The Senate passed House Bill 377 on April 26th, also known as the Dignity and Nondiscrimination in Public Education Bill. The bill calls on K-12 schools and universities to foster and defend intellectual rigor and promote freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the free exchange of ideas. This bill empowers Idaho’s students to draw their own conclusions when presented with information and allows them to learn in an environment free of intimidation.
At its core, this bill is designed to provide clarity to educators and administrators. It conveys the importance of Idahoan values: that no one is superior or inferior to any other gender, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin.
“We want a thoughtful and balanced discussion in our classrooms, but our students need to feel comfortable exploring intellectual ideas and expressing their opinions without fear of judgment or potential retribution,” said the bill’s sponsor, Senator Carl Crabtree R-Grangeville. “We want to teach our students how to think, not what to think.”
JFAC Advances New Education Budgets
Funding for Idaho’s teachers, higher education institutions, and public schools passed through the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee this week in several new budgets. The teacher salary budget appropriates $1.1 billion for Idaho’s educators, with an additional $1 million compared to the previous version of the budget for teacher professional development. The higher education budget reaches $313.1 million, with a decrease of $2.5 million from the previous version of the budget to remove state support for social justice programming in Idaho’s universities. These budgets will now progress to the Senate and House for legislators’ considerations.
JFAC also approved the use of additional federal COVID-19 relief funds for Idaho’s schools. $396 million is made available to Idaho through the American Rescue Plan Act that was passed by the federal government in March. States have 60 days to distribute the funds to their schools, though schools themselves will have until September 2023 to spend their money.
Public school students have a new way of impressing their future employers with the signing of Senate Bill 1039 on April 27th. The bill allows graduating students to receive a Workforce Readiness Diploma if they have passed and demonstrated proficiency in a career technical education program. These diplomas would therefore showcase a student’s knowledge, effort, and achievement to enhance their success in the workforce and post-secondary education environments. The legislation additionally encourages Idaho’s schools to explore additional credit opportunities for students through career technical education programs in math, English, and other areas.
Legislature Advances Tax Relief Bill for Idahoans
Tax relief for Idahoans is a top priority for Republican legislators, which is why House Bill 380 reached the Senate’s Third Reading Calendar this week. The bill would reduce all income tax brackets, reduce the number of brackets to five, and cap the top corporate and individual tax brackets to 6.5%. These reforms will ultimately provide Idahoans with $162.9 million in ongoing tax relief. An additional $220 million will be returned to Idaho taxpayers through a one-time tax rebate check to all 2020 personal income tax filers. The legislation now awaits the Senate’s consideration after passing the House with a vote of 57-12-1 on April 22nd and receiving a Do Pass recommendation from the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee on April 26th.
Touring the State Capital
The Capitol is very open and visitor-friendly. Visitors are welcome to explore the Capitol at their leisure, while keeping in mind that areas may be restricted due to government functions during the legislative session. The 4th floor public galleries are open to visitors to view the legislative proceedings and to view the House and Senate Chambers. Photography is generally allowed in the building, unless the House and Senate are conducting meetings. Photography is restricted during those times. Please begin your tour of the Capitol on the Garden Level of the building where you will find a central rotunda filled with educational panels about Idaho and its state government.
The Idaho State Capitol building is open for self-guide tours from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday – Friday. Please also visit the virtual tours of the Idaho State Capitol developed in conjunction with Idaho Public Television. Our Scavenger Hunt that follows the virtual tour videos is a favorite for all ages. Visit the Information Desk located on the Garden level or visit the website here.
IDAHO STATISTICS & RANKINGS
Increased Investment in Idaho's Education
Idaho’s average teacher pay increased 15% from 2015 to 2020
If the budgets currently under consideration pass, they will provide a 3.87% increase in general funds for education spending
With the additional $396 million approved this week, Idaho’s school districts and charter schools will have received over $800 million in COVID-19 relief funds
Legislation at a Glance
H0026: This legislation ensures that Idaho keeps pace with national best practice standards and prevents the Department of Juvenile Corrections from placing low-level juvenile offenders in secure facilities. Instead it requires the use of juvenile shelter care facilities. The bill passed the House with a vote of 70-0-0 and Senate with a vote of 31-0-4 and was signed by the Governor on March 8. The new law will become effective July 1, 2021.
