Idaho Legislature

Idaho would have the ability to enter into an interstate compact to pursue transferring control of federal lands under a proposal making its way through the Statehouse.

House lawmakers voted 45-23 on Friday to approve setting up the compact, facing from opposition from both Republicans and Democrats worried of the bill's unintended consequences.

Legislative budget writers are matching Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's request to restore public education money slashed during the economic downturn by adding roughly $101 million to the Idaho schools budget.

The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee approved increasing the schools budget by 7.4 percent on Friday. The proposal now needs to pass both chambers, but the legislation is expected to pass.

The proposal includes allotting $33.5 million to boost teacher pay, part of a five-year teacher pay increase plan lawmakers approved earlier this week.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

A three-part tax bill that would eliminate the grocery sales tax and lower income taxes on top earners has passed an Idaho House panel.

The bill by House Republican leadership would also include a seven-cent fuel tax increase, which would raise $65 million per year to address Idaho's transportation funding shortfall.

Under the tax plan, Idahoans in the top income tax bracket would see their rate drop from 7.4 percent to 6.7 percent.

Rookie teachers in Idaho will receive pay raises starting July 1 under a $125 million proposal headed to the governor's desk for his signature.

The Idaho Senate unanimously approved the measure Thursday, where senators offered only praise that the 30-page bill had survived both chambers after seeing prior proposals flounder this legislative session.

Steve Sawyer / Flickr

A bill that would ban Idaho's slot-like instant horse racing machines has passed the House and is on its way to the governor's desk.

After two hours of discussion in the chamber, the House voted 49-21 Thursday to repeal a law the Legislature passed in 2013 allowing the lucrative betting terminals, which closely resemble slot machines.

Some lawmakers say that they were tricked into approving instant horse racing — that is, betting on an earlier horse race but with no identifiable information.

Boise State Public Radio

Idaho lawmakers have directed their staff to spend the next nine months studying the state’s contract with Optum Idaho, the company that manages outpatient behavioral health services for Medicaid patients.

An Idaho Republican lawmaker's political website has been snapped up by a group claiming to be gay rights activists, decorated with rainbows and replaced with text requesting that the legislature meet with same-sex marriage supporters.

State Rep. Paul Shepherd from Riggins is backing a non-binding resolution urging Congress to impeach federal judges who violate the U.S. Constitution. Shepherd contends that recent court rulings overturning state bans on same-sex marriages violate the Constitution.

Education, school, classroom
IlmicrofonoOgglono / Flickr Creative Commons

The average teacher pay in Idaho dropped by more than $200 from 2012-13 to 2013-14 — a decrease that the state’s teachers’ union can’t explain.

On average, only two states pay their teachers less than Idaho.

A March 10 hearing on a teacher career ladder bill drew dozens of teachers to the Statehouse to testify. A new version of the bill passed the House Monday.

But meanwhile, pay appeared to increase for Idaho “instructional staff,” including counselors, principals and curriculum specialists.

Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons

House Republicans are introducing an eleventh-hour patchwork plan to raise more than $100 million for Idaho roads.

The House Ways and Means Committee introduced two of the three parts Wednesday morning — including registration fee hikes and up to $26 million in general fund dollars.

The proposal is similar to legislation killed by the House Transportation Committee last week.

But House Majority Leader Mike Moyle says that he hopes breaking the plan up into three pieces will let lawmakers approve at least some of the parts.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The budget for Idaho’s behavioral health division includes funding for a second mental health crisis center.

The Spokesman-Review's Eye on Boise blog reports the Department of Health and Welfare’s budget plan includes $1.7 million for the 24-hour crisis center.

The crisis centers are meant to keep people out of jail or hospital emergency rooms, and instead connect them with appropriate mental health care services.

Roo Reynolds / Flickr

A bill clarifying that Idahoans can carry concealed weapons outside city limits without a permit has passed the Idaho House.

The House voted 57-11 to approve the plan to rewrite the state's concealed weapons laws.

An earlier version removed the exemption that allows lawmakers and government officials to carry concealed weapons without a permit. But the exception was put back in after lawmakers on the House's powerful State Affairs Committee said the bill would die without it.

State officials are no longer requesting the Idaho Legislature approve new rules designed to tighten oversight on multimillion dollar contracts after lawmakers voiced concerns the proposed guidelines didn't go far enough.

An official with the Department of Administration says adopting the rules is no longer necessary because state lawmakers have since proposed creating an interim committee to review the state's procurement laws.

Kaje / Flickr

The Idaho House has passed a plan requiring school board candidates in roughly half of Idaho's school districts to file campaign finance reports.

The House voted 50-19 on Tuesday to require candidates in districts with at least 500 students to file the same campaign disclosure reports as other elected officials.

Republican Rep. Patrick McDonald from Boise says that companies or citizens may try to influence elections for local school boards, which often control multi-million dollar budgets.

Legislative auditors say Idaho wasted $61 million on a software system to track and improve student performance that doesn't work for most districts.

However, a top Idaho State Department of Education official on Tuesday says the blame does not rest with the agency's current administration.

In a new report released Monday, legislative auditors found that the department gave all school districts access to Schoolnet but did not provide enough financial support or technical training. The department then minimized the system's problems.

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Idaho’s Senate Tuesday will consider two bills about cannabis-based epilepsy treatments.

Clare Carey has been asking lawmakers to allow access to a certain kind of hemp oil for nearly two years. One of the two bills in the Senate is called Alexis’ Law after Carey’s daughter, who suffers from debilitating, life threatening epilepsy.

Christy Perry
Idaho Legislature

The Idaho House passed an anti-bullying measure Monday after some impassioned pleas from several lawmakers who talked about the experiences of their own children.

This is the latest of several attempts in recent years to pass bills aimed at strengthening Idaho’s anti-bullying laws. Some conservative lawmakers have been skeptical the issue can be regulated at the state level and worry they might be opening schools up to lawsuits.

The Idaho Senate has passed legislation banning women from receiving abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine — an option not available in the state — on a 27-7 party-line vote.

The Senate's seven Democrats opposed the bill Monday, arguing the proposal improperly regulated how doctors should administer care.

Republican Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll from Cottonwood countered that the bill protects women against so-called "webcam abortions," because rarely medical abortions result in surgery.

Donnie Ray Jones / Flickr Creative Commons

The owners of Les Bois Park in Garden City say they'll close the facility permanently if the Idaho Legislature bans instant racing. A bill to do away with the betting terminals – which critics say too closely resemble slot machines – is making its way through the Legislature.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

An Idaho House panel has endorsed expanding cuts to Idaho's personal property tax, a move that supporters say will help county officials attract companies while competing with other regions.

The House Revenue and Tax Committee approved the new measure Monday. 

According to the proposal, counties would no longer be restricted to giving tax breaks solely to manufacturing plants with $3 million worth of investments.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

On Monday, two Idaho Republicans will tiptoe into a public preschool debate the state's Legislature hasn't been willing to confront. Idaho is one of 10 states without public preschool.

Reps. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, and Christy Perry, R-Nampa, are introducing a preschool pilot program they're calling "kindergarten preparedness."

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