Leadership in the 2017 Idaho Legislature had set a target date of March 24 for adjournment. In the end, it didn’t work out that way, and the session will head into Week 12.
Part of the difficulty has been in the House, which has seen tension throughout this session, with some members pushing back at House leadership. The House was at ease for most of the day Thursday and members were in caucus for most of the day. The House came to order at 10:00 a.m. MT/9:00 a.m. PT and worked on only a handful of bills.
“8 hrs to vote on 3 bills after GOP members require full reading of bills. $30,000 per day for taxpayers,” Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise) tweeted out.
On the Senate side, Majority Leader Bart Davis told senators at adjournment Thursday that the Senate would be needed on Monday.
“I know this floor is willing to stay tomorrow to get the work done,” Davis said. “I can tell you that the body across the rotunda can’t get it to us, and it’s not because their leadership team isn’t trying.
“I apologize, but we will have to be back here on Monday,” Davis said.
The Senate then adjourned for the day, having completed work on all of the bills on its calendar except for one– S 1162, GARVEE funding for roads projects. It was the smaller of two roads bills under consideration by lawmakers.
(Idaho Senate photo via ‘Idaho in Session,’ March 23, 2017)
The Senate’s rejection of the larger of those transportation bills was a source of frustration for many lawmakers on both sides of the rotunda, and some pointed to that rejection as another reason why the session is still going.
The bill would have provided GARVEE bonding authority and general bonding authority for highway construction, would have extended the surplus eliminator from 2015 for 5 more years, among other provisions. The vote was 15-20.
Dist. 5 Sen. Dan Foreman was among the senators who debated against the legislation and is heard in this audio clip. (1:34)
There’s some hope that a compromise can be reached on a transportation bill to address needs around the state. Canyon County lawmakers have been especially adamant that a roads bill is needed, and other parts of the state have projects, as well– such as the recent collapse of Highway 5 between Plummer and St. Maries in District 5.
Friday was the 75th day of this session, Lewiston Sen. Dan Johnson told the Senate, “One day longer than last year, but still six days short of the 22nd longest. So even on Monday if we finish up we won’t be in the top 22.”
Friday was a more productive day for the House, as members took care of its business without the major delays it struggled with on Thursday. Lawmakers moved through the calendar, approving various FY ’18 appropriations, the civil asset forfeiture reform bill, and a resolution on science standards for public schools.
(Idaho House photo via ‘Idaho in Session,’ March 24, 2017)
Part of the work completed by House lawmakers Friday was the budget appropriation of $31,287,300 to the U-Idaho Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension Service for fiscal year 2018.
That represents a 2.4% increase over the FY ’17 appropriation and includes $500,00 for continuing capital outlay needs.
“The lab renovation and housing for half a million dollars,” Dist. 34 Rep. Ron Nate said on the House floor. “I would just ask the question. If we had limited funding, would we feel comfortable raising taxes for another half million dollars for this one line item?”
“This is for 4-H,” Dist. 9 Rep. Judy Boyle said. “As a former 4-H leader, I can assure you that 4-H does a tremendous amount of good for kids, incredible amount. This is also for ag research so if you like to eat, this is a good bill.”
The budget passed, 64-3-3. The bill has passed the Senate and now goes to Governor Otter.
The UI has ten research and extension centers across the state and cooperative extension services in 42 counties.
There was other business completed during the week, as well.
The FY ’18 appropriation bills for Idaho’s K-12 public school system are headed to Governor Otter’s desk. The seven bills passed the Senate Wednesday and had previously passed the House.
Public schools make up the largest share of the state budget. Public school funding increases 6.3% under the bills.
One other large appropriation bill, S 1152, was passed by the House Wednesday. It appropriates $564,958,700 to the State Board of Education and the Board of Regents of the University of Idaho for colleges and universities and the Office of the State Board of Education for FY ’18.
The vote was 56-14.
“Seeing as how universities are sitting on $159 million of reserves, and that this budget increases expenses by $7.5 million from the General Fund, I don’t think we need to be spending more taxpayer money,” Rep. Ron Nate said.
“I think the money the universities have in reserve is prudent financial planning,” Dist 5 Rep. Caroline Troy said.
Rep. Wendy Horman, the floor sponsor, said university reserves are used for items such as the need to remove asbestos discovered during the University of Idaho remodel of the College of Education, and will be used by Lewis-Clark State College to help meet the cost of its new Career-Technical Education building.
Rep. John Gannon expressed concerns with rising tuition costs. “Our generation didn’t pay tuition and didn’t pay much in fees, either, but today our young people are strapped with tuition and fees of $6,000 to $7,200 a year just to begin, and many are burdened with health insurance on top of it.”
S 1152 has been passed by the the House and Senate and will go to Governor Otter for his deliberation.
Week 12 begins Monday, March 27.
Posted Saturday, March 25, 2017.