Highlights from 04-04-2013
School boards' bill wins 11th-hour OK
The House closed Thursday after a final hour-long debate in which Democrats fiercely opposed Senate Bill 1040. The measure, brought by the Idaho School Boards Association, has an emergency clause and would take effect upon Gov. Butch Otter's signature.
SB 1040 will allow school districts to cut salaries from year to year, now prohibited by law except in cases of officially declared financial emergency. Democrats argued SB 1040 ignores the will of voters in November, when they rejected Proposition 1 and the other parts of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's Students Come First laws, which included a similar provision.
"The voters of Idaho said no, so I'm saying no," said Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise.
The bill passed 47-21.
Two GOP lawmakers who have served on school boards - Reps. Wendy Horman of Idaho Falls and Julie VanOrden of Pingree - said the change was necessary for districts facing financial troubles.
Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, said districts already have the tools they need if they declare a financial emergency.
House and Senate OK privacy bill
Idaho lawmakers signed off on new guidelines for when police can deploy drones to gather criminal evidence.
The bill is intended to protect citizen privacy and bars police from using unmanned aircraft to conduct surveillance without a warrant - except in emergencies like hostage standoff.
Under the bill, anyone unlawfully targeted could press charges and would be entitled to $1,000 in damages.
The House approved the measure 66-2 early Wednesday, and the Senate followed suit later on a 30-4 vote. The bill is now on its way to the governor's desk.
A second resolution encouraging Idaho to compete with other states to become a drone testing site has passed the Senate, but is languishing in the House.
Otter vows to work on gun bills, roads
Gov. Butch Otter said he'll work with legislative leaders to develop gun-rights proposals for the next Legislature.
"Some ideas percolated in the Legislature this year but never got fully vetted," he said. "We'll look at those as well as model legislation and what's been tried in other states. And we'll do it in the context of the ongoing assessment of security needs at our public schools."
Otter also said he hopes the Legislature's passage of a partial repeal of the personal property tax can be a model for looking at Medicaid expansion.
He also suggested next year's Legislature will need to look at transportation funding, an issue he pushed unsuccessfully in 2008 and 2009. "There's a need there," Otter said.
Betsy Russell, Statesman staff