Packing boxes are piled high in the Idaho Statehouse hallways, and there’s been talk of adjourning as early as Thursday. But a snag involving the Republican leadership’s closed primary bill may delay the session’s end a day or two beyond that.
Senate Bill 1198 sailed through the senate on a 28-7 Senate vote last week. This morning, however, the House State Affairs Committee decided to hold it for one day amid questions about how implementation would affect independent voters. Lawmakers also questioned the bill’s cost, particularly amid budget cuts to education and health and welfare. Here's some background from Betsy Z. Russell of the Spokesman-Review:
The Idaho Republican Party successfully sued to overturn the current system, in which Idahoans can choose which party’s ballot to vote on during primary elections, without ever pledging loyalty to one party or another. The Idaho GOP adopted a party rule saying only registered Republicans should be able to vote in its primary, and a federal court ruled that the state law violated the party’s freedom of association rights by forcing violations of the party rule.
It’s now up to lawmakers to decide how to restructure Idaho’s primary election laws to comply with the court decision. The plan put forth by GOP leaders, in consultation with the Republican Party, would let parties choose each election whether they’re going to allow unaffiliated voters or members of other parties to vote, or just their own members; under the current Idaho GOP rules, it’d be just their own members.
SB 1198 may or may not prove to be the 2011 Legislature’s “going-home bill” – the one that delays lawmakers’ wishes to adjourn Sine Die and leave Boise. But in the meantime, the House and Senate are making short work of plenty of other bills, including the public schools budget for FY2012, which passed the full Senate with little debate this afternoon on a 27-7 vote. (Read more here.)
In other action today:
House Bill 345 passed the House today on a 50-18 vote and goes to the Senate Education Committee. This bill would expand the “Use It or Lose It” percentage from the 6 percent, 8 percent, and 10 percent levels granted by SB 1184 for FY12, FY13, and FY14 and beyond to 7 percent, 9.5 percent, and 11 percent. Sponsor Rep. Bob Nonini (R-Coeur d’Alene) said the change was made to better reflect the actual budget that was set for public schools after the introduction of SB 1184. But the higher the “Use it Or Lose It” percentage goes, the stronger the possibility that teachers will lose their jobs to help fund the bonus pay and technology mandates imposed by the new Luna laws.
The other two so-called “trailer bills,” House Bills 335 and 336, passed the full House today and go to the Senate Education Committee tomorrow. They add emergency clauses to Senate Bills 1108 and 1110, which have already been signed into law by Gov. Butch Otter.
House Bill 315 passed the House Education Committee this morning and went on to approval by the full House on a 42-26 vote this afternoon. It, too, will be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. This bill would reinstate a portion of the 99 percent protection for school districts for FY 2012 before completely eliminating it in FY 2013. Additionally, the bill would do away with the section of SB 1108 that allows school districts to terminate employees after October 1 and provide terminated employees with severance pay.
House Bill 340 passed out of the House Education Committee today. This IEA-backed bill would require that in any year that the state does not fund educational lanes, individual teaching certificates would be extended for that same time period. It now goes to the full House.