From the Capitol, Jan. 28, 2013

January 30, 2013

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Education

Senate and House Chairmen of the Education Committees on Friday began the process of returning the money schools had budgeted for before voters repealed the Students Come First laws.

At issue is $30.6 million that districts lost because of the repeal.  The introduced bill will restore funding that was removed because of the repeal.  The lost dollars were included in school district budgets which were set last June or July, and schools must have those dollars to survive.  The $30.6 million had been appropriated for math and science teachers, professional development, unfreezing the salary grid, dual credits for high school students and for limited technology development.

The bill will restore salary dollars, dual credit course payment for high school students, provide for professional development and unfreeze the salary grid.

Personal Property Tax

Informal discussions continue among Legislators about the repeal of personal property tax.  To date, no legislation has been introduced.  Legislators are concerned that complete repeal will cause loss of tax dollars to counties, cities and school districts.  Most lawmakers desire to find a way to keep those entities whole.  The problem is that our economy is growing so slowly that there just aren’t any extra dollars to replace the money to local entities.  If the Idaho economy was growing at a 12-15% rate like it did in 6 or 7 years ago, there would easily be enough money for to replace those dollars.  Instead, our economy is growing at a sluggish 2.7%.  Personal Property Tax is going to be difficult to solve.

2nd Amendment Rights

The Legislature is gathering ideas and proposals for firearms bills to strengthen our 2nd amendment rights and provide additional options for protecting students and school employees.  Wednesday morning the Sherriff’s Association attorney provided in-depth information, including everything from the wording of the Second Amendment to the US Supreme Court decision in Heller v D.C. to reviewing all the current Idaho firearm laws. Many Legislators and attended to gain information and background. There should soon be bills for the public and legislature to review.

Health Insurance Exchange

Numerous behind the scene meetings are being held to gain information about the best approach for Idaho relating to Health Insurance Exchanges.  The one thing that will be certain, there will a Health Insurance Exchange and Idaho will be involved.  The question is whether Idaho is proactive and creates the exchange and operates it, thus providing localized service, or whether Idahoans will participate in a Federal Health Insurance Exchange. A Federal Exchange will not be tailored to meet the insurance needs of Idahoans and will not provide local service.  Early this week, perhaps today, the Governor will introduce a bill creating an Exchange.  After introduction, the public and legislators will finally be able to have something concrete to work with.

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