Monthly Archives: January 2017

U-Idaho Dedicates ‘Cutting Edge’ Research Facility

The University of Idaho today officially dedicated its new integrated research building at its campus in Moscow. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (:56)

Listen:

More than 20 research projects are getting underway at the UI’s new ‘Integrated Research and Innovation Center,’ or IRIC, and UI officials say that’s just the beginning of the work to be done there. This is UI President Chuck Staben:

Chuck Staben: “We are a historic university, and this is now a cutting edge facility. I believe IRIC symbolizes a great deal of the positive optimism about science, about our faculty and students, about the University of Idaho.”

The new building is 69,000 square feet, and it includes labs of all kinds, visualization spaces, meeting and conference areas, and instrument fabrication spaces.

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The aim is adaptability and flexibility, officials say, with the challenge being– solving the complex problems facing the state and the country.

Funding for the facility totaled $52.55 million, five million of which came from the state’s permanent building fund. The UI expects the project to come in under budget.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Posted January 31, 2017

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In Moscow, Idaho Dems Push Agenda, Citizen Involvement

Idaho Democrats have taken to the road to pitch their public policies and agenda. In Moscow on January 28, they did so in front of a large crowd at the 1912 Center. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (:46 )

Listen:

Part of the town hall style meeting featured State Representatives Paulette Jordan and Mat Erpelding standing before the overflow crowd talking about specific proposals their side of the aisle is pushing, including an initiative on loan forgiveness for new teachers in Idaho’s rural school districts. Erpelding is the House Democratic Leader:

Mat Erpelding:”It doesn’t matter if you’re living close to the Washington border, or the Oregon border, or the Montana border, or the Wyoming border, our teachers in Idaho makes less than any of those states at a starting wage.”

But beyond the agenda update, members of the audience also wanted to know what they could do, specifically. That included one woman who stood and said she was “terrified right now.”

The lawmakers urged the crowd to stay updated, to contact lawmakers, and pick an issue and stick with it.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

Posted January 29, 2017

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Idaho Legislature– Week Three

For some voters in Idaho’s District 5, the third week of the 2017 Idaho State Legislature ended at the 1912 Center in Moscow, where two Democrats, State Rep. Paulette Jordan and Rep. Mat Erpelding, met with an overflow crowd to talk about public policy issues and how the public can take action to effect ongoing issues. Both lawmakers urged citizens to stay informed and take part in the process.

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At the State Capitol in Boise last week, it was Education Week before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, the budget writing committee.

In her opening statement to JFAC on January 26, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said the budget request for K-12 was about “creating better opportunities for our children of Idaho.” The FY ’18 request is $1.679 billion dollars in state general funds.

University of Idaho President Chuck Staben was before JFAC to present the university’s budget request of $180.2 million on January 25.

Dr. Michael Parrella, Dean of the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, told JFAC on January 25 that modern field and lab facilities are critical to the ongoing work done by the UI’s nine Ag Extension centers to support agriculture and allied industries in the state. Governor Otter has proposed $500,000 to address these needs. Parrella also said he envisions additional graduate students working with faculty at the research and extension centers.

Lewis-Clark State College President Tony Fernandez told JFAC on January 24 that enrollment at the Lewiston college is up to 3,924 students, including a 13% increase in Idaho students straight from high school. He listed new projects the college is undertaking to accommodate students and LCSC’s educational mission.

Idaho State Board of Education President Emma Atchley presented before JFAC on January 23. She said that a tuition hike for colleges and universities will be needed to fund the Governor’s proposed three percent merit pay hike for employees at those institutions. In this audio, Atchley tells lawmakers that the state’s goal to have 60% of Idahoans age 25 to 34 with a degree or certificate beyond high school by the year 2020 is needed to meet workforce demands.

Posted January 29, 2017

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ITD FY 2018 Budget Recommendation: $723.9 Million

In 2010, the Idaho Transportation Department kept the highways clear 28% of the time during snow storms. Now, the agency says, Idaho’s highways are clear of ice and snow 74% of the time during a storm, and that is after the agency reduced its staffing levels in recent years by 8 1/2%.

ITD Director Brian Ness says that’s just one measure of the improvements made at ITD over the past several years.

Ness gave ITD’s annual update to a joint meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee and the Idaho House Transportation and Defense Committee on January 24.

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The state agency won 30 national awards in 2016 for excellence and innovation, Ness said, and is a model that is being copied by other transportation departments across the country.

Ness told lawmakers that ITD makes investments based on three things: safety, mobility, and economic opportunity. “These criteria are all focused on our customers, the people who drive the roads,” he said.

ITD selects projects that have the highest rate of return. Ness said these projects reduce accidents, remove traffic bottlenecks, and improve Idaho’s economy.

