Gov. Butch Otter signed 49 bills into law yesterday, including SB 1200, the public school budget bill that delayed the end of the session by a week. Otter had no comment as he signed the bills; the school budget gives Idaho schools a 2.2 percent increase in state funds next year, slightly above the 2 percent Otter recommended but below the 3 percent state schools Superintendent Tom Luna requested. The school budget set for next year, at $1.3 billion, still lags $138.7 million below the school budget Idaho lawmakers set for fiscal year 2009.
Other bills signed into law by the governor yesterday included a half-dozen appropriation bills, including the budgets for higher education and community colleges; a measure authorizing any year-end surplus beyond $20 million to be transferred to the budget stabilization fund; a bill authorizing hospitalization of mentally ill minors; another giving school districts relief from two-thirds of their maintenance match requirement for next year; and one authorizing funding for the new Veterans Recognition Fund, which would route surpluses that had been building up at the Division of Veterans Services into a fund for veterans that could, in the future, fund a new state veterans home.
Also signed into law was HB 241, a measure sponsored by Avista Corp. and Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, to crack down on metal theft in Idaho. Among its provisions: Scrap dealers will be required to photograph those who sell them metal, along with their vehicles and license plates and the metal they sell; and it will become a felony to steal metal from an electrical substation that causes damage or service interruption.