It’s almost certain that this will be our last weekly update of the 2012 Idaho Legislature. All signs point to an adjournment by the middle of next week. In the meantime, lawmakers busied themselves today clearing bills from their still-packed calendars – but they weren’t feeling too ambitious, since both chambers adjourned for the weekend before lunch.
The House today concurred on the Senate amendments to H564, the bill that makes changes to the year-old legislation dealing with employee records and Professional Standards Commission investigations. The IEA debated against earlier versions of this bill, but earlier this week, we were able to forge compromises with the sponsors to clarify that a former employee will be provided any information from other investigative files (beyond their personnel file). The IEA also won clarifying language to guarantee that newly hired employees will receive full salary and benefits while awaiting a review of their personnel files. The bill now awaits a full House vote.
Also today, the House passed H672, the bill allowing school districts to use facility maintenance money for other non-personnel needs for a fourth year. The debate on the bill made it clear that this is necessary because Idaho continues to fund its schools at recession levels, but it defers the question about when Idaho will pay serious attention to decaying school facilities that recently rated a C- in a civil engineers’ study.
The House also passed H426, the “8-in-6” bill aimed at allowing students to earn extra college credit while still in high school.
In other news this week:
The Senate has printed S1410, the Fiscal Year 2013 public school appropriations bill and it was on today’s second reading calendar. Expect a final vote on it early next week. Under S1410, Idaho schools will still receive $139 million less from the general fund in FY2013 than in FY2009. As we noted Thursday, it’s is typical each session for competing interests to work toward a “going home” compromise. This year, the “going home package” will likely include a balance of teacher salary protection and tax cuts. The controversial ultrasound bill tabled earlier this week after its Senate passage may still find its way into the “going-home” mix, too.
H670, which would thwart the Idaho Constitution’s prohibitions against state support for private schools, is still sitting on the House amending order. This bill would allow a dollar-for-dollar, penny-for-penny tax credit for money donated, via a “Scholarship Granting Organization,” to fund a child’s attendance at a private or religious school. Corporations would be eligible for a 50 percent tax break for such donations to private schools. The IEA opposes this legislation.
H694, the bill formerly known as H671, emerged this week but may not be going anywhere in the session’s final days. It purports to “clean up” a badly written portion of S1108 which requires school districts to provide lists of liability insurance carriers for teachers, but the IEA argued this week that it actually would muddy things even further and is mainly aimed at giving free government-sponsored advertising to a competing organization that has made little headway in the free marketplace.
Gov. Butch Otter today signed H481, the bill lifting charter school caps in Idaho.