Ness said the governor’s task force on transportation funding found Idaho has an $543 million shortfall per year of state and local transportation revenue. Of that, $262 million was needed just to keep the existing system in the condition that it is in today.

That $262 million shortfall was reduced by about one-third by HB 312 in 2015, Ness said.

Governor Butch Otter’s FY ’18 budget recommendation for ITD is $723.9 million. “We will use that funding to address the increasing needs of Idaho’s transportation system,” Ness told the House panel.

Posted January 26, 2017

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Ybarra: “Creating Better Opportunities for Our Children of Idaho”

Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra made the public schools support budget presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on January 26.

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(Sup. Sherri Ybarra before JFAC on January 26. Screen grab via ‘Idaho in Session.’)

The budget request for schools for FY 2018 is $1.679 billion in state general funds, up 6.6% from FY ’17’s $1.574 billion. Listen:

Ybarra told the budget writing committee that the emphasis this year was on a return on investment. She said the budget was not about her, but about creating better opportunities for Idaho’s children. Listen:

Ybarra told the budget panel that she’s projecting an increase of 71% in student participation in advanced opportunities in 2017, and the budget request is for an additional $1 million, up to $7 million, for Advanced Opportunities. Ybarra said the program directly supports students in their efforts to be college and career ready.

“In 2016, there were 17,659 students who took advantage of the advanced opportunities,” Ybarra said, “including all dual credit participation, and all those students gained 95,337 credits, ultimately saving families across the state a tuition cost of over $7.1 million through funding programs for advanced opportunities.”

Ybarra also asked for more funding for literacy proficiency programs. “Idaho students have been improving their reading skills year after year,” she said. She’s asking for an increase of $2 million, up to $11,100,000.

Also included among the line items in the schools budget request is an $8 million increase for classroom technology, with an overall line item of $26 million.

“These students don’t see technology any more as a separate tool,” Ybarra told the lawmakers. “It’s completely integrated into their lives and everything that they’re doing.

“Technology alone isn’t going to improve student achievement,” Ybarra said. “It’s the combination of great teachers and leaders, working with that technology, to engage students in the pursuit of the types of learning that they need.”

The budget request includes $7 million for college and career advising; funding for wireless infrastructure; funding for information technology staff; and $3 million for an instructional management system.

The public school budget is the largest portion of the Idaho state budget.

Posted January 26, 2017

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Staben on Budget, Access Before JFAC Today

Presenting before JFAC on January 25, University of Idaho President Chuck Staben told the state’s budget writing committee that the UI had exceeded the $100 million dollar mark in research expenditures this year, and he spoke of the university’s research and recent successes in increasing enrollment, which saw a jump this year for the first time since 2012.

If Governor Otter’s recommended merit pay increase is approved, Staben expects a three percent tutition increase next year. The university receives about 20% of its funding from the state. In this clip, Staben talks about access and affordability for students.

The UI has three budget requests for FY ’18, which Staben discusses in this clip:

Also presenting budgets before JFAC were the WWAMI medical education program, the Geological Survey, Ag Research and Extension, and Forest Utilization Research.

Posted January 25, 2016

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Idaho Legislature– Week Two

The second week of the 2017 Idaho State Legislature brought the passing of the first bill of the session, HB 1. House lawmakers passed the bill on a 68-0 vote. The bill is designed to clarify “in whole or in part” in HJR 5, passed by voters last November.

The bill still needs to be passed in the Senate and signed by Governor Otter to become law.

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The Idaho State Senate turned itself into a court to consider a challenge to the November election results in District 29, ultimately rejecting the challenge. State Senate Pro-Tem Brent Hill urged senators to reject the challenge:

Five members of the Idaho House asked off their assigned committees in support of State Rep. Heather Scott, who was stripped of her committee assignments. House Speaker Scott Bedke took no action on the request; here is audio of some the lawmakers on the House floor:

The Idaho Department of Labor said the state’s unemployment rate has dropped to 3.7%, and director Ken Edmonds told Idaho JFAC January 18 that Labor expects to maintain its local offices around the state:

Idaho State Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick delivered the ‘State of the Judiciary’ Address to both the House and the Senate. He told lawmakers the new iCourt technology system is being rolled out in counties around the state, that the court has seen a decline in civil filings, and–heard in this clip– that he’s received several resignation notices from Idaho judges:

At JFAC, the legislature’s budget writing committee, lawmakers heard about Governor Otter’s cyber-security proposal, and heard support from agencies for the Governor’s proposed three percent merit pay hike for state employees, a proposal that was accepted by a joint legislative panel during the week.  Eric Fredericksen of the Idaho State Appellate Public Defender’s office told JFAC on January 20 that higher pay elsewhere has meant high turnover in that office:

Posted January 22, 2017

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