Monthly Archives: January 2020

Religious Freedom Day Resolution Held in Committee

by Logan Finney

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

A proposal to designate January 16 as Religious Freedom Day in Idaho has been held in the House State Affairs Committee.

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The concurrent resolution sponsored by Rep. Jake Ellis, D-Boise, and Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, would commemorate the 1786 adoption of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

“I love U.S. history, I love the connection to understand the values and the principles of the constitution,” said Ellis. “It’s that history and going back and understanding the formation of our government, and certainly our Bill of Rights, that enthused me.”

Resolutions passed by the legislature do not have the full force and effect of law.

Religious Freedom Day has been recognized annually with a presidential proclamation since Congress designated the day in 1993. According to Ellis, twenty-one other states observe the day as well. The 1786 statute disestablished the Church of England in the newly independent Virginia, where it had been the official church under colonial law.

“This statute served as the catalyst for the First Amendment, which enshrined in law our conviction to prevent government interference in religion,” said President Donald Trump this month in his Religious Freedom Day proclamation.

A few Republicans on the committee expressed concerns with the proposal.

“Given the activist court that we have today,” asked Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, “do you think that the phrase ‘no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege, or capacity’ is not a bit overbroad?”

The passage in question is a quote from Article 1, Section 4 of the Idaho Constitution.

“No, I don’t,” replied Burgoyne. “I remember when we had in our constitution a prohibition, civil prohibitions on Mormons,” he elaborated. “Can’t vote, can’t hold office, can’t sit on a jury.”

The Constitution of the State of Idaho, ratified in 1890, includes provisions against polygamy which were used at the time to disenfranchise members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While the church officially banned the practice of plural marriage in 1904, the disenfranchising language was not removed from the state constitution until 1982.

Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, said she had reservations after receiving a statement in support of the resolution from the ACLU of Idaho.

“When I look at the First Amendment, I see there that we will not make laws respecting an establishment of religion, that we will not prohibit the free exercise thereof,” said Young. “I don’t see anywhere in that a guarantee of freedom from religion, and this is language that I am seeing increasingly.”

“A lot of interpretations, a lot of feelings, a lot of things come out of this discussion, but I think our recognition of a Religious Freedom Day allows us to have that conversation and allows us to reflect,” Ellis said in his closing testimony.

Rep. Barbieri moved to hold the resolution in committee, which passed on a voice vote.

Posted January 30, 2020

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Idaho Vandals named to 2019 Fall Big Sky All-Academic Team

The Big Sky Conference says 593 student-athletes, the most in league history, have been recognized as members of the 2019 Fall All-Academic teams for football, volleyball, soccer and men’s and women’s cross country.
More than 60 Idaho Vandals were honored.
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To be eligible, a student-athlete must have met and/or exceeded the following minimum requirements: 1) Participated in at least half of the team’s competitions; 2) Achieved a 3.2 cumulative grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) at the conclusion of the most recently completed term; 3) Completed at least one academic term at his/her current Big Sky institution.
Idaho honorees:
Football
Jed Byers
Rahsaan Crawford
Nate DeGraw
Hayden Hatten
Hogan Hatten
Jalen Hoover
Coleman Johnson
Logan Kendall
Kyle Perry
Mason Petrino
Logan Prescott
Nick Romano
Kayode Rufai
Mujeeb Rufai
Leonick Tamba
Connor Whitney
Jaxon Woodward
Volleyball
Donnee Janzen
Alaina Lacey
Becca Owen
Kyra Palmbush
Hailey Pelton
Paige Rupiper
Kennedy Warren
Men’s Cross Country
Josiah Anderson
Gabriel DinnelSo.
Timo Dohm
Ryan Kline
Michael McCausland
Grayson Ollar
Caleb Seely
Ben Shaw
Tim Stevens
Drew Schultz
Women’s Cross Country
Nell Baker
Kara Story
Krista Story
Malaina Thacker
Elise Abbott
Maizy Brewer
Nathalia Campos
Faith Dilmore
Celie Mans
Erica Pecha
Makenna Schuler
Kelsey Swenson
Emily Wesseling
Soccer
Berglind Baldursdottir
Kate Blickenstaff
Kaysie Bruce
Taylor Brust
Morgan Crosby
Jenna Efraimson
Savannah Foster
Avrie Fox
Madisen Gustafson
Maddie Haas
Emmy Moore
Malia Morales
Trinity Paulsen 
Hadley Sbrega
Hoku Schatz
Sidney Schmidt

