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House panel passes ‘last best offer’ bill for teacher negotiations on 12-3 party-line vote

The House Education Committee has voted along party lines, 12-3, in favor of HB 260, the bill to let school boards impose their “last best offer” if they don’t reach negotiated agreements with teachers unions by June 10. It was a feature of voter-rejected Proposition 1, and was strongly opposed by the Idaho Education Association. The bill now moves to the full House. It has a one-year “sunset clause,” meaning it would expire, to allow lawmakers to evaluate its effectiveness after  a year.

Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, said, “We should never allow the time to come when public employees have more power than the elected representatives of the people. And we’re starting to see that in some places, New York City for example. … It’s the unions that have the real power there.”

Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, said she had a wonderful career in teaching, and found collective bargaining to be an “excellent tool” for teachers and districts to come together. She said Idaho’s system for collective bargaining has worked well for 40 years and shouldn’t be changed.

Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, said, “Speaking as someone who has been picketed, I would say you don’t have to get sick to get better. … It does not remove that process, it simply puts it on a timeline that allows school boards to make responsible decisions.”

Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, said an interim committee will be set up to evaluate how the new approach to bargaining and other labor changes work. The committee's three Democrats opposed the bill; all its GOP members supported it.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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