What happened last week, what's scheduled for this week in the Idaho Legislature

February 2, 2014 

LAST WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

Tom Luna: Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced Monday that he would not run for re-election. Flanked by Republican leadership and chairmen of the House and Senate education committees, Luna said his decision would allow him to focus on enacting the 20 recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education.

Religious freedom: House State Affairs agreed Tuesday to hear Rep. Lynn Luker’s “pre-emptive strike” for religious freedom. The Boise Republican said the bill would prohibit government from revoking or suspending any professional license “based upon actions involving the exercise or expression of sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Idaho Education Network: The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Thursday learned that $14.45 million in federal funding for the Idaho Education Network during the last year has not arrived. The network provides broadband Internet to every high school in the state. The state’s Department of Administration proposed additional state funding to pay contractors for the service.

Medicaid: Members of House and Senate health and welfare committees Thursday grilled administrators for Optum Idaho, the agency responsible for Medicaid-reimbursed outpatient behavioral health services. Administrators told lawmakers that counselors who complained last week during a public listening session about billing discrepancies and poor service — including waiting on hold for more than five hours when they called the Optum call center for help — would notice improvements in the coming days.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR THIS WEEK

Budget: The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will continue its budget hearings, including presentations from the offices of the Secretary of State, Attorney General and the Department of Juvenile Corrections.

Education: Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, will seek approval from the House Education Committee for two bills Monday. The first would establish Idaho Day on March 4 to recognize the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s establishment of Idaho. The second would create a legislative award for outstanding teachers in Idaho.

Christina Lords,Idaho Falls Post Register

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