The full Senate body took little time discussing how to deal with an omnibus tax bill early Tuesday evening. When the Senate reconvened in the late afternoon, Senator Bart Davis (R-Idaho Falls) made a motion to send the bill back to the Senate Transportation Committee for reconsideration, effectively killing the tax cut measure for the remainder of the session. Senator Davis argued that the bill would not receive enough support from the whole Senate and should not be considered. There was no debate on the motion.
Earlier in the afternoon, members of the Senate Transportation Committee were assigned the task of taking public testimony on HB 311, the omnibus tax cut bill introduced late last week in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. You can read more about this in a story filed by Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert. Following brief testimony and several motions, committee members agreed to send the bill to the full Senate with no recommendation.
The bill, co-sponsored by Speaker of the House Rep. Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) and House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Eagle) would have:
- Increased fuel tax by 7 cents and distributes it for use in repair of roads;
- Adjusted the tax rate from 7.4% to 6.7% for the most wealthy Idahoans;
- Removed the sales tax from food/groceries, and
- Eliminated the grocery tax credit.
The IEA joined the Idaho School Boards Association (ISBA) in opposing the legislation telling committee members, “When the legislature met in a special session in the fall of 2006 and voted to move education funding from property tax to the general fund, that decision was momentous. It committed this body to ensuring that there would be adequate revenue available in the general fund to support our state’s public schools.”
“Just last week, you generously voted on HB 296, the bill that completely redesigns the salary allocation structure for public school teachers. Under the five-year plan outlined in that legislation, this body put itself on track to significantly increase teacher salary funding each year so that by FY 2020, you will have provided over $200 million more for teacher salaries.”
“We recognize that Idaho’s transportation and infrastructure needs have been neglected for far too long. However, we simply cannot support a piece of legislation that would remove millions of dollars from the General Fund—which is the ONLY fund the state draws upon to fund our public schools.”
“On behalf of the members of the ISBA and IEA, we ask that you carefully consider the impact that HB 311 will have on the general fund.”
Senate Approves Anti-Bullying Bill
HB 246, the anti-bullying bill, co- sponsored by Rep’s. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise), Patrick McDonald (R-Boise), and Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise), cleared another hurdle on Monday when the full Senate approved it by a vote of 24-10.
The bill, which requires school districts to offer professional development for employees and to report bullying incidents, now makes its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
Senate Unanimously Approves HB 300
The full Senate quickly dispatched with HB 300 on Tuesday. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Lance Clow (R-Twin Falls), would ensure state funding for those school districts that offer middle school alternative programs for 6th graders.
Currently, state funding for alternative education is only allowed for grades 7-12. A number of school districts have 6th through 8th grade middle school configurations. Alternative school funding for 6th graders would allow schools to identify and provide interventions for students one year earlier and help at-risk students to be more prepared for 7th grade.
The bill now moves to the Governor for his signature.
FY16 Public Schools Budget Bills Introduced
The Senate introduced the seven individual bills that make up the FY16 appropriation for public schools on Tuesday.
- SB 1183 outlines the funding for the Division of Administrators;
- SB 1184 details the funding for the Division of Teachers;
- SB 1185 is the funding bill for the Division of Operations;
- SB 1186 summarizes the Division of Children’s Programs;
- SB 1187 details the funding for the Division of Facilities;
- SB 1188 provides funding for the School for the Deaf and Blind, and
- SB 1189 outlines the funding for Central Services—those funds that don’t flow directly to school districts but are utilized by the state for the benefit of schools.