Two daylight saving time bills spring forward in Idaho Legislature

by Riley Haun

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

Health effects, time zone considerations at forefront of debate on clock changes

 

A bill that would exempt Idaho from observing daylight saving time will move to the House floor after members of the House State Affairs committee voted to approve it Wednesday.

“The point here is stopping the change,” Rep. Christy Zito (R-Hammett), the bill’s sponsor, told the committee. “This can be done right now. We can work on other things, like time zones between Northern and Southern Idaho, or maybe going to permanent daylight saving time, later.”

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(Photo by Riley Haun)

Zito said that while opting out of daylight saving time can easily be done on the state level, making the jump forward permanently requires approval from Congress, as would any changes to time zones.

Stopping the twice-yearly clock change “is about protecting the health and safety of Idahoans,” Zito said. She cited academic studies correlating health problems and safety issues with the start of daylight saving time, including a 2001 study that found a “significant increase” in car crashes on the Monday after the shift. Most of the negative effects were thought to be related to losing an hour of sleep during the jump forward.

Zito introduced the same bill during last year’s legislative session, but it failed in the House with a 15-55 vote. Zito said she’s continued to receive calls and emails supporting the abolition of daylight saving time from citizens all over the state in the intervening months.

Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens), among other committee members, voiced concern for logistical issues on the Idaho-Washington border if Idaho made the change. All of Idaho north of Riggins is currently in the Pacific time zone, as is the whole state of Washington.

“As I understand it, the reason we have two time zones between north and south is because of our proximity to Spokane,” Barbieri said. “The difficulties we might encounter, say, with commuters going between Coeur d’Alene and Spokane every day concerns me.”

Barbieri suggested moving the effective date for Zito’s bill from January 1, 2021 to July 2021 to allow time for fine-tuning and to see if neighboring states switch successfully. Oregon and Washington have passed legislation making daylight savings permanent, but Washington is awaiting a Congressional sign-off and Oregon’s bill won’t go into effect unless Washington and California make the switch.

Zito said she believed Idaho should not wait for other states to change but rather be the first step forward in putting a stop to daylight savings.

“(Other states) have all put forward legislation that would take place sometime in the future when someone does something,” Zito said. “I firmly believe that if Idaho takes an affirmative, positive step towards doing something, other states will follow.”

The committee voted to send Zito’s bill to the full House along party lines, with Rep. Linda Hartgen (R-Twin Falls) casting the only Republican “no” vote. Hartgen had also expressed concern that the January 2021 deadline would not allow enough time to make needed changes.

Earlier Wednesday, the Senate State Affairs committee voted to introduce a bill by Sen. Steve Vick (R-Dalton Gardens) ensuring Idaho’s portion of the Pacific time zone will also switch if Washington’s change, approved by their legislature last May, goes through.

Posted January 19, 2020

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Debating Idaho Science Education Standards

by Madison Hardy

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

Idaho’s Science standards were sucked into the black hole of legislative rules review last week where testimony debated climate change and human impact on the environment.

“There is a lot of information out there. Depending on who is listening and what their bias is to start with is who they think did the best,” said House Education Committee Chairman Representative Lance Clow (R-Twin Falls).

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Contrary to the English Language Arts and Mathematics hearings, this meeting focused on global climate change, human and natural impact on the environment, independent student inference, and educator regulated scientific processes.

