HB 550, the supplemental appropriation bill to pay $6.6 million in state general funds to Education Networks of America to make up for missing federal e-rate funds that haven’t arrived as scheduled this year to fund the Idaho Education Network, has passed the Senate on a unanimous, 35-0 vote. “This stinks, but it is something we have to do,” said Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene. “We can’t turn the lights off on our students.” Goedde said he’s also plenty steamed at the state Department of Administration for extending the contract with ENA through 2019 without informing lawmakers.
Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said the bill is something “many of us will have to plug our nose and vote for, because not to do so would not necessarily harm ENA, it would not necessarily harm the Department of Administration, it would harm the kids that are participating in the Idaho Education Network.” The IEN is a broadband network that links every Idaho high school and also provides video-conferencing.
Cameron added, “Frankly, based on our discussions with legal counsel, we are obligated for this piece. I need to inform you that this is the first half. The second half we are still arguing and discussing and re-discussing what we do for fiscal year 2015. … This is for this current fiscal year.” The bill earlier passed the House 66-1, with only Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, objecting; it now heads to the governor’s desk.