Idaho Legislature

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

A panel in the Idaho House is expected to vote this morning on a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The vote comes after three days of hearings.

The nearly 20 hours of testimony came from gay people speaking about their experience with discrimination in Idaho. Parents talked about worrying their gay or transgender children would be fired or kicked out apartments.

Boise State University

The head of Boise State University says state support has lagged behind the surge in enrollment in recent years.

BSU President Bob Kustra Wednesday told lawmakers the school needs to add at least 63 new faculty positions -- especially if Idaho is going to meet its goal to graduate more people from college.

Kustra says the student-to-faculty ratio is above average for a school of Boise State's size. And, he says, students sometimes experience course “bottlenecks.”

Opponents of a gay rights measure in Idaho are highlighting what they call the “bathroom” problem.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Several hundred people packed an auditorium in the Idaho Capitol Monday for a hearing on a measure known as the Add the Words bill.

It’s the first time the Legislature has considered a bill that would make sexual orientation and gender identity a protected class in Idaho -- like race or religion. Proponents have been trying to get it heard for nine years.

Some of the most emotional testimony came from the parents of gay and transgender children.

University of Idaho

The president of the University of Idaho says the school will freeze undergraduate resident tuition rates next year if lawmakers fully fund a 3 percent salary increase for faculty and staff.

President Chuck Staben made the suggestion Monday to lawmakers on the Legislature's budget committee.

Officials say the cost would be $1.6 million.

Staben says reducing tuition will increase access to education.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Thousands of Idahoans have flocked to the Statehouse to testify in front of lawmakers concerning a bill that would include sexual orientation and gender identity protections to the state's Human Rights Act.

The legislation, commonly called the "Add the Words" bill, had been denied a public hearing for nine consecutive years.

Kyle Green
Idaho Statesman

For the first time in nine years, supporters of the "Add the Words" movement will get the chance to testify in front of lawmakers. On Monday, the House State Affairs Committee will hear HB 2 beginning at 8 a.m.

Data: Idaho Education News

Repeatedly — both before and after his election to a third term — Gov. Butch Otter’s praise for Idaho’s high school broadband system has focused on access.

The Idaho Education Network brings more classes into rural schools, he says, bringing the state that much closer to meeting its constitutional mandate to provide a uniform system of free public schools.

The state’s own numbers tell a very different story:

Idaho lawmakers have introduced a bill that would formally expand the secrecy surrounding executions.

The Senate Judiciary and Rules committee agreed Wednesday to move forward the legislation from the Idaho Department of Correction. The bill would incorporate existing department policy on confidential execution records into state law, and broaden that language to include records involving the source of lethal medications used for executions. It would also make it illegal for the department to turn over the records in response to subpoenas or other preliminary legal inquiries.

aposematic herpetologist / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho lawmakers concerned that special recognition of the Idaho giant salamander could lead to federal protections have rejected a grade school student's request it be named the state amphibian.

The Spokesman-Review reports that the House State Affairs Committee voted 10-6 on Monday against 14-year-old Ilah Hickman's plan.

An Idaho attorney general's opinion advised lawmakers that approving the salamander as a state symbol wouldn't do anything in the way of encouraging federal protections.

Office of Lieutenant Governor Brad Little

Tuesday, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is having surgery to get his left hip resurfaced. From the time Otter goes into the hospital to when he comes out from his anesthesia, Lt. Gov. Brad Little will be Idaho's acting governor.

It's something Little is pretty accustomed to; it happens on a regular basis. Any time the sitting governor is out of the state or incapacitated, the lieutenant governor steps in as the top official, even if it's just for an hour or two.

Idaho Capitol Dome
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

For a second year, a joint legislative committee has unanimously supported increasing wages for Idaho's 17,000 state workers in fiscal year 2016.

The bipartisan Change in Employee Compensation Committee proposed awarding a 3 percent pay boost on a merit basis. This means, however, not everyone is guaranteed a raise.

The recommendation —estimated to cost nearly $30 million— now needs full legislative approval but is already expected to be supported by the governor.

Idaho lawmakers had a bit of sticker shock Friday over the state’s firefighting costs.

Data: Pew | Chart: Emilie Ritter Saunders

If Idaho had to pay all its bills using just reserves, the state could have funded government for 27 days in fiscal year 2014.  That's according to a report released by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

State reserves, or rainy day accounts, were depleted during the recession as states relied on that money to pay for an increase in welfare costs and unemployment insurance benefits. 

protest, capitol
Courtesy Idaho Statesman

A gay rights proposal known as the “Add the Words” bill will be heard for the first time in the Idaho legislature.

A committee of the Idaho House voted 6-1 Wednesday to introduce a bill that would ban discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. The measure would add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes in Idaho’s Human Rights Act.

Add The Words
Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Update 5:46 p.m. 

Idaho Republican leaders announced a change of course Wednesday and approved the introduction of a bill that would include sexual orientation and gender identity protections in the state's Human Rights Act.

The House Ways and Means Committee, made up of Republican legislative leadership, voted 6-1 to bring the proposed legislation to a full hearing.

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

The state has outlined its timetable to rebid the Idaho Education Network broadband contract — and Idaho will likely have to go it alone on project funding at least until July 1, 2016.

The state Department of Administration won’t accept bids on the new contract until June, and that’s well past the deadline for the state (or school districts) to apply for federally administered “e-Rate” funds for 2015-16.

Here’s how the two timetables mesh:

Idaho Democrats predict more common ground than usual at the state Capitol this year. That’s because Idaho’s minority party leaders say many of the Republican proposals on the table are things Democrats have been pushing -- for years.

Democrats make up only 20 percent of Idaho’s Legislature. House Minority Leader John Rusche says they’re used to their bills not even being printed.

Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho lawmaker who has the power to kill tax bills says there will be no new tax breaks unless beginning teacher salaries boost to $40,000 a year.

Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway threatened to hold proposed tax cuts hostage in order to get more funding for Idaho's public schools even before the legislative session kicked off on Monday. Siddoway sharpened his demand on Tuesday, saying teacher salaries must increase sooner than what Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has outlined.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's State of the State address on Monday put a lot of focus on a 7.4 percent increase in education spending. That's an increase of more than $101 million from the previous fiscal year, and a significant boost since the Great Recession.

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