After passing the science standards only two years ago the committee wasn’t interested in listening to opinionated statements without a factual base.

“Some people talked in general statements about things, it’s hard to focus in and [decide] is this something we need to fix? Is it a section of a standard we need to fix or a general ‘I don’t like’ or ‘I do like’ something,” said Clow. “We [as a committee] need to see someone [say] here is a standard and an example of why we don’t like it.”

Public testimony circled around the content’s political bias, the language in the further explanation, and content limits. The opposition argued that the standards presented an unbalanced version of science through conclusionary language. Speakers were particularly passionate about how the science guidelines describe the causes and effects of climate change.

“One of the problems in the area of climate change are statements that seem to support one side of an argument versus the other,” said Clow. “Instead of saying students should understand what natural and human activities impact climate, or may impact climate, it should be more generic.”

Overall, the opposition didn’t have a conflict with the standards but with the supporting content. Unlike ELA and Math, Idaho’s Science guidelines are more direct about how to develop curriculum through defined limitations and elaborated examples.

“By putting it in [the standards] we are saying you should go in that particular direction,” said Clow. “[For] example it says include negative biological impacts of wind turbines, erosion due to deforestation, loss of habitat due to dams, loss of habitat due to surface mining, and air pollution [from the burning of fossil fuels]. Why is it only the negative impacts we should be teaching our children? What are the positive impacts?”

Rep. Clow anticipates that the committee will come to a conclusion before the end of the week. There is no conclusive date but he is expecting to see a few motions come forward.

“Many of the standards are going to be dealt with pretty routinely and then I think there’s a few of them that are going to get some attention,” said Clow. “A few that I wouldn’t necessarily have expected.”

Posted January 29, 2020

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Idaho State Legislature– Week 3

Week 3 is in the books at the Idaho State Legislature.

Many lawmakers agree that the Rules Review has slowed down hearings on legislation and some other work, more in some committees, such as the House Education Committee, than in others.

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Friday was the deadline to file personal bills in the Idaho House.

Personal bills are filed by lawmakers outside the committee process, often to express a point of view or to start a conversation.

Here’s a sampling from this year:

• Idaho Rep. Jason Monks introduced a personal bill to repeal the property tax and increase the sales tax. It is H 359.

• Rep. Melissa Wintrow has introduced the Equal Rights Amendment as a personal bill in the Idaho House. The Joint Resolution would amend Article 1 of the Constitution of the State of Idaho to include sex equality.

• Rep. Heather Scott has introduced a bill that would “end all legal abortion in Idaho, without exception.”

presidents

(Logan Finney, photo)

From his ‘Friday Letter,’ University of Idaho President Scott Green: “It’s important our colleges and universities collectively meet the needs of our students, our communities and our employers. We want to play to our unique strengths while serving the entire state.”

Green wrote on Friday that “another important collaboration with our public sister institutions is the development of a joint cybersecurity educational offering. Gov. Brad Little’s budget recommends $1 million to be shared among the institutions toward this effort.”

The presidents appeared together last week before JFAC, the legislature’s budget committee.

ybarra

(Logan Finney, photo)

Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra made a pitch for a 5.3% increase in state funding for public schools during her presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

“I spent a great deal of time visiting schools across our state in recent months,” Ybarra told the budget-writing panel. “I am incredibly impressed and encouraged by what I see.

“We have some extremely talented young people in this state with a very bright future,” Ybarra said.

The superintendent’s 2021 budget request for public schools totals about $1.99 billion, a 5.3% increase over the current year’s general fund appropriation. Two percent of the increase Ybarra is requesting comes from statutory requirements.

Line items in the budget request include extending the career ladder to improve pay for Idaho’s veteran teachers. Ybarra is requesting $40 million.

Ybarra is also asking for $1 million to develop and implement training in social-emotional learning to help teachers and school staff recognize and respond to students’ emotional needs and $500,000 to help fund expansion of mastery-based education.

