2014 End of Session Notes

March 23, 2014

As this session of Idaho State Legislature comes to a close, I want to thank you for allowing me to serve you in the Idaho State Senate. It is truly an honor and a privilege to represent you.

The economy continues to grow gradually and our optimism for Idaho’s future grows as well. This has allowed the legislature to restore funding in some areas where cuts were made to accommodate lower revenues during the recession, while not losing sight of the efficiencies found during tough times. This year the state budget is just over $2.9 billion, which is about a 5% increase in spending over last year. Included in that is a 5% increase in spending for K- 12 and just over 6% increase for higher education. It also included a 2% increase in pay for state employees who have not had a pay raise in several years. Of that pay 1% is permanent and 1% is a one-time bonus. Note that legislators did not receive a pay increase. In the last 8 years, only one $200 increase has been given to legislators.

Here are a few additional issues that arose during this session. While Idaho has a low crime rate, there is also a high recidivism rate. Senate Bill 1357, Justice Reinvestment, is a big achievement and will change how we do things while keeping our communities safe. The difference is reformation in probation and parole to help people leaving prison achieve greater success in changing their lives. It’s important to remember with or without reforms they will leave prison and become our neighbors with our children going to school with their children. It benefits everyone for those on probation and parole to be successful contributors to the community by holding jobs, paying taxes and by taking care of their families.

Regarding education, H504 puts in place teacher leadership “premiums.” Teachers will be able to receive premiums of between $850 and $5,780 for mentoring fellow teachers, teaching in multiple disciplines – like English and Math, or taking hard-to-fill jobs. Local districts have great flexibility to decide how the leadership premiums are awarded. The $16 million premiums are the first step in creating a teacher career ladder program for teachers as recommended by the Governor’s education task force.

Idahoans now have easier access to dual credit, advanced placement and technical professional classes and certifications for all our high schools students. Young people with college credits are much more likely to continue their education after high school. The passage of S1233 makes scholarship money available for high school juniors ($200) and seniors ($400) for dual credit classes or test fees for advanced placement classes and professional certification tests.

As far as student data is concerned, S1372 secures Idaho student information and limits its use while creating a penalty for leaking or misusing the data. Idaho student data will now be secure, and no personal information like names, Social Security numbers, race, religion, etc. will be shared.

Article I of our Idaho Constitution states: “All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety.” Several bills were passed preserving our right to possess and protect our property. The Agriculture Security bill, S1337, protects property rights by disallowing people for gaining employment under false pretenses on agriculture facilities to intentionally do harm to agriculture interests.

Additionally, over the years, Guides and Outfitters have expanded their authority to require a license for activities like wagon rides, dog sled rides, zip lines, horse rides, and other activities that occur on private property. When the Guides and Outfitters Board was first created in 1951, the board was only licensed for hunting and fishing excursions into Idaho’s backcountry. There has been a steady expansion of the agency authority to include seemingly almost all outdoor activities. H597 restricts Guides and Outfitters licensing to only public property. Private property owners, who desire to provide wagon rides, dog sled rides, etc., will not be forced to have a Guides and Outfitters license, unless they choose to.

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