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A Seat in the House

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A future Idaho 'teacher?' Photo by Svyatoslav Palenyy A future Idaho 'teacher?' Photo by Svyatoslav Palenyy

A challenging and controversial session

The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee began to establish proposed appropriations to present to the legislature the week of February 14 after arriving at a final General Funds revenue target as a spending cap for agency appropriations. The committee’s final revenue amount was below the Governor’s estimate announced in his January budget address.

The Governor’s estimate for General Funds revenue was $2,521,456,000, but because of more recent revenue data received in January and early February that indicated less revenue than anticipated by the Governor in his revenue estimate, the committee adopted a revenue target of $2,429,965,700. This is $91,490,300 less than the Governor’s projection and will require larger reductions in agency appropriations than originally anticipated. Even though most agencies will have to take some reduction, the largest dollar reductions will have to come from the three largest agencies because they have the largest appropriations; about 85 percent of the general fund’s appropriation. These three agencies are public schools (kindergarten through twelfth grade), Health and Welfare, and Corrections. Public school support is the single largest appropriation, representing over half of general fund spending.  

The appropriations for Public Education Support and Health and Welfare are scheduled at the end of the budget setting process because of issues being addressed by the House and Senate Education and Health and Welfare committees that could have an impact on funding levels for these agencies.

The budget setting process for the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee is scheduled to end March 14, but could be later depending on significant changes in revenue expectations and/or legislation passed by legislative committees that could impact appropriation levels for agencies. 

Public school reform is a significant issue before the legislature at the time of writing this article. I mentioned in my last article many of the public school reform proposals by State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna. The proposed reform legislation was first introduced in the Senate Education Committee and has been very controversial. Opposition to various reform measures has been strong from the Idaho Education Association, teachers, school superintendents and parents, resulting in the Senate Committee taking a careful look at the proposal and in many cases making changes to address concerns.

The three Senate bills on education reform are Senate Bills 1108, 1110 and 1113 (SB1108, SB1110, SB1113). 

SB 1108 relates to labor relations and employee entitlements. There are several labor related components in the legislation including phasing out tenure for those teachers not yet governed by tenure and replacing it with two-year contracts, limiting collective bargaining to just salaries and benefits and requiring that all labor negotiations be conducted in public meetings.

SB 1110 provides for a “pay for performance” system for teachers. The legislation “rewards teachers and administrators on a school wide basis for student achievement as determined at the local level. Teachers may also be rewarded for teaching in hard to fill positions and for taking leadership roles such as mentoring, creating curriculum, grant writing and obtaining National Board Certification.” 

SB 1108 and SB 1110 passed the Senate on a 20-15 vote on February 24 and are now before the House Education Committee for consideration; if passed by that committee they will go to the House floor for consideration and if approved by the full House will go to the Governor for his consideration.

SB 1113 was sent back to the Senate Education Committee by the full Senate for additional consideration and possible changes. SB 1113 addresses class size, online course requirements and other student issues.

In addition to education, the issue of nullifying the national health care law has been addressed by both the Senate and the House. The purpose of this legislation (House Bill 117) “is to declare the two federal laws: Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152, void and of no effect in the state of Idaho.”

House Bill 117 passed the House by a significant majority but was killed in the Senate State Affairs Committee on February 25.

Because of decreased revenues, proposed education reform, potential changes in Health and Welfare benefits and prison population issues, this is a challenging legislative session. I will continue to keep you abreast of significant legislative actions as we progress through the legislative session, which hopefully will “Sine Die” sometime around March 31.

Please continue to advise me of issues important to you. I can be reached in Boise by phone at 1-800-626-0471 or by e-mail at idleg(at)lso.idaho.gov.

Thanks for reading! George

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

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education, budget, funding, Idaho, tenure, unions, labor relations

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