Last year lawmakers approved $26 million in literacy funds for Idaho schools an ongoing appropriation; Ybarra hopes to make that funding permanent.

Ybarra also discussed where room for improvement is needed, including boosting math scores and improving outcomes for students with disabilities.

Content

(Madison Hardy, photo)

The House Education Committee reviewed Idaho’s K-12 Science standards before a full hearing room (see above).

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Other notes from the past week:

  • The Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee approved a rule removing the requirement for all elk entering ID to be tested for brucellosis. Only those coming from brucellosis high-risk areas will need testing, and the only high-risk area remaining is greater Yellowstone.
  • University presidents made their budget pitches to JFAC, as did Idaho Public Television and other agencies.

Week 4 begins Monday, January 27, 2020.

(Reporters Riley Haun, Madison Hardy, Logan Finney, and Glenn Mosley contributed tot his report)

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District 5 Lawmakers Talk About the Issues

by Glenn Mosley

Idaho Public Radio

“It’s not apparent from here, but in the Statehouse, there’s quite a bit of battling going on between the House and the Senate,” District 5 State Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy (R-Genesee) said Saturday. “It feels like it’s going to persist through this session, unfortunately.”

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Troy, District 5 Rep. Bill Goesling (R-Moscow), and District 5 Sen. David Nelson (D-Moscow) spoke before about 30 people Saturday morning as the Moscow Chamber of Commerce kicked off its 2020 “Coffee with District 5 Legislators” series, to be held during the Idaho legislative session.

“I think the House’s strategy is going to be let’s pass the budget and go home,” Troy said. “I don’t even know how much legislation is going to make it through this year.”

Troy says the tension between the legislative branches goes back to the Rules review, and how Rules disagreements between the branches are handled. She said the session may not go past March 20th.

On other topics:

Troy, Goesling, and Nelson spoke about the session and took questions on a variety of topics, including funding Medicaid expansion, taxes, and the need for remote testimony. 

Sen. Nelson said he’s working on legislation that would make it easier to repair equipment that has electronics in it. “It’s called ‘Right to Repair’ legislation,” Nelson said. “If you’re a farmer and have a tractor and it’s got a lot of computer stuff in it, it can be hard to do anything but take it to the dealer and get the dealer to fix it, and that kind of gives the dealers a monopoly.”

Nelson said his bill is “fairly simple legislation that just makes sure that manufacturers have to provide spare parts, documentation on how to repair, and then tools and diagnostic equipment to an independent repair shop or the consumer.”

Troy said she’s bringing back legislation on hemp that she is working on with Sen. Abby Lee, on “the agricultural side of things,” to offer hemp production research processing; as well as legislation to see what is working and what is not working in the corrections system.

Goesling said he is working on grandparents’ visitation rights legislation as well as a bill to help address the nursing shortage in Idaho. “Every area is short of nurses,” he said.

The Moscow Chamber of Commerce has scheduled several more of these discussion sessions during the legislative session– February 8, February 22, March 7, and March 21. The forums are held at the Chamber’s office in downtown Moscow.

Posted January 26, 2020

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Idaho Lawmakers Look at Content Standards

by Madison Hardy

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

“We can’t seem to get beyond this place for whatever reasons. We have supporters, we have opponents, and we circle around this conversation,” said Idaho State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield. “Not much has changed, as far as the talking points are concerned.”

Consuming the better part of the last two weeks, the House Education Committee has finished reviewing Idaho’s Content Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. A Common Core adaptation, the standards prompted dispute in late 2019 during hearings held by the S.B.O.E which allowed educators, parents, and agencies to voice their opinions on the guidelines.

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Drafted in the early 2010s, the Idaho Content Standards were intended to aid the state’s longstanding problems in education.

“There is not a teacher in Idaho that starts their day wanting to underserve a student, they just don’t,” said Critchfield.

