Rep. Ned Burns, D-Bellevue, along with the House’s Health and Wellness Committee, advanced a rural nursing loan repayment program that aims to entice nurses to commit to practicing in rural Idaho.
“If a nurse goes through school and becomes a licensed RN, and works in a rural hospital, we are going to provide some loan forgiveness for them,” Burns said. “It’s a short-term program that lasts for a few years and then sunsets.”
According to the bill, allocated funds would pay off educational debts for nurses committed to practicing in designated rural health shortage areas and critical access hospitals in Idaho.
Under the program, each eligible nurse would receive up to $5,000 or $10,000 per year for up to three years depending upon years of qualified employment in an eligible rural nursing position, and up to a maximum of $25,000 over three years of employment. In any case for the nurse, the amount would not exceed total education debt.
The program would begin this year and sunset in 2029, and the annual number of nurses would cap at 100 in year three. The number of awards each year would be made dependent upon the annual appropriation. The fund would be administered by the Department of Health and Welfare.
According to the bill, the Department of Health and Welfare already administers similar loan repayment programs for physicians and other health-care providers, in which administrative costs are limited to 10% of allocated funds.
Burns praised his party and Republican District 26 colleague Rep. Jack Nelsen for helping get the legislation through the committee.
“Democrats made all the difference in getting this bill across the finish line,” Burns said. “I do appreciate [that] my seatmate, Jack [Nelsen] was an enthusiastic ‘yes’ on the vote. Without the moderate, reasonable Republicans and the Democrats that bill would have gone down.”
Though Nelsen supported the bill, he said future legislation should include ways to entice all kinds of applicants to rural hospitals, not just ones that have incurred student loans.
“In some ways, paying off student loans for the people that have them aren’t really fair to people who already have paid them off,” he said. “I voted for the law, but when you write future legislation directing people to rural Idaho, that certainly is the point to consider. If you’re going to give some money to place them there, maybe we ought to do it for everyone, not just those with student loans.
House Education Committee strikes down library bill
Nelsen and the House Education Committee struck down a bill restricting children’s books at libraries, during a nationwide debate on the subject.
House Bill 139 would require public schools and community libraries to take steps to restrict children’s access to material that is “obscene or harmful” to minors. Any child who accesses such material in violation of this policy would have been entitled to bring a civil action against the school or library.
The proposed bill stated that any child or parent could recover $10,000 in statutory damages as well as actual damage for each instance in which they obtained material “harmful” to minors.
“We killed the bill,” Nelsen said. “It was quite the drag race, and it went down in House Ed to the usual vote with three Democrats voting with the Republicans. The bill went down on behalf of the School Boards’ Association and the Library Association.”
Nelsen said librarians in his district are doing their best to filter material in their libraries, and that the bill would have been an unnecessary intrusion into local control from the state government.
“In my district I think we have a lot of really excellent librarians that are not sitting around fighting in the news about what’s in their libraries,” he said. “If something shows up in the library that’s objectionable, that stuff disappears. For me, when the state tells a local entity they have to do something, that’s an unfounded mandate for that entity.” ￼
Post a comment as anonymous
Watch this discussion.
Any loan forgiveness to educate much needed health care professionals is worth it.
So I'm studying to be a nurse and I get licensed, and I move to rural Idaho, and I then get by debt forgiven. I then leave the rural area and go to a bigger hospital for bigger pay. Not real smart people.
They know that the people aren't going to stay. The simple reality is that educated people don't want to live in much of the rural US. Ya, mountain towns are great. You think Napoleon Dynamite's Idaho is getting anyone wanting to move there?
So we bribe people to work out there and accept that once the bribe is done, so are they. It's either that or never get the people at all.
Welcome to the discussion.