legislators opted to stay all night debating the $95 million proposal.
The Senate took first crack at the roads plan, and passed it 26-9 shortly before 1 a.m. Sens. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, Mary Souza, R- Coeur d’Alene, Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, Clifford Bayer, R-Meridian, Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene and Fred Martin, R-Boise voted against it.
Burgoyne argued that the transportation plan could remove money from the state’s general fund that could go to public schools.
“That is going to affect education, the thing the Constitution says is our No. 1 priority,” Burgoyne said.
That drew a pointed response from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, a member of the transportation conference committee.
“Education has been our No. 1 prioirty this year, and we demonstrated it this year,” he said.
One of Cameron’s colleagues on the conference committee, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Bert Brackett, voiced similar sentiments. “We made the commitment (to education), and we are on that path,” said the Rogerson Republican. “This bill does not dilute that.”
Moments later, the House responded quickly, passing the same bill after a brief debate.
Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said that the 2015 Legislature worked hard to boost K-12 spending by 7.4 percent — only to turn around in the session’s waning days to provide transportation with a 19 percent boost. He said the transportation funding plan threatens Idaho’s ability to fund the teacher career ladder.
But by 1:20 a.m., the bill had passed the House 51-19, paving the way for lawmakers to adjourn for the year.
More reading: A surprising vote on a child support collection bill — and a threat to federal funding.