Prior to the standards, public education was less detailed and lacked unity across school districts. In aligning with Common Core, lawmakers formed guidelines for districts that developed skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and other higher education concepts vital for the competitive workforce.

In the two committee meetings, Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley), who has opposed the standards throughout her time in office, was first to testify. Moon said that many of her constituents expressed negative opinions on not just one guideline in the Idaho Content Standards, but the entire package – particularly the standardized testing.

“[There was an] alarming number of people who just didn’t like the content, the testing, and large hours spent in testing,” said Moon.

Common Core revised the Idaho Standards Achievement Test, which compares data with K-12 programs nationally. Dissenters argue the ISAT forces educators and school districts to conform their lessons to produce test results, rather than focus on student knowledge.

It became apparent after the two days of hearings that most of the standards opposition came from rural districts and areas with less available funding for academic resources or training. Speakers against the content guidelines came from Idaho counties like Boise, Custer, Valley, Madison, Lemhi, Bingham, and Gem.

“One of the things that ran through my mind as we heard from people from the same school district, [is] how we make sure that our teachers are supported outside of our urban areas,” said Critchfield. “Making sure that the professional development is equal to the needs of our smaller districts who have less resources and have less opportunities to collaborate with other districts.”

Dissenters argued children began hating English and Math courses because of the Idaho Content Standards. However, supporters say this is part of transitioning from teaching memorization to conceptual understanding and problem-solving.

“Are there kids that hate math? Math is hard, the core [standard] is hard, it’s rigorous,” said Peggy Hoy, an instructional math coach in Twin Falls. “There may be students that don’t like math but I had students that didn’t like math before.”

The Idaho Content Standards were officially implemented in 2013, making the guides barely seven years old. While the programs have not yet seen a full cycle of K-12 students graduate under the guidelines, Idahoans are remiss not to see more positive growth in national statistics. Since 2009 NAEP, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” reported Idaho’s achievement level percentages for Grade 4 reading has remained stagnant. Below basic at 31 percent, Basic dropped from 36 to 32, Proficient increased 26 to 28 and Advanced from 6 to 9 percent.

“It is difficult for me to say that we need to change them or get rid of them or let’s let them bake a little bit longer,” said Critchfield. “What I do believe is that there are more immediate changes that can be made to the system that leave the standards in place.”

Another point of concern for ELA standards was the appropriateness of the Common Core curriculum. The opposition referenced borderline pornographic passages in books on recommended content lists, and sources for reading comprehension with dark undertones.

While there are suggested curriculum lists, alternative options are available that meet state requirements. Guided by the standards and state education agency recommendations, the curriculum is ultimately chosen by local level directors, community members, and teachers. This allows rural and urban students to learn the same skills-based on regional values and expectations, regardless of housing or school district.

“It is important to understand that the standards are not curriculum, that is put into the hands of local teachers,” said Erin Marrello, an English teacher in Fruitland. “We depend on these standards to guide our curriculum, [they] do not dictate content.”

Removing the Idaho Content Standards is a present fear for the Idaho School Board Association, who made protecting the standards a legislative priority. Without a plan to replace the standards school districts could be thrown into chaos, negatively impacting achievement scores.

“As a state [we] have got to get to a place where we are not in a constant exercise of reviewing the standards every year to the level and the detail that we are now,” said Critchfield. “We have a review process, which we need to have, and we undertake on a regular schedule so that we don’t get into these cycles of taking time away from other things.”

The total score of those who testified in support versus opposed Idaho ELA and Math standards were 29-10 by the end of last week.

Committee Chairman Rep. Lance Clow (R-Twin Falls) said the House committee will not vote on the standards until a later date. Senate officials have abstained from discussing the standards pending House deliberations. If lawmakers decide to remove or alter the rules, both committees must agree to the revisions, otherwise, they will remain unchanged.

Posted January 25, 2020

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