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A Seat in the House

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"Luke. I AM your teacher." Photo by Alicja Stolarczyk "Luke. I AM your teacher." Photo by Alicja Stolarczyk

An update on bills of interest

The 2011 Legislative session is coming close to adjournment; some are estimating as close as April 6, but at the latest by April 8. At the time of writing this report several appropriation bills still remain to be passed by the legislature as well as a small number of legislative proposals that are important to consider before the end of the session.

The following is a review of some of the more significant legislation that has been passed or defeated so far this session.

The two education reform bills that I discussed in my last article, Senate Bill 1108 that addressed labor relations and employee entitlements and Senate Bill 1110 that provides for a “Pay for Performance” system for teachers, were passed by both houses and signed into law by the Governor.

The third education reform bill, Senate Bill 1184 was passed by the Senate on a 20-15 vote and sent to the House for consideration. The legislation is before the House Education Committee at the time of this writing but is expected to be approved by both the committee and the members of the House and sent to the Governor. The Governor is expected to sign the bill into law. 

Senate Bill 1184 provides for a five year phase-in of greater use of laptop computers for ninth grade and above classes and other education reform measures. The funding for these measures will be met in part by reduction in the teacher salary support provided by the state. Pay for Performance is expected to help make up the difference by providing monetary rewards for those teachers meeting pay for performance criteria.

The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee has cut about thirty-four million dollars from the 2012 Medicaid budget by suspending or terminating some services, adding co-pay provisions and reducing payments to providers. Even with these cuts the Medicaid budget is being increased by about 137 million dollars, primarily because of the need to make up reductions in federal matching dollars that were received this fiscal year from federal stimulus dollars.

The House approved House Bill 222 that would have allowed concealed firearms on public university and college campuses. Concealed firearms would also have been allowed at college and university athletic events. This legislation was opposed by Idaho’s university and college presidents as well as many city and county law enforcement officials. The legislation was defeated in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

The legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution No. 25 that requested the Governor issue an Executive Order that delays for one year the incremental increase in the grocery tax credit that was provided in 2008 legislation. This action provided for a savings of about 15 million dollars that helps meet budget needs for this upcoming fiscal year. 

A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Idaho’s open primary election process was unconstitutional which resulted in a need for legislation to address how the primary elections should be conducted. House and Senate leadership has drafted legislation that in part would allow Democrats to vote in Democratic primaries and Republicans to vote in Republican primaries. The legislation may also allow the parties’ state central committees to decide if unaffiliated voters could participate in a party’s primary election but their ballot choice would become public record. These conditions could be revised as the legislature debates the draft primary election legislation.

The House sent the Department of Insurance Appropriation bill back to the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee for revision because of objection to a 2.5 million dollar grant to help fund development of insurance exchanges foreseen by the Federal Patient and Affordable Care Act. Under this act the states “must establish insurance exchanges offering a choice of plans under common rules to boost competition.” Because Idaho is challenging the constitutionality of the federal act, it was felt by many that using the federal money would commit Idaho to implement the law, which would be contradictory to the lawsuit.

Although it won’t be as much as the federal funds, the State Department of Insurance will utilize state general funds to develop an insurance exchange program that will meet federal requirements if the law is upheld, but if not, the state would still be able to “take advantage of insurance exchanges to boost competition and transparency for customers looking to purchase protection.”

I will provide additional information on the final budget for fiscal year 2011 and other significant legislative actions in subsequent issues of the Journal; in the meantime please feel free to contact me with issues of concern to you. Since the legislature will be adjourned at about the same time this article is published, I can be reached by phone at home in Dover at (208) 265-0123 or by mail at P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho, 83825.

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

Tagged as:

Obamacare, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Tom Luna, health insurance, unions, labor relations, SB1108, SB1110, pay for performance, education bills, laptops for education, medicaid, HCR 25, grocery tax credit, firearms at college, HB222, guns on campus, open primaries, insurance exchanges

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