LAST WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS
Listening session: The members of the House and Senate education committees heard nearly two hours of public testimony, largely from school board administrators. Testimony mostly focused on equal funding for charter schools, increased funding for rural school districts and local administrative control over districts. Many who testified also asked legislators to allow Gov. Butch Otter's education task force time to evaluate the education system in Idaho before voting on reforms.
Teacher contracts: The House Education Committee agreed to hold a public hearing on three bills on teacher contracts and negotiations. The bills, proposed by Idaho School Board Association Director Karen Echeverria, stipulate teacher contract negotiations must take place before the public. They also establish rules stating the district's school board can impose its "last best offer" for teacher contracts that are not accepted by the local union by a June deadline.
Cursive handwriting: The House approved a measure by Idaho Falls Rep. Linden Bateman that would encourage the State Board of Education to include cursive handwriting curriculum in Idaho schools. The measure goes to the Senate.
State-run health exchange: A group of 16 first-time House members introduced legislation that requires additional legislative oversight should the Legislature pass a state-based health insurance exchange. The group said the legislation was in response to constituents' concerns about the state exchange proposal before the Senate. The freshmen's support bolstered chances for the Otter-backed plan for a state-run exchange.
Fish and Game Commission: The Senate voted 19-16 to reject confirmation of Joan Hurlock to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. After a two-hour debate, opponents said Hurlock did not have enough experience as a hunter or angler to adequately do the job. It's the first time since 1988 that the Senate reject a governor's appointee.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR THIS WEEK
Budgets: On Monday, members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will hold the last of their budget hearing sessions with the Department of Insurance and the Division of Building Safety.
State pay: On Monday, Democratic Reps. Shirley Ringo and Phylis King, will take public testimony from state workers from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Capitol Building. They encourage workers and the public to comment on issues that include state workers' wages, training and workloads.
Christina Lords, (Idaho Falls) Post Register