Idaho completed an 80-day legislative session Wednesday, with a flurry of activity in their three days of meeting this week, which took them beyond their targeted adjournment date of March 24. Education bills had mostly been wrapped up weeks ago, although there were a couple of notes on education-specific legislation. Wednesday, the final day, saw a “safe routes to school” bill pass. This legislation will enable the Idaho Transportation Department to use state funds for sidewalks and bike paths in school areas. Meanwhile, legislation coveted by Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter that would have set up so-called adult completer scholarships failed to clear the House.
Transportation and tax-cut bills received most of the attention in the final week. A bill to cut income taxes passed the House but was rejected by the Senate. Legislation to eliminate taxes on groceries did clear both chambers, but faces an uncertain future since the governor has threatened to use his veto power. Following substantial debate on the best way to deal with transportation funding, the legislation ultimately pushed through a $320 million package; with all but $20 million to be borrowed against future payments from the federal government.
Kevin Richaert of Idaho Education News has a good rundown on what occurred during the session on the education front. Bill Dentzer of the Idaho Statesman has a story with highlights from the overall session.
As the IEA President and staff analyze the session in its entirety, you can look for our legislative recap podcast in the coming days, as well as visits from the legislative team to many areas of the state. Full funding of the third year of the Career Ladder and increased discretionary funds for districts certainly stand out, but as always there are new challenges just around the corner.