Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Legislature lurches toward adjournment

Public schools budget could be heard today


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

The state Legislature moved closer to adjournment Tuesday as Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, announced that the majority party had a road map for approving a public school budget.

The budget was the subject of an impasse that is delaying the end of this year’s legislative session. However, a bill for funding two separate programs was introduced in a Senate committee Tuesday morning, setting the public schools budget up for approval on Wednesday afternoon.

The bill provides for the distribution of money to school districts requesting grant funds for local excellence in achievement awards, which are based on student performance. These funds are considered “merit pay” for teachers, a contentious issue that was originally included in the three education reforms struck down by voters in November.

The bill also addresses funding for technology pilot programs in public and charter schools. The funding would be allocated through competitive state grants, and applications would be required to explain expected academic growth through technology.

Davis said the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee would hold a public hearing on the budget bill at 8 a.m. Wednesday, after which the Senate would consider the bill—assuming it passes the Senate Education Committee.

“We will come to the floor [Wednesday] mid-morning, and we anticipate receiving from the committee that legislation,” Davis said.

If approved by the senate, the bill will go to the House for approval, and the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will convene Wednesday afternoon to discuss the adjusted public schools budget.

Assuming all runs smoothly, the Legislature could adjourn Thursday, Davis said.

In other state Legislature news:

  • The Senate voted 26-8 to divert money from a Department of Fish and Game hunter-access program to wolf control, an effort backed by the state’s livestock industry.

The Associated Press reported on March 27 that the vote came over objections from the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.

Supporters argued that shifting funding from the Sportsmen’s Access Yes program—which helps expand hunter access on private land by compensating private landowners who provide access—to Idaho’s animal-damage-control account would reduce predators and help ranchers who are losing animals to wolves. But opponent Sen. Roy Lacy, D-Pocatello, said the bill amounted to raiding Fish and Game money. 

The bill had already passed the House.

  • The House State Affairs Committee voted Tuesday to pass a state parking garage planning and zoning exemption bill. The bill, which originated in the Senate, would exempt a state parking garage complex near the Capitol from Boise city planning and zoning requirements. The bill would expire in 2014 and would exempt a single city block. 

Opponents said they worried about setting a precedent. The bill had already passed the Senate.


Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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