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Two House Republicans say they have a last-minute proposal to raise $70 million to $100 million per year in new transportation funding.

The House Transportation and Defense Committee is slated to consider the eleventh-hour proposal Tuesday. The plan would draw from overall tax revenue growth and a temporary five-cent fuel tax increase to tackle the state's $262 million annual transportation shortfall.

The Idaho House has endorsed increasing fines for violating the state's open meeting law.

Republican Rep. Linden Bateman told House members Monday that the fees hadn't been raised since the original law passed four decades ago.

The plan is slated to increase the fine fivefold — from $50 to $250 — in order to cover the cost of inflation. More severe violations could cost up to $2,500.

The bill passed 58-11. It now goes to the Senate for approval.

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Idaho lawmakers are once again seeking to remove a special exemption that allows elected officials to carry concealed guns without a permit.

The House State Affairs Committee voted Monday to introduce the bill, which would rewrite most of the state's concealed weapon laws and clarify confusing sections for law enforcement and citizens.

Last year, a similar bill passed the House 62-7, but failed to pass a Senate panel.

internet, computer, broadband,
Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho school districts are saving the state millions of dollars after being forced to negotiate their own broadband services to replace a state contract deemed illegal earlier this year.

State budget writers approved allocating $6.3 million on Monday to fund school broadband services for one more year.

The amount is based on data provided to the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee showing that most schools have negotiated their own contracts at much lower rates than the state did when it was in charge of the now obsolete Idaho Education Network.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The Basin School District in Idaho City has something most districts in the state don’t, preschool.

On Wednesdays, 12 preschoolers leave their small house-turned-school and walk across the playground to the high school’s music room. The children sit cross-legged in a circle and the music teacher hands out two brightly-colored sticks to each student. Music class for these preschoolers is all about rhythm, following directions, and giggling.

Congress let the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expire in the fall of 2014, leaving Idaho counties and school districts with $26 million less than expected.

Idaho counties will bear the brunt of this loss. Seventy percent of Secure Rural Schools money goes to counties for things like road maintenance. Thirty percent goes to school districts.

Data from the Idaho Association of Counties shows Idaho County will lose more money than any other county, nearly $7.3 million.

L.Hutton / Flickr Creative Commons

Oregon, Idaho, and Washington residents are among the top polluters in the nation when it comes to fine particle emissions from burning wood to heat homes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists Oregon, Idaho and Washington as seventh, eighth and ninth respectively in per capita emissions.

The three states share chilly climates, a tradition of wood burning, and lots of national forest land with easy access and where U.S. Forest Service managers appreciate the removing of some trees to reduce potential forest fires.

Curtesy City of Boise

Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan is now a state senator. Jordan was appointed to the body by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter after Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, resigned to join the Idaho Tax Commission.

Jordan will fill the District 17 seat. 

“I believe Maryanne has proven herself to be a dedicated public servant with a long track record of notable achievement and civic leadership,” said Gov. Otter in a press release. “I have every confidence that she will continue that laudable legacy as the newest member of the Idaho Legislature.”

The head of Idaho's pro-business lobby has been placed on temporary leave after sending a profanity-laden email criticizing a state senator and suggesting the group introduce retaliation legislation.

The Idaho Statesman reports the board of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry made the decision regarding President Alex LaBeau on Thursday.

Idaho authorities are telling movie theaters serving alcohol that they can't provide drinks during showings of the erotic blockbuster "Fifty Shades of Grey."

The Idaho State Police's Alcohol Beverage Control has contacted at least two theaters showing the popular R-rated flick, ordering them to comply with a law banning businesses from serving booze to people watching sexually explicit films.

The law lists types of scenes requiring a booze ban. "Fifty Shades of Grey" features bondage and sadomasochism scenes.

Curt Bowen

We’ve been following an Idaho non-profit over the years as it helps farmers in Guatemala grow more sustainable crops. We first learned of Semilla Neuva - that’s “New Seed” in Spanish - in 2011. The fledgling group was giving advice on farming techniques to Guatemalan farmers.

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According to the financial website WalletHub, Idaho is the 9th worst state for women. Lists ranking states on various things come out almost daily and we don’t often report on them, and WalletHub in particular is a list juggernaut. But this one caught our eye.

Idaho was dead last for women’s preventative health care, but in the middle of the state rankings for women’s health care overall.

West Ada School District

Across the state, a high-stakes school election day looms on Tuesday.

How high are the stakes? There are at least $393.3 million in bond issues and school levies on the ballot next week.

Karen Day

Last April, we told you the story of one Idaho woman filmmaker struggling to make a documentary about a pioneer of Idaho filmmaking.

A House panel is considering a plan to spend $2.5 million to support school counselors and lay out specific guidelines for their job descriptions.

The House Education Committee introduced the bill Thursday.

Marilyn Whitney, education liaison for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, says counselors often get sidetracked by having to substitute teach or maintain records.

According to the bill, counselors should spend their time helping students choose academic courses and work with students with disciplinary problems.

Jonathan Hull / Flickr Creative Commons

A landmark Utah proposal protecting gay and transgender individuals has passed its test at the state Legislature.

A Republican-controlled state Senate committee voted unanimously Thursday morning to support the bill, sending it to the full Senate for a vote.

The bill, which has earned the rare stamp of approval from the Utah-based Mormon church, bars discrimination against gay and transgender individuals while protecting the rights of religious groups and individuals.

Former Idaho Govs. Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus have filed a notice of their intent to sue the federal government over proposed shipments of spent commercial nuclear fuel rods to Idaho.

The former governors sent the notice Thursday to the U.S. Department of Energy seeking to halt the shipments scheduled to arrive in June and December at the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho.

Batt, a Republican, and Andrus, a Democrat, both fought commercial nuclear waste shipments culminating with a 1995 agreement banning them.

Idaho Capitol Dome
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Two months into Idaho’s legislative session, many of the priorities lawmakers set at the beginning of the year haven’t been touched. Legislative leaders say things like road and bridge funding and a tax overhaul may have to wait until next year.

At an event organized by the Idaho Press Club Wednesday, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said he’s optimistic the session can end by March 27. That’s despite the fact that a highly-anticipated bill to give teachers a raise was introduced Wednesday and a comprehensive plan to pay for fixing Idaho’s roads and bridges hasn’t yet surfaced.

Jeffrey Johnson / Boise State University

Jeffrey Johnson got quite a wakeup call this week. The assistant professor of geosciences at Boise State University is working in Pucon, Chile on a Fulbright grant to study volcanoes. He was just ten miles away when the Villarrica volcano had a large eruption Tuesday morning.

Johnson's work includes listening to low frequency sounds that volcanoes make. Here’s the low-frequency sound his sensors recorded during this week's eruption; the sound is normally too low for us to hear, so it's been sped up:

Jay Yohe / Flickr Creative Commons

An Idaho House committee has ushered in a roughly $215 million plan to boost teacher pay over the next five years with the hope of attracting and retaining the state's instructors.

Members on the House Education Committee unanimously approved the proposed legislation Wednesday after getting a sneak peak last week to read the 33-page bill.

Under the plan, rookie teacher pay would bump up from $31,750 a year to $32,200 a year. By 2020, new teachers would be paid $37,000 a year.

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