H0380: This legislation would reduce all income tax brackets and provide a one-time sales tax/income tax rebate for Idahoans. The bill passed the House with a vote of 57-12-1 and was introduced to the Senate. It was referred to the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee. The bill was reported out of Committee with a Do Pass recommendation and is now on the Senate Third Reading Calendar.
S1006: This legislation would further Idaho’s interest and goal of having every student reading at grade level by the end of grade 3 by aligning administrative rules and laws with the Education Task Force recommendations. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 35-0-0 and the House with a vote of 68-0-2 and was delivered to the Governor for his consideration.
S1009: This bill designates the State Fire Marshal and State Fire Marshal deputies as firefighters under the Public Employee Retirement System and provides them with certain workers compensation benefits that are available to first responders. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 32-1-2 and the House with a vote of 67-1-2 and was signed by the Governor on March 18. It will become effective July 1, 2021.
S1017: This bill revises definitions involving uniform controlled substances to make technical corrections in order to include synthetic drugs. It also provides corrected terminology and provisions for controlled substances. It clarifies the definitions and identifies the differences of marijuana and CBD that are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 30-3-2 and the House with a vote of 43-27-0 and was signed by the Governor on February 26. It will become effective July 1, 2021.
S1027 and S1200: S1027 compensates wrongfully convicted and imprisoned individuals with $62,000 for each year of incarceration, or $75,000 per year if incarcerated on death row. Individuals wrongfully placed on the sex offender registry shall receive an additional $25,000 for each year they were on the registry. Exonerees have two years from the date they are formally exonerated by a court to file a claim. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 35-0-0 and the House with a vote of 70-0-0 and was signed by the Governor on March 5. It became effective the same day. S1200 is a trailer bill to S1027. It clarifies that eligible days for compensation include time spent awaiting trial. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 35-0-0 and was introduced to the House. It was amended and passed the House with a vote of 67-0-3. It was reintroduced to the Senate and is now on the Senate Second Reading Calendar.
S1039aaH: This bill would allow school districts to award a Workplace Readiness Diploma to graduates who have completed career technical education programs. Graduates awarded a diploma are then able to demonstrate skills and competencies to future employers. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 35-0-0 and the House with a vote of 67-0-3 and was signed by the Governor on April 27th.
S1110: The purpose of this legislation is to increase voter involvement and inclusivity in the voter initiative/referendum process. This will be accomplished by ensuring signatures are gathered from each of the 35 legislative districts, so every part of Idaho is included in this process. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 26-9-0 and the House with a vote of 51-18-1 on April 7 and was signed by the Governor on April 17. It became effective the same day.
S1134: The purpose of this legislation is to amend Idaho Code 46-1005A by inserting language allowing for the recovery of federal funds after a Declaration of State Emergency has expired or was terminated. The bill passed the Senate 34-0-1 and the House with a vote of 69-0-1 and was signed by the Governor on April 14. It became effective the same day.
S1139: This legislation clarifies the powers of the Director Health & Welfare in Idaho Code 56-1003 relating to quarantine and isolation rules during a time of emergency. It prohibits healthy people from being required to quarantine. Additionally, it creates a way to let the courts review an order issued by the Director. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 33-0-2 and the House with a vote of 65-2-3 and was signed by the Governor on April 20.
S1205: Also known as the Idaho Firearm and Firearm Accessories and Components Protection Act, this bill prohibits enforcement or support by Idahoan government entities of recent federal executive orders on gun control. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 28-7-0 and was introduced to the House. It was reported out of the House State Affairs Committee with a Do Pass recommendation and now scheduled for the House Third Reading Calendar.
S1211: This legislation increases the annual amount transferred from the Idaho Fish and Game Fund to the Wolf Control Fund by $190,000 to reduce the number of wolves in Idaho. This legislation is an effort to slow or stop the population growth of wolves in Idaho. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 26-7-2 and the House with a vote of 58-11-1 and was delivered to the Governor for his consideration.